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Nassau DA reviews complaint of campaign sign removal

One of two new campaign signs for George

One of two new campaign signs for George Hignell, Democratic candidate for Oyster Bay receiver of taxes, is visible Monday in front of a Bethpage 7-Eleven. Credit: Newsday/Ted Phillips

The Nassau district attorney's office is reviewing a complaint about a video showing a man destroying a political campaign sign and replacing it with a sign for other candidates in Bethpage. 

Brendan Brosh, a spokesman for Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, confirmed the office was looking into the complaint from George Hignell, a Democratic candidate for Oyster Bay Town tax receiver. But he declined to elaborate.

A Nassau County police spokesman confirmed that they had also taken a police report about the incident.

Surveillance video from the Bethpage 7-Eleven convenience store on Stewart Avenue from last Tuesday night shows a man pulling out a sign for George Hignell, Democratic candidate for the Town of Oyster Bay receiver of taxes.

The man then replaces it with a sign for Republicans Joseph Saladino, who is running for reelection as town supervisor, and Jeffrey Pravato, who is running against Hignell for receiver of taxes. The video shows the man breaking Hignell’s sign, putting it in a trash can and installing another Saladino sign on the property from a truck on the street.

Hignell said his signs have been disappearing almost as fast as he can put them up.

“The past month, wherever I put the signs, the next day it’s gone,” Hignell said, calling the acts “juvenile hooliganism” and said he blames Republicans.

Saladino said Tuesday night he was not aware of the incident.

“We don’t condone that activity at all,” Saladino said.

Mike Deery, who is a spokesman for the Saladino campaign and the Nassau County Republican Committee said in an email Tuesday that they had not known about the incident and they condemn “all such acts in the strongest possible terms.”

“Overzealous individuals occasionally act beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior during the course of political campaigns,” Deery wrote.

Hignell said the owner of the 7-Eleven was a personal friend who had given him permission to install his sign on the property and he had shown him the surveillance video the day after his sign had been removed. The franchisee, who declined to give his full name, confirmed those details.

“I want to see this person prosecuted,” Nassau County Democratic Committee chairman Jay Jacobs said Wednesday. “We have to have a deterrent.”

Jacobs blamed Republicans for the removal of Hignell’s sign and other Democratic signs throughout the county.

Jacobs said the removal of signs is “keeping candidates from exercising their right to campaign.”

New York State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin said in an email that sign removal can be reported to law enforcement and the board of elections.

“Theft of property is a crime,” Conklin wrote. “The signs belong to the campaign that put them there.”

Conklin said the law says that such complaints can result in a civil fine of up to $1,000.

Following the incident, the Saladino signs were no longer at the 7-Eleven and two Hignell signs had been placed back on the property.

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