NORTH BETHLEHEM — A Bethlehem Democratic Committee member was caught removing political signs for the Republican Town Highway Superintendent candidate.
Mario Chiarello had lifted two of John “Tiger” Anastasi’s signs off of a Blessings Road property before he was caught by a member of the town’s Republican party on Saturday, Oct. 19, at approximately 3:15 p.m.
Steve Peterson was riding in the front of a campaign bus for Republican Town Board candidate Jim Carriero when they observed Chiarello removing the sign. He was placing them in the trunk of his car when the bus pulled off to the side of the road to confront him.
Peterson described a civil conversation with no one raising his voice. When he asked Chiarello whether or not he owned the property, or had permission to remove the signs, he was told no. Peterson said Chiarello offered to return the signs back to where they were. Peterson, however, said he would take the signs and return them.
“It wasn’t until I Googled him did I learn that he was a member of the Democratic Committee,” said Peterson. Chiarello had shared his name with Peterson during their conversation. When Peterson looked him up on the internet, he recognized his face.
A video of the incident was captured on a dashboard camera installed on the campaign bus. Peterson shared a three-minute long version of the video with Spotlight Newspapers. On the video, it captures a white-haired man removing a sign and placing it in the trunk of his car. While in conversation with Peterson, he takes a sign back out to place back on the lawn. Peterson takes the sign, instead.
Chiarello admits to removing the signs. He said the property owner is from out of the area, and he removed the signs on the presumption that they were placed on the property without permission.
Chiarello said he based his presumption on a similar experience on his Bradhaven Road property. He has several campaign signs for Democrat candidates. He said he removed a sign he didn’t allow.
Campaign signs can not be placed on private property without permission. Conversely, signs can only be removed by the property owner or someone in the candidate’s camp.
“I did it on my own,” said Chiarello, who admitted he is aware of the law regarding campaign signs. “I assumed they didn’t have permission … I did it based on the presumption that they were not authorized.”
Asked in hindsight whether or not he would act in the same way, Chiarello said, “absolutely not.”
Anastasi filed a complaint with the Bethlehem Police on Saturday night.
Bethlehem Police Department Commander Adam Hornick said his agency is currently investigating the incident. The crime would fall under petit larceny, a Class A misdemeanor that is punishable by up to a year in jail.
To view the video of the incident click on spotlightnews.com. We will update this story as it unfolds.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.