A co-founder of We the People of Fairfield, a taxpayers' advocacy group, filed a police report Saturday over signs she said had been stolen that had urged residents to vote "No" in a June 14 referendum.
But police said Monday that the signs had been on public property - a traffic island at the corner of Burr Street and Congress Street - and should not have been there. Police said two signs at that intersection had been reported as stolen.
Kate Daniello, co-founder of We the People, sent an e-mail to the media early Monday advising that she had filed a police report on the "stolen" signs and that nearly 100 of 200 signs she and her supporters had set up over the weekend were "stolen."
Daniello said in the e-mail that We the People "subsequently learned that signs cannot be placed unattended in public spaces" but added that the "Vote No" signs had been "in places where other signs advertising tag sales or the Discovery Garden Tour had already been placed and it should be noted that only our green signs were stolen."
Daniello wasn't available early Monday afternoon to say how many of the 100 signs she said were stolen over the weekend had been on public property.
Police Sgt. Sue Lussier, a department spokesman, said signs aren't supposed to be placed on traffic islands, on utility poles or in town rights-of-way. "You're not supposed to post those signs unless they're on private property," she said.
John Convertito, a leader of the "Vote Yes" contingent, said all of the signs supporting the June 14 referendum, to his knowledge, are on private property. Convertito said referendum supporters distributed signs to people who called or e-mailed requesting one, and supporters also had called residents who live in high-traffic areas to ask permission to put a sign on their property.
Convertito said about 400 "Vote Yes" signs are in Fairfield and that referendum supporters had made clear to people requesting a sign that it shouldn't be placed on public property.
Lussier said signs stolen from private property would constitute a theft, but she didn't think a sign removed from public property would technically be a theft since the sign isn't allowed to be there.
Lussier said police have the authority to remove signs that are on public property but it's up to the town's Zoning Department to enforce the prohibition of signs on public property and that zoning officials would normally enlist town Department of Public Works' employees to remove such signs.
The section of Fairfield's Zoning Regulations that pertains to signs on public property is Section 29.8.13, is entitled "Rights-of-Way" and says: "No sign shall be permitted to overhang or be located within the right-of-way of any street."
Bryan LeClerc, chairman of the Town Plan and Zoning Commission, confirmed that signs can't be placed within a right-of-way of a street, and LeClerc said that includes a traffic island.
Daniello in the e-mail asked that anyone who removed the "Vote No" signs turn them into the Town Clerk's Office in Old Town Hall.
The June 14 referendum is over the Representative Town Meeting's decision to cut $800,000 from the proposed 2011-12 Board of Education budget. Voting hours are from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and a "Yes" vote means the voter is in favor of restoring the $800,000 to the school board budget, while a "No" vote means the voter is opposed.
Voting will take place in regular polling places, except for residents in District 2, who will vote in Burr Elementary School.
To win the referendum, and have the $800,000 restored, 25 percent of voters in Fairfield have to vote "Yes" and those votes also must be a majority of votes cast.