Removing or destroying political campaign signs is against the law in the state of Texas.
As a matter of fact, removing or destroying political campaign signs is not only unlawful in the state of Texas; it is also illegal in all 50 states. It is a misdemeanor crime that is punishable by a fine; some jail time; or a combination of both.
According to the Texas state statute, it is illegal to “steal, willfully deface, mutilate or destroy any campaign yard sign on private property.”
On March 1st, the Democratic Party’s Primary Election was held in Harris County, Texas, where several seats were contested. One of the local races that attracted quite a bit of attention and an initial stir was the race between incumbent Gene Wu and his challenger Edward Pollard, for the District 137 State Representative seat. District 137 is in southwest Houston and represents Gulfton, Sharpstown, Westchase, Briarmeadow, Piney Point and Alief.
Wu handily defeated Pollard in that race by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent, but it was the actions that were alleged during the race and prior to the election results that made things interesting and something to continue to follow.
Prior to the March election, Pollard made some scathing accusations in January, accusing Rep. Wu of destroying and removing his campaign signs. According to Pollard, more than 40 of his campaign signs had been destroyed or removed from their original locations over a six-week period prior to the accusations. In addition to the accusations, Pollard turned over surveillance video to law enforcement officials, that showed two people ripping up his campaign signs; removing them from their original location near Fondren Road and Bellaire Boulevard; and his signs in the trunk of a car. Pollard even went by Rep. Wu’s office to question one of his staffers about the missing signs and had the police called on him. Pollard left prior to police showing up to Rep. Wu’s office, and no charges were filed against him.
The same can’t be said about the office of Rep. Wu.
Prior to the election, KHOU 11 News also reached out to Rep. Wu to inquire about the destruction and removal of Pollard’s campaign signs, to which Rep. Wu responded that his campaign had removed some of Pollard’s signs, but not the signs in question.
After a lengthy investigation into the allegations levied against Rep. Wu, and his office, the Forward Times has learned that Wu’s Legislative Director, Greg Wythe, has been formally charged with Criminal Mischief and has an upcoming jury trial scheduled.
The Criminal Mischief charge stems from, both an eyewitness, and from surveillance footage of what is believed to be Wythe driving his personal vehicle onto private property to assist with the theft and vandalism of Pollard’s large 4×8 campaign signs prior to the Democratic Party Primary Elections in March. The surveillance video shows the criminal act caught on tape, in broad daylight off of Bellaire Blvd., during working hours.
According to a court document received by the Forward Times, a Notice of Trial by Jury has been issued that orders Wythe, a paid state employee, to appear at the Houston Municipal Court on July 5th at 8:00 am in Court #11 on the charge of Criminal Mischief.
Pollard says that the Houston Police Department (HPD) did an investigation after his campaign filed a police report and believes that Wythe was formally charged after a property owner allegedly came forward to serve as an eyewitness to the incident.
“If Greg (Wythe) is found guilty of this crime, I believe he should be terminated immediately from his position,” said Pollard. “If the evidence comes to show that it was a member of Rep. Wu’s own office that was responsible for committing these crimes, then I believe an investigation should also go into looking into Rep. Wu and whether he lied about any involvement with this incident. Crimes like these always start from the top and trickle down.”
The Forward Times reached out to Rep. Wu’s office to speak with him, but he was not available at the time the story was released. However, in speaking with Rep. Wu’s Chief of Staff, Amy Bruno, she informed the Forward Times that she was unaware of the charges in question.
Allegations of campaign sign removal or the destruction of those signs is nothing new.
However, for many in the community, it is disturbing to know that their taxpayer dollars that are essentially used to pay the salaries of government employees could have been used to conduct criminal acts in the same community they are being paid to serve.
The Forward Times will keep the public abreast on any further details as they become available.