PUNTA GORDA, Fla. — Just weeks away from a city council election in Punta Gorda, the wife of a sitting city councilor was charged with criminal mischief after damaging an opponent's campaign sign.
Jeannine Polk is the campaign manager for Debi Lux, who is running for the 3rd district seat on Punta Gorda's city council. One of her signs on Shreve Street, placed with the permission of a near-by business owner, was damaged.
"We went to the police station and we reported it. The police did a very thorough investigation on this," Polk said.
The report says Deborah Kuharski, Councilman Mark Kuharski's wife, with the help of another person whose name is redacted in the report, tried to pull the sign up and out with no success, then pushed it over instead, bending the metal spokes.
The report also says, "During election years, lessor reserves the right to allow certain candidates to display campaign signs during their campaign. Lessee may also allow candidates that they may be supporting to display campaign signs."
The Punta Gorda Police Department obtained a copy of the lease agreement.
"The sign was placed with permission from the lease holder," Polk said.
In other words, both incumbent Mark Kuharski and challenger Debi Lux have the right to have their signs at the location on Shreve Street, as long as the landlord or the tenant are okay with it.
The damages were under $200, making the incident a second degree misdemeanor.
"It does say that they [both people damaging the sign] were both charged with criminal mischief," Polk said.
We reached out to the Kuharskis for comment and recieved the following response:
“I spoke to both the landlord and the tenant and both said my opponent did not have permission to place a sign there. It was a simple misunderstanding that has been resolved."
Kuharskis gave a followup statement:
"As I’ve already stated, a simple misunderstanding occurred. Unfortunately, it’s now being turned into “an issue” for political gain. A sign was taken down under the belief, apparently mistaken, that neither the property owner nor renter gave permission for the sign to be placed. While the intent was to simply take the sign down, it was accidentally damaged in the process. Reimbursement is being provided to compensate for the accidentally damaged sign. No one has been charged or arrested for a crime, despite contrived assertions to the contrary.
It’s now time to focus on the real issues that actually affect the citizens of Punta Gorda."