By Doug Ireland
---- — NEWTON — Only a week before town elections, there’s a sign of trouble in the selectman’s race.
Dozens of campaign signs — erected across town — disappeared Friday night or early Saturday, according to the two candidates, former selectman Robert Donovan Jr. and current board Chairman Trisha McCarthy.
Donovan said 80 of his 87 corrugated plastic signs are missing. McCarthy said about eight of her 39 signs disappeared.
Both candidates said yesterday they are concerned.
Police Chief Lawrence Streeter said he’s investigating the thefts.
“Someone decided to go out and steal almost every sign on every street in town,” Donovan said.
The candidates wonder who is responsible, but aren’t placing blame on their opponent’s campaign.
Donovan said he didn’t want to speculate when asked if he knew who might have taken the signs.
“I don’t have any proof,” he said. “There are a few people who definitely don’t want me to win.”
Donovan said he put his last 20 signs out over the weekend and none of those were stolen. The 100 signs cost $1,200 to $1,400, he said.
McCarthy said she was fortunate only a “handful” of her signs were taken.
“I don’t condone this,” she said. “I think people have better things to do.”
She said the thefts leave a mark on what has been a clean, hard-fought race between the two candidates. Voters will choose the winner of the three-year seat March 12.
It’s the only contested race on the town ballot. There is a battle for a School Board seat between incumbent James Doggett and Renee King.
“Whoever did this is just making it harder for Bob and I to run a campaign,” McCarthy said. “I have really tried to run a clean campaign.”
Both candidates said they spoke to Streeter about the thefts. No other candidates have reported missing signs.
McCarthy said she asked Streeter to check any surveillance cameras, especially at local businesses and town property, to see if there is footage of the culprit.
Streeter said there was no evidence captured on cameras set up at two businesses and the town transfer station. The chief said he did take photographs of footprints and tire tracks left in the snow where the signs were stolen.
There are no suspects, Streeter said. Anyone arrested in the case would be charged with theft, he said.
McCarthy, 64, has been a selectman since 2007. She said she is looking forward to remaining on the board and will continue to promote fiscal responsibility.
Donovan, 47, is looking to return to the board after suddenly resigning in January 2011 for personal reasons. He had served for five years.
Donovan said he is committed to rejoining the board and helping to keep taxes low for residents. He has declined to comment on why he left his position two years ago.
Anyone with information on the thefts should contact Newton police at 382-6774.