Orange County prosecutors on Friday charged Paulette Chaffee – who ran for Fullerton City Council this year and is married to incoming county Supervisor Doug Chaffee – with two counts of petty theft for stealing campaign signs that labeled her a “carpetbagger.” If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of one year in county jail.
The Orange County District Attorney’s Office alleges Chaffee stole two signs on Oct. 2: one in front a business and a sign from the Union Pacific bridge crossing over Harbor Boulevard. The signs said “No Paulette Carpetbagger,” according to the DA’s Office.
The business’ owner, Tony Bushala, financed the signs, and previously said he’s certain Paulette Chaffee was the person seen in videos of the alleged incidents.
“I noticed the signs were missing in front of my office…I go, ‘Wait a minute, signs gone, let me look at the video,’ ” Bushala told Voice of OC in an Oct. 11 interview. “We saw this vehicle pop up and I know its her white Jeep Cherokee.”
“I’m 100 percent – there’s no doubt in my mind – that she stole the sign from the front of my office and stole the signs on the bridge,” Bushala said in the interview.
Bushala said he put up 200 carpetbagger signs and roughly 180 of them went missing.
Paulette Chaffee didn’t immediately return a voicemail and text message Friday to her cell phone seeking comment.
The local blog Friends for Fullerton’s Future posted two videos of Paulette Chaffee allegedly stealing the signs — the first was posted Oct. 5 and the second on Oct. 8. She had been routinely called a “carpetbagger” in local blogs for moving from her home in north Fullerton to the southeast, in order to run in District 5 and serve on the five-member council. District 2, where she moved from, isn’t up for election until 2020.
After news broke in October that the case was sent from the Fullerton Police Department to the DA’s Office, Paulette Chaffee announced she was suspending her campaign for Fullerton City Council. But it was too late for her name to be pulled from the ballot and she received 734 votes, landing in fourth place.
The first video shows a white jeep stopping in front of a business building at night and a woman removing the sign, while the second video shows a silver Lexus stopping behind some businesses and a woman walking to the bridge to remove the sign. It appears to be the same woman in both videos.
Voter registration data shows Paulette Chaffee changed her voter registration on June 8 from her home in north Fullerton’s District 2, to an apartment in southeast District 5. She filed her intention Feb. 27 to run for District 5, according to disclosure forms. Paulette Chaffee pulled candidacy papers for the District 5 race on July 17 and qualified Aug. 9.
Doug Chaffee, who was mayor of Fullerton during the November election, beat La Habra Mayor Tim Shaw by 1,052 votes for the north county 4th District Supervisor seat.
Asked in late October about the sign theft allegations against his wife, Chaffee noted she was no longer campaigning and said he was caring for and comforting her.
“My wife needs some care and comfort, and as her husband I’m going to give her all that I can,” Chaffee said.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Paulette Chaffee placed third in the 5th District council race. She actually was in fourth place. Voice of OC regrets the error.
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio.
Nick Gerda covers county government and Santa Ana for Voice of OC. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.