Case of the missing signs: Campaign saboteur or helpful HOA volunteer

Article Courtesy of  The Palm Beach Post

By Tony Doris

Published March 9, 2021


WEST PALM BEACH — Call it The Case of the Purloined Placards.

An otherwise noncontroversial West Palm Beach city commission race took a dramatic turn at a shopping center last Saturday, after the challenger's friends spotted an acquaintance of the incumbent uprooting the challenger's campaign signs. They got video.


The next night, District 4 candidate Jonathan Jones' wife was at the same Publix center off Okeechobee Boulevard when she saw the man taking more of her husband's signs. She confronted him, took back the signs and demanded his name. "Mickey Mouse," he replied.

Confident that was not his real name, she whipped out her phone and took pictures of "Mickey" and his license plate number before he drove off.

The shopping center showdowns sent West Palm Beach police rapping on the Andros Isle door of John Mike late Sunday, candidate Jones hot on their tail. There they found the 72-year-old, a prominent Realtor and homeowners' association volunteer, with more of Jones' lawn signs.

Jones was all set to take his signs back and drop the matter. Then he got a call from his son.

His son had found a photo on Facebook of Mike with incumbent Joe Peduzzi and Mayor Keith James (who endorsed Peduzzi) and social media messages further indicating ties between Peduzzi and the admitted sign-lifter. They'd attended some kind of conference together and were telling each other how great they were and somebody was wishing somebody happy birthday, Jones related to The Post.

Jonathan Jones, candidate for West Palm Beach city commission District 4.

Had Peduzzi ordered the sign theft, Watergate-style, in a desperate attempt to secure a victory in the March 9 municipal election?

The affable, AV-rated lawyer, a former reserve cop and volunteer firefighter, has won the endorsement of hundreds of well-known city and county officials and residents and has raised more than four times more money than Jones. Jones, also a personal injury lawyer, is not particularly well known in the community and skipped several community political forums that might have changed that.

Peduzzi said he knew Mike from a neighborhood event he once attended but denied any involvement in the sign caper.

"While the gentleman my opponent accuses is not affiliated with my campaign, he is someone that I know and respect. I am hoping that this can simply be attributed to a misunderstanding. Regardless, I do not condone this activity," Peduzzi wrote in an email to The Palm Beach Post.

"My opponent is more focused on talking about signs than the real issues facing our city," Peduzzi's email continued. "It’s a distraction. He has yet to attend a single forum, he skipped the Palm Beach Post interview and appears to be more focused on negativity and attacks.

"At the start of this process, my opponent and I agreed to run positive campaigns. I have honored that agreement. Let’s stop with the distractions and focus on what we can do to improve the lives of our residents. That is what I strive to do every day, and I would hope that my opponent would do the same."

Mike on Friday said in a phone interview that Peduzzi had nothing to do with Mike's taking the signs. And while Mike admitted taking them, he insisted he was not a campaign saboteur.

After the call ended, he rang back to add: "At no point was I disrespectful or profane to the lady that accosted me. I was polite. There was no hostility or nastiness or anything like that."

Mike said he's lived in the Andros Isle community for 20 years and knows that shopping center doesn't allow political signs. "Over the election cycle, the signs come down almost as soon as they go up," he said. "They pick them up and throw them out."

On Saturday he saw the Jones signs and noticed they were blank on one side. Since he helps the Andros Isle homeowners association with events, and knew there was a "Family Fun Walk" coming up and they needed signs, he saw no harm in taking four of Jones' signs with blank sides, he said.

He came back to the same shopping center Sunday evening to pick up Chinese food he'd ordered and saw more signs. "I said, 'these are going to be taken down by the shopping center and the ladies need more of these.'" He took four more.

That's when Jones' wife "accosted" him. He got his takeout and left, thinking the matter was over.

It wasn't.

"The police knocked at 9 p.m. and told me I was stealing. I gave them the signs back and apologized and offered to speak with Mr. Jones. After an hour and a half he did talk to me. I explained all this to him. I’m not a saboteur for Mr. Peduzzi's campaign."

West Palm Beach police have not filed charges or forwarded the case to the State Attorney's Office for prosecution.

Jones told police he had videos of the sign-taking from his friends and from a nearby liquor store security camera, and asked if they wanted to see them. "Yeah, if it's a murder case," one told him.

On Friday Jones pushed back on Peduzzi's comment that if he wanted voter support he should have attended neighborhood forums and campaigned in a positive way, as the two had promised each other they would, over a cup of coffee several months ago.

"Most of the campaign forums and in-person interviews were canceled because of the pandemic we are experiencing," Jones countered in an email. "I wish Commissioner Joe Peduzzi would stop attacking me, take responsibility for his actions and focus on helping our most vulnerable friends and neighbors during this historic pandemic we are all experiencing."