NORTH SMITHFIELD – The North Smithfield Police Department says that resident Michael Clifford did not commit a crime when he removed a political sign from the lawn of his friend’s property this week, and no charges will be filed against him.
And while opinions may differ on whether or not the act was worthy of discussion, in talks with NRI NOW, what is clear is that the news has done little to mend fences between Clifford and Town Council candidate John Beauregard.
The announcement comes after resident Anthony Soly witnessed Clifford removing Beauregard’s sign from a property at 535 Smithfield Road, an apartment building owned by Mary Beth Dolohanty.
Soly condemned the action and informed Beauregard, who reported the incident to police.
In a statement, Clifford noted that Dolohanty is a longtime friend, and he had asked permission to erect signs for a different group of candidates. The owner informed the tenants of the 3-unit building via text that he would be putting up the political advertisements.
A tenant who has lived in the building for some 18 years, meanwhile, put up a sign supporting Beauregard on the coveted and highly visible lawn space.
Soly contended that the removal was an attempt to suppress the tenant’s right to show support for a candidate.
But according to Clifford, the sign was put up without permission of the owner, who lives in Newport. Beauregard said that he later found his sign damaged.
According to Capt. Stephen Riccitelli, the department’s investigation of the incident is just about complete.
“Based on the information we’ve been given, the determination has been made that there is no criminal activity and there will be no charges going forward,” said Riccitelli.
Clifford said he is not surprised by the news.
“From the beginning this was nothing but a sensationalized non-event, which was nothing but a distraction from the issue, which is John’s campaign contributions,” Clifford said, pointing to his recent letter to the editor.
He said that since the incident, he’s been subject to verbal attacks on social media by Beauregard’s supporters – that have been lacking in facts. And Clifford questioned why anyone thought it would be crime to begin with, stating that he did not damage the property.
“I’ve owned a rental property for 35 years and I’ve never had a tenant put anything on the lawn without asking,” Clifford said. “It’s just inconceivable that a tenant could put anything on your property that you didn’t approve of.”
“He and his core supporters have made a big deal out of nothing,” he added.
Beauregard said that while he didn’t necessarily think the sign removal was criminal, he did want the incident on record.
“I went to the police because I wanted it to be officially documented,” Beauregard said. “He should have just stayed out of it.”
“Poor decisions are sometimes dismissed as a temporary lapse in judgement, but it appears Mr. Clifford has a propensity to make poor decisions,” Beauregard added. “I have to wonder what stunt he is going to pull next, which is the reason for the documentation.”
“Just because something might not rise to the level of a crime, it does not mean it is not unethical or immoral,” he said.