Schenectady County

Duanesburg town officials accused of stealing campaign signs

The alleged theft of campaign signs belong to Duanesburg town Highway Superintendent Steve Perog has

Steve Perog set up a deer camera Monday morning near his campaign sign on Knight Road, then tucked himself into the brush roughly 60 feet away.

Decked out in full camouflage, the Duanesburg highway superintendent said he aimed another digital camera toward his sign and waited.

Less than 10 minutes later, a black Cadillac rolled to a stop by Perog’s sign and Deputy Town Supervisor Tracy Rabideau emerged from the vehicle, according to the statement he gave to state police.

“In less than 30 seconds, she got out, ripped the sign up, threw it in her trunk and drove away,” he claimed Wednesday.

Perog reported the theft to authorities and turned over photos he shot from both cameras. On Tuesday, Rabideau was issued a criminal summons for petty larceny, a misdemeanor charge that carries a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail.

Rabideau, deputy to Republican Supervisor Rene Merrihew, wasn’t the only one cited for allegedly stealing Perog’s signs: Jean Frisbee, a 10-year member of the Town Board and the Duanesburg Democratic Committee chairwoman, is scheduled to receive a summons for petty larceny today, state police spokeswoman Maureen Tuffey said Wednesday.

“We know for sure each of them took one [sign],” she said.

Perog said his sign was legally tethered with wire to the stop sign on Knight Road, the dead-end street where Rabideau lives. He said about eight other signs were in the general vicinity and weren’t removed when his was plucked from the stop sign.

Rabideau, 42, did not return calls for comment to her office in Town Hall on Monday or Wednesday. She does not have any other listed number.

Frisbee, 72, acknowledged that on Sunday, she took a sign Perog posted in front of the Duanesburg Volunteer Ambulance Corps station, where the Democrats were hosting a pancake breakfast. She said she told Perog, who is a Democrat, to remove the sign because he’s not the candidate endorsed by the party.

When Perog refused to move his sign, Frisbee said she picked it up and moved it into the kitchen inside the building. She said Perog had access to the kitchen and could have taken the sign back at any point, but opted to call state police instead.

“This whole thing is mind-boggling,” she said. “Perog was in and out of the building. He knew where the sign was.”

Perog paints a different picture. He said he’s contended with widespread removal of his signs throughout the town, including several large signboards he posted near the ambulance company’s station early Sunday.

“Two were ripped down, and two were stolen,” he said.

He also claims Frisbee refused to return his yard sign until a state trooper arrived to retrieve it. He said Rabideau, Frisbee and other town officials seem determined to remove his signs, even if it means breaking the law.

“They seem to think ripping off my signs will influence the public enough that they are willing to commit criminal acts,” he said.

Perog has regularly bickered with Town Board members almost since the day he took office in 2009. Within eight months of taking office, Perog was cited for violating the state’s Clean Air Act for street sweeping during dry conditions, and he was slapped with a labor complaint that cost the town $4,500 in legal fees to resolve. In October 2009, three of Perog’s four employees publicly criticized him before the Town Board, claiming he was mismanaging the department and creating an unsafe environment.

Perog fired one of the workers following an altercation with him in February 2010. The Town Board almost immediately overturned the termination and called for a labor investigation, which ultimately led to the reinstatement of the worker to his position.

Perog’s street sweeping on dry roads around Duane Lake created a giant dust cloud over Memorial Day weekend in 2010 and resulted in the town receiving a citation from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Board members approved a $500 settlement with the agency about a month later.

Board members tried to dissolve the elected position of highway superintendent in favor of an appointed public works director, but voters resoundingly defeated the proposal in November 2010.

The following month, the Town Board filed a lawsuit against Perog, claiming he overspent his annual budget by more than $92,000. He claimed the lawsuit was aimed at getting him to resign, but ultimately paid $5,700 back to the town to resolve the legal battle.

Perog was looked over for the Democratic endorsement and lost a primary challenge to William Reed in September. He resolved to wage a write-in campaign for the position, however, and reprinted his signs to reflect his continued candidacy.

“They’ve had a fractious relationship with him,” Tuffey said of Rabideau’s and Frisbee’s relationship with Perog.

Because both cases involve town officials, they likely will be forwarded to Schenectady County Court for reassignment to a jurisdiction outside Duanesburg. A Duanesburg court clerk said both town justices intend to recuse themselves to prevent any appearance of impropriety.

Tuffey said criminal complaints over stolen signs are nothing new. Every election season, she said, state police receive a flood of calls about such thefts.

“It’s unfortunate,” she said. “You hope people can conduct themselves better.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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