CANTON TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WJW) – A longtime member of a school board in Stark County finds himself in hot water amid allegations that he has been stealing yard signs.
The story began to unfold earlier this year when employees at a Tractor Supply Co. store in Massillon reported that over a period of time, a customer removed 166 bales of pine chips from an outside display without paying for them.
An investigation revealed that the customer was 60-year-old Scott Hamilton, a member of the Canton Local School Board. He was president of the board at that time.
“I was pretty shocked about it, you know? They’re elected officials, they’re supposed to represent our schools and our kids in a very positive light,” said Canton Township resident Dave Andrews.
Hamilton later pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor theft charge, which prompted a group of taxpayers and Hamilton’s political opponents on the school board to begin a campaign demanding his resignation.
“When you are a sitting board member, you are held to a higher standard. If a teacher at a Canton Local school was convicted of the same thing, they would most likely lose their job,” said Andrews.
Those calling for the resignation of Hamilton began noticing that their yard signs were disappearing.
It was then that Canton Local School Board member Chris Cole, who is one of Hamilton’s biggest critics, captured video that, according to Cole, shows Hamilton taking one of the yard signs and putting it in his car.
As a result, Cole filed a criminal complaint, alleging Hamilton was actually stealing the signs that are critical of him for stealing.
Critics call the new theft allegation ironic.
“We’re asking for his resignation to restore the integrity of the school board and then he’s stealing those very signs, so I think that’s interesting,” said Andrews.
Cole told FOX 8 that investigators with the Stark County Sheriff’s Office found some of the signs that had been removed in a dumpster at Hamilton’s place of employment, and that Hamilton was given 48 hours to return the signs.
Hamilton’s detractors say given his prior theft conviction and the nature of the new allegations, Hamilton has forfeited his right to serve on the school board.
“It is a straight up crime. That’s personal property, there are laws against it. That’s a First Amendment protected activity,” said Andrews.
We reached out to Hamilton and his attorney for comment on the allegations, but they have not responded to our phone messages or emails.