PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — As the campaign to recall Mayor Kenny Wright intensifies, organizers say they believe supporters of the mayor are trying to derail their effort.
Dozens of signs promoting the recall effort disappeared Saturday from Court Street and Crawford Street. Volunteers placed the signs around the Umoja Festival in an attempt to collect signatures among the big crowd.
“We are not satisfied with the direction of the city,” said Robert Marcus, who started the recall effort in May 2015.
Marcus says his group has reached the 7,778 signatures needed to force a recall election, but they are working to collect a few hundred more signatures as a buffer. The registrar must confirm each signature is a registered voter in the city.
“A lot of people who are signing the recall petition are fed up,” said Marcus. “For a lot of people, they are voting with their feet. They’re getting the heck out of dodge.”
On Saturday, signs pointed festival goers in the direction of the volunteers collecting signatures.
Marcus tells WAVY.com city workers took the signs Saturday morning, but they were put back up later in the day. He says city manager Dr. Lydia Pettis Patton called to apologize.
“The city manager made sure our speech rights were not infringed or that we were being censored,” said Marcus.
A few hours later, Marcus says volunteers notice more than 25 signs again disappeared. They are still missing, he says.
“We plan to see whoever is responsible for this prosecuted under the law,” said Marcus.
The signs allegedly stolen are valued at more than $500, according to Marcus. He also feels his group’s political free speech has been diminished.
Marcus says he will file a police report with the Portsmouth Police Department after the holiday weekend. He also plans to get Virginia State Police and the Virginia Department of Elections involved.
Mayor Kenny Wright did not answer 10 On Your Side’s call for comment on Sunday.
Wright talked with 10 On Your Side last May when the effort to oust him started: “That’s their prerogative,” said Wright. “It’s part of our system. If they are successful with that then maybe I haven’t done something right, but I can guarantee you they will not succeed in those endeavors.”
If the petition succeeds, Mayor Wright will have five days to resign or face a citywide recall election.
Either way, voters will get to weigh-in on the mayor’s performance because he’s running for re-election in November.