Bloomfield Township trustee candidate accused of stealing 50-60 campaign signs

A Republican candidate for a trustee position in Bloomfield Township said he feels a bit like a celebrity since he was caught stealing other candidates' signs.

But for a lot of other people running for office in the Metro Detroit community, it's a bit more unsettling.

"I'm just very embarrassed about the kind of behavior going on in Bloomfield township," said Neal Barnett, a Bloomfield Township trustee.

Barnett was among several candidates running for an array of offices who had their signs swiped from the yards of voters. In total, law enforcement estimate Don Valente stole 50 to 60 campaign signs. 

The thefts occurred back in July after a neighbor spotted him nabbing the signs near Long Lake and Telegraph roads.

"I was kind of surprised because I saw all the signs go up on that corner and then they all disappeared at the same time," said Tom Donnan, a resident in Bloomfield Township.

Bloomfield Township police have turned the case over to the Oakland County sheriff to avoid any potential conflict-of-interest issues.

The office alleged the retired attorney swiped signs from Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie, treasurer Brian Kepes, clerk candidate Thomas Smyly, and township trustees Michael Schostak and Neal Barnett

Barnett said police found many of the signs in the suspect's house.

Reached by phone on Monday, Valente declined to comment per advice from his attorney.

"When you have somebody who's running for public office and you expect them to be there for the public trust, then I think it goes to another level. I would like to think we're better than this," said Barnett.

The sign stealing is a misdemeanor and Valente could face up to 93 days in jail or pay a $500 fine. He's currently out on a $10,000 personal bond.