A 77-year-old man accused of removing and throwing away two political signs in an Upper Keys neighborhood was arrested on theft charges.
Herbert Hudson of Rose Place was charge with three counts of misdemeanor petty theft after he allegedly removed signs from Michelle Drive and U.S. 1 belonging to Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District Board candidate Steve Gibbs, according to Monroe County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Deputy Becky Herrin.
Gibbs had filed a complaint about missing signs and detectives asked him to place more in an area where they had been disappearing, the candidate said.
"And lo and behold, they caught a guy," Gibbs said Friday.
Gibbs is a former Citizen reporter who retired before running for public office.
Hudson subsequently admitted to throwing the signs in a dumpster near the Yellow Bait House and Seafood Market at Mike Marker 101.7, Herrin said. Hudson reportedly told detectives he removed them in an effort to clean up the neighborhood, not for any political agenda.
His profession was listed as "minister" in jail records, but Herrin said it was unclear where he preached.
"He says he doesn't like the signs, and I understand that, but they're a necessary evil and he has no business taking them down," Gibbs said.
Removing or vandalizing a political sign could be a second-degree misdemeanor and punishable by up to 60 days in county jail, according to state statute.
There is also a Monroe County ordinance that states all political signs can "be erected no earlier than 70 days prior to such election and shall be removed within 14 days following such election," according to county code. Signs are also not to be illuminated.
The city of Key West has no such ordinance and follows the state statute. "Sheriff Bob Peryam would like to reiterate the Sheriff's Office takes this crime seriously and will arrest anyone caught removing political signs illegally," Herrin wrote in a press release.
Candidates who have had signs stolen or vandalized are asked to report the incident to the Sheriff's Office, Herrin said.
The issue of disappearing political signs came up this when two Romney signs were reported missing Oct. 5 on Flamingo Road and four signs went missing Oct. 14 on North Blackwater Lane. Both incidents were reported by the same Key Largo person, according to Sheriff's Office offense reports.
There were no suspects listed in either incident.