The Oakland County Sheriff's office has submitted an investigation into multiple thefts of campaign signs by a candidate for Bloomfield Township Trustee, Don Valente, to the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office for consideration of an arrest warrant.
Valente, a retired attorney, is running as a Republican for trustee in Tuesday's primary election.
A complaint was filed with the Bloomfield Township Police Department by a citizen who recognized Valente and saw him taking campaign signs for township supervisor Leo Savoie and treasurer Brian Kepes in the vicinity of Long Lake and Telegraph.
Valente has been a vocal opponent of Savoie and Kepes at township board meetings and in written campaign materials.
Bloomfield Township police initially investigated the complaint, with surveillance cameras confirming the thefts. They then expanded their surveillance review to other locations along Telegraph, where they saw numerous other signs for Savoie, Kepes, Tom Smyly, Eric Pernie, and other candidates that had been taken.
Pernie is a former Bloomfield Township police officer, and Smyly is currently a Bloomfield Township police officer. Chief Phil Langmeyer said they turned the case over to the Oakland County sheriff's office in order to avoid any appearance of conflict. “It's not a case we are handling,” he stated.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that between 50 and 60 election signs were found in plain view leaning against the outside of Valente's garage.
Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said the case was assigned to the department's special investigations unit, with two detectives investigating the allegations. McCabe said he could not discuss the case, and confirmed that the county prosecutor's office had been asked to review information they had compiled for a possible arrest warrant.
Theft of political signs is a crime in all 50 states. Stealing or defacing a sign in Michigan is a misdemeanor that can carry a maximum penalty of a $500 fine or imprisonment of up to 90 days in jail.
A similar court case in the last two years involving theft of campaign signs by a Bloomfield Hills councilman resulted in a court sentence of community service and fines.
Ironically, at a recent candidate forum with Bloomfield Hills High School students, Valente said in his opening and closing remarks, “I am seeking a position as a trustee because I believe a trustee is someone who must be trusted” and then proceeded to outline his experience as an “an investigator with the U.S. Department of Justice and a Wayne and Oakland County Prosecutor's Office criminal trial attorney and director of warrants, meaning warrant for your arrest.”