ST. JOHN | Two political activists who removed anti-school referendum signs from Kolling Elementary School claimed they were acting under the direction of Lake Central School Corp. Superintendent Larry Veracco, police records state.
The activists told police the signs they removed were illegal because there was no disclaimer saying who paid for them. The Times is not naming the activists because they have not been charged with a crime.
But the signs were not illegal.
Dale Simmons, co-general counsel for the Indiana Election Division, said signs that relate to public questions -- such as school referendums -- do not require disclaimers.
Joe Hero and Richard Hucker, who opposed the $160 million referendum, reported the signs missing Monday night.
Hero told police he was placing the anti-school referendum signs at Kolling when two females approached him and said he was not allowed to post signs on school property. He told the females he was allowed to place political signs at polling locations.
When Hero returned to Kolling, the signs were gone, police records state.
He told police he tried to post more anti-school referendum signs but those also were taken. Hero called St. John police to report the theft.
A police officer stopped a vehicle that was leaving the school parking lot.
The driver said he was working on behalf of the Lake Central school district to pass the referendum. He said he did not take the signs but knew who did.
That driver led police to a trailer on school property, where he retrieved the anti-referendum signs, police said. The signs had been placed in the headquarters of the political action committee supporting the school referendum.
The two activists who removed the anti-referendum signs met police at the trailer. They said Veracco had instructed them to remove the signs, the police report states.
Both said they didn't know they were doing anything wrong by removing the signs. Hero told police he warned the activists it would be illegal to remove his signs.
When reached by phone, Veracco declined to comment.
School Board President George Baranowski said the board gave no order to remove the signs.
"I was unaware this goofiness is going down," he said.
Police told Hucker to contact the Lake County prosecutor's office if he wanted to seek charges against the people who took his signs. People removing signs without authority may be charged with criminal conversion under state law.
Hero said they haven't gone to the prosecutor's office yet but will.