‘Rogue’ one: A sign wars story

Incumbent’s office accused challenger Dean Johansson of erecting private property signs without permisssion

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the May 17, 2018, issue.

The race to be Yolo County’s top prosecutor has devolved into a petty debate about campaign signage.

The office of incumbent District Attorney Jeff Reisig has accused his challenger of illegally placing campaign signs on private properties without the owners’ permission. Reisig’s challenger, Deputy Public Defender Dean Johansson, claims Reisig’s office has been “threatening” his volunteer campaign workers.

The conflict unfolded when Reisig’s top lieutenant, Supervising Deputy DA Ryan Couzens, sent three emails to Johansson’s campaign staff on April 20 and 26. In the emails, Couzens attached photos allegedly showing the placement violations and asked that each campaign sign posted “in an illegal manner” be immediately taken down. Couzens also wrote that members of his staff were confronted by members of the Johansson campaign, one of whom said that the person responsible for the illegal sign postings was “one of us who has gone rogue.”

As of May 14, Johansson’s campaign manager, Natalie Wormeli, said the campaign has relieved the rogue worker and removed any signs in violation of California penal codes. Wormeli called the overall dispute a “basic case of sign wars.”

“We remain completely open to addressing these issues with the appropriate city or county authorities,” Wormeli said. “We have conducted our own internal investigation and at this time we believe that we are fully compliant with all relevant ordinances.”

Ahead of the June 5 election, Johansson is attempting to use the conflict to indict his opponent’s character.

“These accusations are nothing more than a distraction from the important issues being raised by our campaign,” Johansson said in a statement. “Unfortunately this kind of bullying and abuse of power is all too common in the current DA’s office and a big part of the reason I am challenging the current administration.”