The Costa Mesa Taxpayers Assn. is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the identification of a man seen in a video destroying campaign signs.
The video shows him taking a "Yes on Measure V" sign and a "3Ms" sign — which supports Councilmen Gary Monahan and Steve Mensinger and Planning Commission Chairman Colin McCarthy in their bids for City Council — ripping the 3Ms sign and throwing the pieces into a bush.
The Measure V sign, which supports a city charter for Costa Mesa, appears to be thrown off into a residential driveway but not torn.
CMTA organizers said the incident happened Saturday night in a grassy public right-of-way at the northwest corner of Fair and Columbia drives.
The Costa Mesa Police Department confirmed receiving a report of possible damage and theft of campaign signs at that area about 9:10 p.m. Saturday. Police met a private investigator there who was hired by a campaigning council member, according to a news release. They did not name the investigator or council member.
The case is being investigated, said city CEO Tom Hatch.
He also said in a prepared statement that the city is "conducting a separate and confidential personnel/administrative investigation."
City spokesman Bill Lobdell declined to give further context on the statement.
In the video posted Sunday on CMTA's YouTube account, the man appears to be white, tall, bald and wearing a long goatee. He is walking barefoot and is accompanied by a dog.
In the nearly two-minute video, he did not touch a sign for City Council candidate Harold Weitzberg, who is running on a slate opposed to the 3Ms.
The identity of the videographer, or whether it was the private investigator whom police met, could not be confirmed.
According to the city's zoning code, campaign signs are permitted in some public rights-of-way between 6 a.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Sunday, providing they meet other requirements for size, height, identification and certain location parameters.
The fiscally conservative, grassroots CMTA has endorsed the 3Ms and Measure V.
Robert Dickson, a planning commissioner and CMTA member, said he was in charge of putting the signs up this weekend along Fair Drive. He placed them there, found them destroyed and photographed the aftermath.
While Dickson said he understands the inevitable reality of signs being stolen or taken down — he dubbed it "signs gamesmanship" — he called the degree of violence against them this year a new extreme.
Many have been stabbed with a knife, Dickson said, and one in front Fairview Community Church had "a huge blotch" of chewing tobacco, or something looking like it.
"It's obvious that whomever did this last weekend, they wanted us to see, or someone to see, what they had done, because [the signs] were ripped up and thrown on the ground," he said. "It looked like a crime scene. There were shreds of stuff all over the place."
'It's gotten beyond ridiculous'
Sign stealing, trampling and destruction — no side of this year's election has been unaffected throughout the heated campaign season.