Calgary police are investigating after 160 election signs from mayor candidate Jyoti Gondek’s campaign were stolen after claims they were placed illegally.
The signs, worth about $3,000 total, were stolen from wards 13 and 14 in the city’s southwest and southeast.
According to Gondek’s campaign manager Stephen Carter, the campaign has a good idea of who stole the signs as they called the campaign and admitted to the theft on two occasions.
“Message to Jyoti Gondek, all of your election campaign signs are illegal, we are picking them up and taking them to the dump,” the caller said in a voicemail left with the campaign.
Gondek’s campaign contests the claim that the signs are placed illegally, and said the signage doesn’t break any bylaws.
“I’ve never seen signs come down in about 80 different locations, they were just pulled from location after location after location; it was methodical,” Carter said. “I’ve never had anybody call and take credit — that was probably the weirdest part.”
In a second phone call to the campaign, the reasoning for the theft seemed to change, which raised some concerns with the campaign.
“She should know better than to cheat to win the mayor’s seat,” the voicemail said. “As a woman, as a person of minority, race and religion, she should know better than to disgrace her kind.”
According to Carter, Gondek’s team knows who the caller is as the person tried to volunteer with the campaign, and provided their contact information and full name. The information was forwarded to the Calgary police.
“It could be racially motivated. That’s very upsetting,” Carter said. “The ones that say, ‘I don’t want to vote for Jyoti Gondek because she supports the Green Line.’ OK, that’s a valid position to take. But because her name is Jyoti is not a reason to take that position.”
Although specific campaign signs are only allowed during the campaign period between Sept. 20 and Oct. 18, the city’s sign bylaw says signs like Gondek’s are allowed if they are a specific size, promote an event and are removed or moved within 14 days.
Signs must also be removed 24 hours after the event it is promoting is concluded.
According to the City of Calgary, different rules for campaign signs come into place during the campaign period that change how long a sign can be in place and what it is promoting.
Carter said the campaign has already begun fundraising for new signs and will continue to place them throughout the city while adhering to the bylaws in place.
“It’s our belief that elections are important, that people want to know what’s going on an election,” Carter said. “By giving them access to information and access to events, we are serving our community and ensuring that we have a better election.”