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Friday, October 14, 2016

In a long line of political sign stories, this could be the strangest. "Stolen" signs returned to candidate.

After the Cumberland County sheriff's department confiscated some political signs that had the name of city council candidate J. J. Brownstead, on them, those signs have now been returned to the candidate.

City council candidate J. J. Brownstead proudly leaves the justice center 
with signs that councilman Jesse Kerley had called and reported stolen
 from him.  Brownstead said he feels vindicated after Kerley wrongly 
accused him of theft

Last week, Mr. Brownstead attempted to report the theft of some of his political signs from the where they had been placed in the city and when he reported them to law enforcement he was told the signs had already been reported missing.  Mr. Brownstead said that really confused him since he had no idea who would have reported them stolen but him.

According to the sheriff's department report, the signs were reported stolen by Crossville city councilman Jesse Kerley.  The report said that SO corporal Sean Mullikin was contacted by CPD Sergeant Jonathan O.Neal after he received a call from councilman Kerley claiming the signs were stolen from a shed on Vandever Road, property of Kerley Father Jerry Kerley.  Kerley reported that 3 political signs and 50 posts were missing from the shed and Kerley had emailed a list of suspects to Sgt. O'Neal.  

Mullikin's report continues, "Kerley then stated that he had seen the three signs in town and that they were defaced.  The signs had been painted black and the words "Vote J. J. Brownstead."

The signs were recovered and taken up to the Sheriffs office along with six of the posts holding up the signs."

Political sign showing disclaimer and proof of ownership.

The signs have the disclaimer at the bottom saying "Paid for by Citizens for Sustainable Freedom," a registered political action committee with the local election commission.  The signs were originally used 2 years ago in the council/Mayor's race at the time and opposed to the reelection of council members Danny Wyatt, George Marlow and Mayor J. H. Graham.  According to the group's treasurer Steve Frank, councilmen Kerley and Souza had donated the signs to the organization, but the signs belonged to the PAC and not individual donors.

Frank also said that the signs that his group had given to Mr. Brownstead were never at the Vanderver Road location but instead stored in the garage of councilman Pete Souza who also was a previous donor to the PAC.

Mr. Brownstead said he and Mr. Frank had spoken with DA Bryant Dunaway and after hearing the story advised them no charges would be filed against them and he would let the sheriff's office know they could return the signs to Mr. Brownstead. 

Mr. Brownstead stated that following last night's city council meeting when interim city manager Steve Hill saw him showing one of the returned signs to another person Hill came over and called Brownstead a "sign thief."  Brownstead said he responded to Hill and thanked him for letting Brownstead know that Hill knew about the sign report and Brownstead told Hill that seemed to him that Hill was involved in the political dirty trick involving the signs. 

Brownstead also related a story about trying to talk to Kerley following the September council meeting when the council voted to delay hiring the new city manager until after the election.  Brownstead attempted to thank Kerley for his vote on the matter.  During that conversation, Kerley allegedly threatened Brownstead's signs.

Brownstead described the interaction, "I went to shake his hand as I did all the council members for voting to hold off on the hiring of a new city manager. He looked at me and said he would not shake my hand because I was a friend of J.R. Blankenship and was putting him up to making those signs that he did in his truck. Which I have nothing to do with any of that which I told to Kerley. He called me a liar and said he saw me standing outside talking to Blankenship when he came in. I had not talked to Blankenship at all. I came in with Candidate Terri Manning and we sat in the council chamber discussing our views on the future of our city. When I told Mr. Kerley this he called me a liar again,and I told him whatever, but that myself and Mrs. Manning watched he and his father Jerry Kerley walk into the building from our seats in the chamber. Then Mr. Kerley stated he hoped I got elected because he would make signs about me like Blankenship has done to him. Then proceeded to say that if he saw my signs they would be destroyed. I just left the room."

Video of the interaction between councilman Jesse Kerley and candidate 
J. J. Brownstead after the September council meeting he described above.  

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