Campaigning for elected office is not easy. Many candidates find themselves the target of smear campaigns from the opposite party, or even a group of voters who have decided to take out ads against you.
Then, there are the smaller acts can go unnoticed by almost everyone: removal of campaign signs. Having covered many elections, this is not unusual. Some just vanish, some are just pulled out and left on the ground.
Never do you find out who removed the signs, much less why. It’s all very frustrating for candidates and their workers.
This seemed to be the case with the campaign of Jennifer Ivey, who is running for the Clint Independent School District Board. She reached out to the Herald-Post about just such an incident.
As part of Ms. Ivey’s campaign, she placed signs on a fence, at the corner of Young John Street and North Loop.
At the time the signs were placed, Ms. Ivey assumed she had permission to place them there, having texted one of the property owners.
However, the signs were removed, then dumped in a neighbor’s yard. And the frustration began.
What many people don’t understand is that removing campaign signs is a crime: The state statute says it is illegal to “steal, willfully deface, mutilate or destroy any campaign yard sign on private property.
The crime is punishable by a fine of up to $2,500, up to a year in jail or a combination of both.
So, when I received the copy of the email from Mary Santos (Treasurer for Jennifer Ivey) to the Clint ISD Board and the subsequent information that they had not replied, I wanted to know what was going on.
In the email, Ms. Santos alleged that Shanda Giraud, a teacher within the Clint Independent School District not only removed Ms. Ivey’s campaign signs but dumped them into the yard of a neighbor.
“He said that I could place them on the fence. He also said that the trailer was owned by another person, but that I could place them on the fence.”
The text message she shared with me does reflect that she did ask permission. So, why were the signs removed? How did they end up in the neighbor’s yard? Why were Ms. Santos’ emails and calls to the CISD board seemingly going unanswered?
So I reached out to Clint ISD, right to the top. That would be James Pendell, President of the Clint ISD Board of Trustees. We were able to speak once he was done teaching for the day. He too is running, this time for reelection.
“I don’t have anyone on my campaign,” he said. “It’s just me; I am doing everything. As a teacher, I go out after school and on the weekend and try to get the word out that I am running for reelection.”
Mr. Pendell did say that he never asked anyone to remove any signs. That leaves the question as to why he didn’t respond to the email.
“As a current member of the board, and someone who is running for reelection, I wanted to avoid conflict of interest,” said Mr. Pendell. “I thought this matter might eventually come before the board and so I thought it was better to say nothing at the time.”
Mr. Pendell pointed out that there is a proper way to file any complaints with the district and sending emails directly to board members usurps that method.
Ms. Laura Cade, Director of Public Relations for the Clint ISD, also indicated that there is a way, via the Clint website, to file a complaint.
“Complaints must begin by using the form found on our webpage,” says Ms. Cade. “This way it is given to the proper people responsible for looking into the complaint.”
It was at this point that I received an email (photo attached below) from Juan J. Cruz, attorney for the Clint Independent School District, who said:
Please be advised that the undersigned counsel represents the Clint Independent School District (“District”). I have been forwarded two (2) emails that you sent to the District in regards to election matters, namely the alleged taking down of political signs. Please be advised that the District is not in charge of conducting elections for trustee candidates.
Once applications are submitted by candidates to run for the School Board, all individuals run their campaigns outside of school grounds and the election is conducted, via contract, by the County of El Paso. Any removal of political signs is not condoned or authorized by the District.
A person that is aggrieved by such alleged actions should take their complaint to the lawful authorities. The District’s mission of teaching and learning remains at the forefront of day-to-day activities.
Election matters that take place outside the jurisdiction of the District are not within the authority of the District to govern.
His email confused me. This whole situation confused me.
If the signs were being removed, and placed in someone else’s yard, would that not be something the district would want to address?
I needed to talk to Shanda Giraud. I ended up emailing her, and she did call me back.
“Yes, I did remove the signs,” says Ms. Giraud. “Jennifer Ivey did not have permission from me to place them on my fence.”
I told Ms. Giraud that I had a text message between her brother-in-law and Ms. Ivey in which he gave her permission to place the signs on the fence.
“She needed to get permission from me,” said Ms Giraud. “Jon was not the one she needed to talk to. She needed to call me about the signs.”
So that cleared up the why, but what about the legality of the removal of the signs?
The bottom line: you must have permission to place the signs on private property, even on fences. So, what can property owners do if a sign is placed on your fence or in your yard, without permission?
First, if the person who placed the sign failed to get permission, then the signs can be removed or disposed of without facing any liability.
Additionally, according to the law, those who place signs without permission can face criminal charges – criminal trespass charges – should the property owner choose to file.
It’s very rare that a complaint of signs being removed is cleared up; however in this case, after Ms. Ivey’s call, a bit of clarity was brought to the situation.