Grays Harbor County Commissioner Frank Gordon is being accused of stealing the campaign signs of more than one candidate in Grays Harbor County, including the signs of his challenger Randy Ross.
Gordon is seeking re-election as District 2 county commissioner. Both Gordon and Ross are of Aberdeen.
Two trail camera pictures made public by Andrew Mesojednik show a man matching Gordon’s description, wearing what appears to be Gordon’s “iconic” leather suit jacket, walking empty handed up to campaign signs, and then walking away with Randy Ross’s sign. The photo does not specifically show Gordon removing the sign.
Mesojednik told The Vidette he is Ross’s friend (Ross also said Mesojednik is a campaign volunteer), and Ross had asked him to use a trail camera to find out why his signs were missing.
“We expected a prank or some kids — we didn’t expect to see Frank Gordon,” Mesojednik said.
The camera was put up at about 11 a.m. on Sept. 7 at the corner of Willow Street and Sumner Avenue in Aberdeen. Ross staked his sign in the ground about an hour later. At about 1:30 p.m., Mesojednik went back to check on the situation — the sign was missing.
“I pulled the chip out of the camera, checked the card, and lo and behold here’s Frank Gordon walking into the frame and then walking out of the frame with a campaign sign,” Mesojednik said.
The signs were found laying in the grass nearby.
Ross told The Vidette he had noticed his signs missing on Sunday, Sept. 4, and when he discussed the problem with Mesojednik the trail camera work was offered.
Ross too wasn’t expecting to see Gordon.
“We were just all kind of — wow, really?” Ross said.
At that point, Ross and his campaign were unsure about how to press forward, so they decided to go public with the information. A police report was filed with the Aberdeen Police Department.
Gordon told The Vidette he drove past the corner, saw the sign laying down and got out of his truck to pick it up. At the time, he had another of Ross’s signs in the back of his truck that was put there by somebody else. He then took the two signs to Ross’s big sign near Duffy’s in Aberdeen and laid them on the ground beside it.
“No one saw me take a sign out of the ground, and there are no witnesses to that,” Gordon said.
When asked if he would continue to pick up signs for other candidates he said, “Not anymore. If thrown in the back of my truck, I’ll drop them off, but I won’t drive around picking them up anymore.”
When asked about continuity issues — the signs were there, Gordon then is shown in pictures with signs in hand, and the signs no longer are present — Gordon suggested a conspiracy saying he and Mesojednik have had issues in the past.
“The guy dislikes me. He was doing a setup,” Gordon said. “I hammered him about a garbage issue when I was on the Aberdeen City Council.”
Mesojednik later countered Gordon’s statement saying he’s never met the commissioner.
“I’ve never lived west of McCleary. I’ve never owned, managed or rented any property in Aberdeen whatsoever,” Mesojednik said. “I would like for him to cite the garbage issue where he hammered me. I just took a picture — I’m not a candidate running for office and this is a personal attack. This lends to his credibility or lack thereof.”
Ross was disappointed the situation occurred.
“I’m trying to run a clean campaign, and this is distracting from the issues,” he said.
State law prohibits removing or defacing “lawfully placed political advertising.” The offense is a misdemeanor, and each sign is counted as a separate violation.
“If you’re going to be a commissioner and take an oath to uphold the law, then you should do that by not committing a gross misdemeanor,” Ross said.
Accusations that Gordon has been removing campaign signs reached a boiling point on Sept. 8 during a talk show on KBKW Radio.
PUD candidate David Jennings said his signs were removed from a fence by Gordon. Jennings said he caught Gordon in the act, and he claimed Gordon admitted to removing the sign.
As the accusations were developing, Gordon went to the radio station and then went on the air stating the situation was a misunderstanding. Gordon said he had permission from the property owner to attach his signs to the fence, so long as he left room for candidate David Timmons. Timmons and Jennings both are vying for the same PUD seat.
When Gordon saw Jennings’s sign on the fence post, he thought he should remove the sign because the owner did not explicitly state Jennings would be allowed space on the fence.
Gordon was confronted by Jennings and the Aberdeen Police Department was called. Gordon says he then contacted the property owner and he offered to put the signs back up.
When asked if he had removed any other signs, Gordon said he hadn’t personally removed other signs, but he had been in possession of some.
“Some people said they saw me with a couple of Randy Ross signs, and I don’t know how they had them, but somebody pitched them in the back of my truck,” Gordon said. “I parked, walked over and laid them down next to the big Ross sign that’s sitting by Duffy’s so someone can find them. Somebody being a smartass.”
Jennings later told The Vidette the situation was not a misunderstanding.
“It was Frank taking it on himself to take the signs down,” Jennings said.
While on the local radio program — Jennings had called in while Gordon was in the studio — Gordon said Jennings is “probably the most unliked person in the state, so I have no doubt other people would probably want to yank your signs.”
After a few moments on the air, Gordon excused himself so he could “go let the chickens out.”
It was after Gordon left the radio station that the trail camera photos were made public.
Later, Jennings was again on the radio saying, “I’m very thankful that somebody had a game camera out there and got photos of him stealing signs. It’s not a misunderstanding like Frank claims.”
In total, Jennings says he has had eight signs tampered with during this election season — either completely missing or found in a ditch.
“I had signs go missing six years ago when I ran against him, and my signs are missing now,” he said. “It’s the idea that you buy them and you take the time putting them up, and this is a disrespect for the whole political system.”