NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – We’re a little less than two months away from Virginia’s next general election where voters will be picking a new governor and lieutenant governor; as well as some local, and state officials.
There’s some controversy brewing, not over any particular candidate, but over a candidate’s sign and why it was removed by a Norfolk Police officer. Norfolk Sheriff candidate Neil Bradley and his campaign contacted 10 On Your Side about the incident.
“It all happened in less than a minute,” says Bradley.
Video obtained by 10 On your Side shows the officer removing one of the “Neil Bradley for Sheriff” campaign signs and putting it in his patrol car. It all happened on Tuesday around 9:30 a.m. in front of a shopping center on East Little Creek Road.
“I’m very upset about it,” Bradley says.
According to city policy, Sec. 42-10, it’s against the law to put a sign in the city right of way. The city will remove an illegally placed sign or one that poses a traffic hazard without notice.
The signs may be stored at the city’s traffic operations center for up to 15 days then disposed of or recycled. But campaign signs can be placed on private property with the owner’s permission. Bradley insists his sign was within the law.
“All the signs that were taken were on private property not city easement or city property,” Bradley says.
However a 10 On Your Side investigation revealed that according to the city the sign removed by the officer was in a city’s right of way. It varies just what is the the right of way. In this case the city says the utilities are in proximity to the sign placement and utilities are in the right of way.
As for why the officer removed it, according to an email from a city of Norfolk spokeswoman:
Typically our right of way administrators will remove illegally placed signs however there is no policy that prevents an police officer from removing an illegally placed sign. The Police Department is reviewing the incident. City administration takes great care to ensure political neutrality.”
-Lori Crouch, Marketing & Communications
Bradley says he’ll replace the signs that have been removed and told me this won’t stop his campaign.
“It just energizes me more,” Bradley says.
In a statement from the Norfolk Police Department:
“Per Norfolk City Code Section 42-10b, signs located in the right-of-way are subject to removal by City employees, which includes law enforcement. The City of Norfolk’s Right of Way Administrator confirmed the sign shown in the video was located within the right-of-way, thereby, subject for removal. We are reviewing the officer’s actions in this matter to ensure compliance with departmental policies.”
-Corporal Melinda Wray, Public Information Officer
The three other candidates running for sheriff had the following to say:
I am unaware of any misconduct by Norfolk Police Officers related to campaign signs. As Sheriff and as a candidate, I am running a value driven and clean campaign. I intend to do so throughout the race. My signs are placed on private property with the permission of the owner. As a member of law enforcement, I also ensure my signs are posted legally as outlined in the city code 42-10b. I have seen many signs out there that are posted illegally and subject to removal. My signs are all posted legally.
-Joseph P. Baron
Good morning Brandi. Yes I also have had signs “come up missing” unfortunately that’s Norfolk Politics. Now Neil must keep in mind there’s a city working that also go around and pick up signs in locations they feel the sign shouldn’t be. There are rules and regulations on where you can put them. I will say I’ve been in other city’s and see campaign signs all over and in my opinion “Only Norfolk” send someone around to pick signs up if called to do so, and yes in my past runs I felt it was another candidate doing most of the calling.
R. L. “Reggie” Spruill did not provide a statement.
The general election to elect Norfolk’s next sheriff is in November.