LAURINBURG — Laurinburg Mayor Matthew Block is being accused by a former rival of stealing nearly a dozen campaign signs in 2015.
Former Mayor Tommy Parker took out a warrant for larceny against Block on Monday afternoon. Parker confirmed the action when reached by The Laurinburg Exchange Monday night.
The warrant says that there is probable cause to believe that Block “unlawfully and willfully did steal, take or carry away 10 campaign signs.”
Tampering or removing a political sign is a class 3 misdemeanor.
“I’ve been reluctant to say anything, but then I thought enough is enough,” Parker said. “People need to see what kind of person he really is.”
Parker, who was seeking a second term as mayor against Block in October 2015 noticed that his campaign signs along McGirts Bridge Road were missing. Laurinburg police recovered Parker’s political signs a day later in a dumpster on the campus of Scotland Memorial Hospital. The red, white and blue signs said Re-elect Tommy Parker Mayor.
Surveillance video from the hospital show a man taking the signs out of a vehicle and putting them in a dumpster, according to police.
Parker said at the time there was a police report indicating that Block had removed the signs, but he decided not to press charges. The two-year statute of limitations runs out on Tuesday.
“This was something that has weighed heavily on me and has been in the back of my mind for while,” Parker said. “I could have used it for political gain at the time, but I wanted to win or lose on my own.”
Block would go on to defeat Parker with 60 percent of the vote.
Parker said he decided to come forward because Block has been such a divisive figure in the community since that election.
“He has gone out of his way to tear this community apart, mainly along class lines,” Parker said. “The question is are we going to put up with it or let people see a facet of this gentleman that they may not be aware of?
“If you are going to be a leader, you need to have some integrity. You don’t touch other people’s signs and you don’t attack people.”
Block could not be reached for comment Monday night. But a post by the mayor on his Facebook page late Monday night said “Citizens of Laurinburg, we have reached a new low.”
“Two years after losing, Tommy Parker has taken out papers accusing me of stealing $40 worth of his campaign signs. Why now? Block wrote.
At the time of the incident, Block said that no one from his campaign had touched any of Parker’s signs.
“It is something that happens every election season,” he said. “I don’t know that political signs really make that much of a difference to voters, but you put them up because the other candidates do.”