Township trustee suspected of stealing campaign signs

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FISHERS, Ind. (April 18, 2016) – A cell phone left at the scene of a crime left a Hamilton County elected official as the main suspect in a case dealing with stolen campaign signs.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office questioned Fall Creek Township Trustee Jeff Hern over the weekend for the theft of campaign signs that belonged to a competitor, Rick McKinney, in the Hamilton County Council race, according to Deputy Bryant Orem.

Hern is one of several Republican challengers in the May primary to long-standing Hamilton County Council Member Rick McKinney.

“I think it was a very desperate move by somebody to try and diminish the visibility of my candidacy," McKinney said. "The first reaction is you feel mad and even feel violated. The sanctity of the political process, the first amendment has been trampled on.”

McKinney first noticed some of his large campaign signs missing Friday morning. While replacing stolen signs Friday afternoon near the intersection of 116 and Cumberland Road, he found a cell phone right where his sign had been.

"There was some identifying text that indicated it might belong to Jeff Hern," McKinney said. "So I called somebody who knew his phone number, asked them to call it and the phone started ringing in my hand.”

Hern and Fall Creek Township officials declined to comment for this story. Sheriff deputies did determine Hern is missing his cell phone.

The case now sits with the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office. A deputy prosecutor said the office is reviewing the case and that it is too early to discuss possible criminal charges.

“I’m not the judge or jury, but you know walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, looks like a duck... it’s probably a duck," McKinney said.