Two Nameoki Township Highway Department workers have been charged with theft and criminal damage to property after they allegedly admitted to police that they tore down and vandalized political signs.
Mark McKechan, 38, and Edward O'Brian, 26, were booked on the misdemeanor counts and released on $3,000 bail each.
"They think by tearing down the signs that it's going to help win elections for the people they support," Nameoki Township Clerk Helen Hawkins, whose signs were among those vandalized, said. "But this time it backfired big-time. When I saw my name on that sign laying on the ground, it made me so mad. Those signs cost a lot of money and we worked hard doing fundraisers to get them. And for what?"
Several signs were damaged in the vandalism spree. According to police reports, a a resident called police about a sign at Horseshoe Lake Road and Arlington Drive in Pontoon Beach. The sign, which measured 8 feet long and 4 feet tall, was cut down with a knife and then run over several times with a car. A similar sign at Horseshoe Lake Road and Illinois 162 was also cut up and thrown on the ground.
McKechan and O'Brian could not be reached for comment. It was unclear from court documents if they have attorneys. McKechan's mother is a longtime secretary at Nameoki Township. O'Brian is the son of former Nameoki Highway Commissioner Otis "Buddy" O'Brian, who died last fall. Hawkins said McKechan has worked for the township for several years and O'Brian returned in January after taking time off to care for his father.
"It's just so upsetting to have something like this happen," Hawkins, who is running un-opposed for re-election Tuesday, said. "I love to serve the people. But I hate when things like this happen during election time. I'll be glad when it's over."
According to Madison County Court records, neither man has a criminal record. But McKechan has twice been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol -- in 1996 and 2008 -- and O'Brian was charged with DUI in 2011. He got a deal that sentenced him to court supervision.
Contact reporter Scott Wuerz at email@example.com or call 239-2626.