Attorney defends removal of Waterford political signs

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Waterford Township – — An attorney for a police chief under investigation for allegedly stealing political yard signs this past July said his client was only doing his job.

Todd Flood, attorney for Chief Daniel McCaw, confirmed his client is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into sign theft by the Michigan State Police and requested by the township. The signs in question include ones urging residents to vote no on new taxes, including a public safety millage renewal that voters subsequently approved in the August primary election.

“He’s been put on a leave which I don’t think is even warranted,” said Flood, adding reports McCaw was “caught” disposing of signs with owners’ permission are false.

Flood said McCaw, a veteran, decorated officer appointed chief in 2006, was removing signs that were posted 20 feet or less from a roadway, a violation of township ordinance.

“He drove past a vacant gas station where some signs were illegally posted too close to the road,” Flood said. “He was doing his job as a township employee and not out destroying any signs. He was taking them to the township DPW yard where owners are permitted to reclaim them.”

Township resident Kyle McGrath said he put up 15 red, white and blue signs at various locations July 17 asking voters to “Vote No on Millage, It’s a Tax Increase.” On July 18 all were gone. From people he has talked to, he believes McCaw pulled up some of them.

“I was actually opposing a millage on parks — I figured they didn’t need the money or there was other ways to get it,” McGrath said. “I didn’t even know there was a police millage.”

McGrath, who teaches government classes to Milford High students, said he wanted to exercise his rights and put up signs in public places or “neutral ground” where there were several other signs posted — including pro-police millage signs. He said none of the other signs were removed.

“It’s pretty obvious mine were targeted and I talked to the township supervisor about it and I have been interviewed by the state police as well,” said McGrath, who has yet to be contacted about the whereabouts of his signs. “I never gave anyone permission to take my signs. I heard it was a guy with a light or white colored jeep wearing a Hawaiian shirt.

“He’s a good cop and I have nothing against him,” McGrath said. “I know there are ordinance enforcement laws but this seems like selective enforcement to me.

“As far as I’m concerned my rights have been trampled here. If it comes out he (McCaw) is responsible, I hope he pays the consequences.”

Flood said he is confident a patrol car video of the incident, which is in possession of state police, will exonerate McCaw of any wrongdoing.

McCaw declined to discuss the accusations with The Detroit News other than to say they were false and came from a disgruntled employee.

A head of the union that represents township police officers told The News last week a patrolman who encountered McCaw late one night in July had been given an entirely different version of events from his boss.

Fred Timpner, director of the Michigan Association of Police, said McCaw had told one of his members — who was on the midnight patrol shift — he had been visiting residents displaying “No New Taxes” signs in their yards and convincing them a millage renewal for public safety was in everyone’s best interests.

“The officer saw a vehicle pull behind a commercial building and he investigated because officers had been told to be on the lookout for sign theft,” Timpner reiterated Monday.

“(McCaw) said sign owners had given him permission to take their signs,” Timpner said.

The officer, who did not file a formal report on the incident, alerted the union after he was contacted by an investigator with the Michigan State Police.

“He (officer) wondered if he might be in trouble,” said Timpner, who said the officer was surprised to find his police chief behind a building but was satisfied with his explanation and saw no need for a report.

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