It would be hard at this point in the election cycle to find a competitive race where someone is not complaining about campaign signs: Someone moved my sign. Someone took down my sign. Someone defaced my sign. The other guys’ signs are illegally placed. 99 times out of a 100 the appropriate response to such complaints is to make it as clear as all the wind in your lungs will allow “NO ONE CARES!!!!.”
This case is different. It appears to have a real casualty.
The Northeast corner of Rabbit Creek Road. and Goldenview Road. is a prime spot for campaign signs. It is the main access route through the heart of the Anchorage Hillside and House District 28. As you might imagine, larger 4’x8’ signs pop up there from candidates all along the political spectrum.
Wednesday night, State House candidate Ross Bieling posted this account to Facebook about his sign at that corner accusing an unnamed, but blurily pictured, young man of “stealing” his 4’x8’ sign and tipping over one of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s signs as well. Bieling also said he had filed a police report over the matter.
The pictured man turned out to be Adam Lees, president of the Rabbit Creek Community Council. (RCCC) In an interview Sunday night Lees said he went to where the signs were with former Anchorage Assemblywoman Pat Abney, who has been acting as the manager for the property owner who lives out of state, to disassemble the Bieling and Murkowski signs because both candidates had placed the signs on the property without the owner’s permission.
Lees cast their action as coming after repeated requests from Abney and RCCC to get both Bieling and Murkowski to remove their signs, “This came to the Community Council after a few complaints about campaign signs in bad locations. [RCCC] passed a resolution in June saying here is the situation, here is what we think about it, and move anything in there now. When I sent out that letter I also sent out two notice violations for two signs that didn’t have permission to be on that corner since they were the only ones I knew had been placed there without permission. One of those was Ross Bieling’s.”
Bieling said this weekend he had not been contacted by anyone about removing his sign and said it was not on the private property but was rather in the adjacent road right-of-way, “We were in the right-of-way..and the guy went ahead and knocked the sign down and we came back a half hour later and saw a gentleman standing in front of the sign with a drill taking the sign itself apart.”
It’s worth pointing out that placing campaign signs in road rights-of-way is itself illegal, though such rules are often ignored by candidates for office. If Bieling’s sign was in the right-of-way, it would have fallen to the state, as the property owner, to remove the sign and not Abney or RCCC.
The Murkowski campaign declined to make any statement as to whether their sign was on private property or in the right-of-way or whether they had been contacted to take it down. Campaign spokesman Robert Dillon would only say the campaign would be removing their sign at that location because it is their policy to do so when such questions or complaints arise about one of their signs.
At this point, this is a story anyone in Alaska politics has heard a thousand times. Someone puts a sign where someone thinks they shouldn’t, it gets taken down, the campaign files a police report or takes to social media to play the victim, and police decide they have better things to do than adjudicate political campaign beefs.
That is usually where these stories end. Not this one.
Abney and Lees are claiming that after Bieling posted his complaints about their incident to social media, Lees was fired from his job as a Member Service Officer at Credit Union One.
Abney said, “He [Bieling] put something on Facebook and Credit Union One unceremoniously fired Adam Lees.” While Lees didn’t want to go too far into detail over the departure, he did confirm he had been fired over the incident saying “the rationale was that the credit union saw something on Facebook and fired me off the bat.”
Bieling said he had heard that Lees may have lost his job over the incident but said he never contacted Credit Union One and had nothing to do with the termination. He went further saying “Do I think this was a firing offense, no.” and “Would I be the first one to step up a speak with the employer to correct that, absolutely.”