Former Kennett Township supervisor found stealing campaign signs
● By Richard Gaw
Former long-time Kennett Township Supervisor Michael Elling was issued a police criminal complaint by township police on Oct. 10 for stealing campaign signs promoting Dr. Richard Leff for his re-election to the township's board of supervisors.
In an affadavit filed by Detective Amanda Wenrich of the township's police department on Oct. 10, Elling, an 87-year-old resident of 440 Burnt Mill Road, removed four “We Like Leff” campaign signs from the intersection of Bayard and East Hillendale roads in the township on Oct. 4, between 12:20 and 12:30 p.m.
Wenrich's affadavit stated that on Oct. 3, Dr. Leff informed police chief Lydell Nolt about the missing signs at the location. Leff told Nolt that he had received permission from the property owner to place the signs at the location, but that someone without his permission took the signs, which are valued at $4 apiece.
After being informed of the theft by Nolt on Oct. 4, Wenrich wrote that she placed two trail cameras at the intersection at about 10:30 a.m. After reviewing the images that were taken on Oct. 4 at 12:27 p.m., Wenrich saw that one camera captured images of a subject physically holding one sign and pulling another sign from the ground. The subject was identified as Elling.
The second trail camera captured a photograph of a red Chevrolet Tracker, displaying Delaware registration plates, which arrived at the intersection just before the signs were removed. The identified tags were traced to Elling Exploration, Inc. Wenrich wrote that the township police has prior traffic stops of the vehicle displaying the registration plate, which was operated by Elling.
In her report, Wenrich asked that a warrant of arrest for Elling be made, and that Elling be required to answer the charges that have been made against him. A court date is expected in the coming weeks.
While he has not been a member of the township's board of supervisors for several years, Elling, a Republican, has continued to support Republican candidates running for township offices since leaving office, and has been openly critical of the current board – chairman Scudder Stevens and supervisors Whitney Hoffman and Leff, all Democrats – at recent township meetings. Most recently, he has helped campaign for Republican Hunter Tower, who is opposing Dr. Leff in an election that will be held on Nov. 5.
Mr. Tower issued the following statement about the theft:
“It has come to our attention that someone has taken down yard signs of my opponent in this election for township supervisor,” the statement read. “We had no previous knowledge of these actions and absolutely no connection to them, whatsoever. I strongly condemn such actions and have communicated this to the Leff campaign. I fully support free speech and free and fair elections.
“Any attempts to use these events to connect them with our campaign are not only inaccurate, but do a disservice to the voters of Kennett Township.”
In response, the Kennett Area Democrats issued the following statement: “Local politics in our region are often hard fought, but civility and working together for the best of the community is the goal,” the statement began. “That’s why the Kennett Area Democrats are so disappointed to find that signs for local Democratic candidates started going missing from intersections where they were placed with the permission of property owners. We had hoped this petty larceny of campaign signs in the name of brass-knuckle politics would be over.
“The Kennett Area Democrats take this issue seriously and remind all party members and supporters that removing opponents' signs is against the law and will not be tolerated. We also will use all available technology to help discourage such behavior, ranging from placement of motion activated cameras to RFID and tracking chips to locate the perpetrators.”
“It’s particularly disappointing to see former elected officials like Mike Elling, who served for over 20 years, to act in a way to try to undermine the current elected officials, even in the course of a campaign,” wrote Kennett Area Democrats Chair Wayne Braffman in a statement. “Rather than working for the benefit of the community, they choose to try to divide us, and that violates the spirit and intent of our democratic process.”
“I hope by bringing this case to light, we’ll help discourage this petty and underhanded practice and bring more civility into our political discourse,” Leff said in a statement. “We need that at every level of government, but especially the local level, where we are all neighbors who need to work together to make our community stronger each and every day.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.