Policing politics: Estates man accused of removing campaign signs

Tim Nance

Tim Nance

Jim Coletta

Jim Coletta

Larry Wisdom

Larry Wisdom

In a case involving covert police tactics and petty political hijinks, Collier County sheriff's deputies said they nabbed a Golden Gate Estates man taking campaign signs — and it's all caught on hidden camera.

Deputies said they recorded Larry Meredith Wisdom, 63, two weeks ago as he pulled two signs belonging to Collier County Commissioner Jim Coletta. Deputies believe Wisdom took the signs at the corner of Golden Gate Boulevard and 15th Street Southwest and tossed them into bushes and trees, out of sight from drivers. He faces a misdemeanor charge of theft under $100.

In late June, Coletta reported about 200 signs stolen during a one-month span along Golden Gate and Wilson boulevards. An incident report doesn't indicate whether Wisdom is believed responsible for other stolen signs.

Coletta's challenger for the District 5 seat, Tim Nance, said he doesn't know Wisdom, who couldn't be reached for comment. Campaign finance records show Wisdom hasn't contributed to Nance's campaign.

Coletta said he was aware someone had been arrested over his sign thefts, but had not yet seen the police report.

"I just hope this ends the nonsense of the sign thefts," he said.

Following Coletta's report, deputies set up a camera facing two of the commissioner's signs at the Golden Gate Boulevard intersection. Eight days later, a tall white male walked up to the signs, pulled them out of the ground and walked with them east on Golden Gate Boulevard. The suspect was seen on tape wearing a sleeveless T-shirt, shorts, headphones, glasses, a baseball hat and a dark-colored fanny pack with a white towel hanging from the strap, deputies said.

A sheriff's captain reviewed the tape and identified the suspect as Wisdom, an incident report said. One day after the theft, a sheriff's sergeant spotted Wisdom walking near the scene at about the same time of the early morning theft. Deputies said he was wearing nearly identical clothing and accessories to the man seen on camera.

When questioned by deputies, Wisdom denied knowledge of the thefts, but later said he was neither confirming nor denying that he stole signs, an incident report said. Wisdom, of the 2000 block of Golden Gate Boulevard West, called the signs an "eye sore" that "made his street look bad," the report said. He denied knowing Coletta or Nance.

Deputies noted Wisdom did not remove other campaign signs near Coletta's.

Coletta had harsh words Tuesday for Nance, saying his campaign was removing Coletta signs and putting Nance signs in their place, or putting Nance signs where they should not go, such as in the right of way.

"We've told code enforcement. ... But he does it where there are these absentee landlords who don't notice what's going on," Coletta said. "And it is spreading to other races."

Nance responded that he doesn't condone supporters swapping or stealing signs, adding that the debate diverts from the campaign.

"There's a lot of really important issues and we're talking about signs," Nance said. "The signs are just politics I suppose."

Staff writer Katherine Albers contributed to this report.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features