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Sign claim unlikely to be resolved

Richard identifies man who said sign nearly stolen

It appears the case of the almost-stolen campaign sign will remain a mystery.

Three weeks ago, Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard said he was considering seeking theft charges as he accused his Democratic opponent, Brian Sayrs, of attempting to steal one of Richard’s campaign signs from the front yard of a Spokane Valley home.

On Wednesday, the Republican incumbent released a statement from that witness, 69-year-old Alvin Fisher, who said he confronted a man in his yard who was attempting to steal Richard’s sign.

But here’s the problem: The man Fisher confronted apparently wasn’t Sayrs, who denies any involvement in the low-grade attempted heist.

“I think it’s not sign-gate anymore; it’s accusation-gate,” Sayrs said.

The still unidentified man was a passenger in a dark-colored medium- to full-size pickup that had several Sayrs signs in the bed, Fisher said.

As the truck began to leave, Fisher said he got a good look at the driver, who was about 50 to 100 feet away. A few days later Fisher saw a picture of Sayrs and remains convinced the driver was the city councilman from Liberty Lake.

“I didn’t want to go into the police with this until I bumped into Richard at the fair,” Fisher said. “The only reason I didn’t go to law enforcement was because they left the sign.”

Richard continued to condemn the action Wednesday, writing in an e-mail that “at the very least, these were the actions of volunteers for my opponent’s campaign.”

But that’s not what Richard said at a candidates’ forum Sept. 12.

In a question posed to Sayrs, Richard asked him why he “personally tried to remove” one of Richard’s signs.

Asked Wednesday about his new version of events, Richard said: “You could split hairs. Clearly the statement indicates (Fisher) believes Sayrs was there.

“I was going off what the individual told me. I’m not concerned the story is changing. I don’t think what I had asked and what the individual saw are far enough apart to make a story out of.”

Asked if he perceived a difference between accusing Sayrs or someone who was with Sayrs, Richard said: “Sure. I don’t have any comment to that.

“All I’m saying is I’m asking Brian to join me in condemning those kinds of actions, and let’s move back to the issues.”

That is one point on which Sayrs said he agrees with Richard.

Sayrs said he drives a green 1997 Ford Ranger pickup. But he always keeps a child-safety seat installed, making it impossible to have a full-grown person in the passenger seat.

“I don’t doubt that someone saw somebody trying to take a sign somewhere. It simply wasn’t me,” Sayrs said. “And our campaign simply wouldn’t have considered this a valid technique.”