Uniformed Eastville Officer Spotted Placing Campaign Signs

An Eastville police officer places campaign signs Tuesday morning in front of the Northampton Voter Registrar’s office. Submitted photo by Patrick Gordon Oliver.

By Connie Morrison —

An Eastville police officer — in uniform and driving a police vehicle — was photographed placing election signs in front of the Northampton County voter registrar’s office this week.

A reader forwarded photos to the Eastern Shore Post taken Monday, Oct. 25, around 7:45 a.m. Eastville police officer Maj. Rob Stubbs, who is also running for the board of supervisors and is chairman of Northampton County’s Republican unit, confirmed the man in the photos is an Eastville police officer.

One of the photos features the officer with an armload of Stubbs campaign signs, one of which was installed. Other signs were placed for Glenn Youngkin, Winsome Sears, and Rob Bloxom – all Republican candidates.

An Eastville police officer holds campaign signs Tuesday morning before placing them in front of the Northampton Voter Registrar’s office. Submitted photo by Patrick Gordon Oliver.

Patrick Gordon Oliver, 15, took the photos and they were submitted to the Post by his father, Stuart Oliver, who has spoken at several town meetings about the police department to lodge complaints about compensation of town officers, which he believes is excessive. He has cited records showing town police spend most of their time enforcing speed limits on U.S. Route 13.

“I am a staunch Republican, and I am disgusted that these activities have occurred; apparently under the direction of the Chairman of the local Republican Party headquarters, and political candidate, Rob Stubbs,” Oliver wrote in an email.

Stubbs was out of town because of a death in the family, but wrote in an email to the Post, “That officer asked if he could put them out while I was out of town.”

He added in a subsequent message, “The officer has to drive his police vehicle to work. … The [Eastville Police] Chief does know that some of us put out signs on our own time and it is approved.”

He further explained, “Officers are never really ‘off’ in a small department.”

“The Town of Eastville has no ordinances that address employees,” said David Eder who is both Eastville’s police chief and town administrator. “The Town of Eastville does not prohibit employees from volunteering when they are not engaged in primary duties,” he added.

Northampton Commonwealth’s Attorney Beverly Leatherbury said there isn’t anything in the Code of Virginia that specifically prohibits such activity by law enforcement officers, but there is a section that prohibits towns from excluding officers from political activities as long as officers are “off duty, out of uniform and not on the premises of their employment with the locality.”

The section does prohibit such employees “from suggesting or implying that a locality has officially endorsed a political party, candidate, or campaign,” and Leatherbury said in her view the photo could be understood to mean that.

“In my opinion, the activity depicted in the photograph by a uniformed Eastville officer suggests or implies that his locality endorses the candidate – unless the officer was also posting signs for all of the candidates, perhaps as a convenience,” Leatherbury said.

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