Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard has become the first candidate this election season to accuse his opponent of stealing campaign signs, and says he might pursue criminal charges.
His opponent, Liberty Lake City Councilman Brian Sayrs, denies it.
Richard, a Republican, made the allegation against Democrat Sayrs Friday morning during a candidates debate sponsored by Greater Spokane Inc.
The accusation arose during a portion of the debate during which each candidate could pose a question to opponents.
While others used the opportunity to try pinning down their opponents on controversial topics, Richard asked Sayrs about the stolen campaign signs. Richard said a Spokane County Sheriff’s Office volunteer told him he confronted Sayrs and one of his campaign workers as they attempted to remove a sign from his yard.
Sayrs responded that the accusation is a case of mistaken identity.
“It seems like somebody misidentified me because I’ve not picked up any signs,” Sayrs said.
After the debate, Richard said he is waiting to release the name of the volunteer because the man is hesitant to level the accusation publicly. He also said he may pursue a theft charge against Sayrs.
Richard said the volunteer told him about the alleged theft at the county fair within the past few days. Richard was unsure when the incident occurred, though he believes it was within the last few weeks.
“I asked him three times, ‘Are you sure it was him?’ ” Richard said.
He added that many of his signs have been stolen throughout the county.
“This is not happenstance,” Richard said. “This is an orchestrated effort.”
Sayrs said the question posed during the debate was the first time he heard the allegation.
“There are lots of Mark Richard’s signs all over the place, billboards and such. As it turns out, it really doesn’t bother me at all to see them,” Sayrs said. “But what really bothers me, regardless of whose sign it is, is somebody going in and stealing them.”