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Candia YouTube video sparks AG investigation

Union Leader Correspondent

February 25. 2013 11:36PM

CANDIA - The Attorney General's Office is investigating the removal of political signs - captured on a YouTube video that is causing controversy in town.

The video shows a confrontation Saturday between Eric Shifflett, creator of the signs, and Selectman Fred Kelley after Shifflett discovers a number of his signs in the back of Kelley's truck.

The video begins with Shifflett driving in his vehicle. He films Kelley as he approaches a set of signs across the street from the Candia Town Offices. Shifflett pulls up behind a truck parked on the side of the road, approaches it and opens a door to reveal several of his signs inside.

Kelley approaches, telling Shifflett to "get out of my truck." Shifflett asks if Kelley is "the one that's picking up the signs." Kelley responds "yes. The state says we can." Shifflett then tells Kelley he is going to the police, to which Kelley responds, "Go ahead. They'll tell you it's legal."

But at Monday night's selectmen meeting, in response to questions from the public, Candia Police Chief Mike McGillen disagreed.

"Nobody can be taking the signs besides police, highway ... there was also some other reports of signs being damaged or taken out and tossed over the snowbanks," he said. "This stuff has got to stop. If anybody knows anything about any of that activity, please call the station."

McGillen said he has seen the YouTube video and "I don't like what I see."

Shifflett's signs presented quotes from Selectman Amanda Soares, taken from the minutes of the selectmen's Nov. 1 and Nov. 19, 2012, meetings. At both, Soares spoke out against a proposed cost of living adjustment for town employees. The signs were placed next to Soares' own campaign signs.

Asked for a comment after Monday's meeting, Kelley said he did not steal any signs, that Shifflett had broken into his truck, and that he was not caught on camera taking signs down.

Kelley initially insisted the signs in his truck were official Soares campaign signs, but when pressed by a Union Leader correspondent, said that five people had brought him the signs, and that the sign he was approaching on video was the first he was going to take down himself but he "did not touch it."

Kelley has argued that the signs were illegal because they lacked the necessary attributions to their author and financier. Under state law, political advertising must identify its "fiscal agent." The law also indicates, however, that "improper political advertising" is to be removed by law enforcement personnel, and that advertising on public property may be removed by law enforcement or "state, city, or town maintenance ... personnel" and is to be kept for a week at a designated place "so that the candidate may retrieve the items."

The official Soares campaign signs, as with many campaigns in Candia, also lack references to their sponsor.

Soares declined to comment Monday night other than to say: "I don't understand why we have to (discuss it), but I don't have anything to say about it. If you're going to put a sign up, put your name on it. There's no reason to hide."

Kelley has since returned six signs to Candia police after receiving a call from Sgt. Scott Gallagher. These have been turned over to Shifflett. According to Shifflett, however, 24 of his 30 signs remain missing.

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