Covington mayoral candidate Bobby Sigman dropped out of the race Tuesday after he watched portions of the undercover video released by the Covington Police Department.
Sigman was arrested Oct. 12 for allegedly paying a man to steal the campaign signs of his opponent, Ronnie Johnston. He was charged with three misdemeanors: making false statements within a political subdivision, theft by taking and criminal trespass.
The video shows several actions taken by Sigman: greeting the man who had allegedly stolen the campaign signs of Ronnie Johnston and letting the man into his car; the two men talking about picking up signs that are still standing; Sigman and the man picking up a stack of Johnston signs that had been left in a field; Sigman telling the man not to get caught and that if he does get caught he should not mention Sigman; and Sigman handing the man a $50 bill.
The video is taken from the point of view of the man who was not charged with any crime because he aided police in an undercover operation.
Covington Police Capt. Ken Malcom said Tuesday the video makes it clear that this set of sign thefts was not an isolated incident. He said the district attorney's office will determine at a later time whether each theft of a sign will warrant a separate charge of theft by taking. Johnston said the signs cost him around $6 a piece.
Some residents questioned why the video was released to the public.
"For all practical purposes our investigation is no longer active. We do not anticipate any other arrests and the release of the video does not in anyway compromise our case," Malcom said in a Tuesday email, noting that the department is still asking for any victims to contact police.
In a Tuesday phone interview, Sigman told The News that he made an error in judgment and was dropping out of the race.
"I'm sorry for what has happened. I used bad judgment, and I realized I did. I got caught up in this thing and couldn't get out of it. I couldn't get out of the trap," Sigman said. "We're just going to let everything else go through the judicial system and my attorney will be handling all of that. As far as I'm concerned it's over...I'll be trying to remove all the signs I can, trying to clean up the city.
"The reason I am pulling out of the race is that I do not want my supporters to be hurt anymore by this unpleasant publicity. It was not fair for me to carry them on and continue to put them through what they've been put through. I want to thank all the people who have stood by me."
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Elections Supervisor Donna Morrison said Bobby Sigman had not yet notified the Newton County Board of Elections that he was dropping out of the race.
When asked if he was going to run again in the future, Sigman said he would not.
"I'm too old. I'm 70 years old. I don't need to go through this again. I wouldn't ask my supporters to go through this again. This is not the first time I've had this happen to me. It happened in 1980 and happened again now."
When asked about 1980, Sigman said it was when he was running for state senate but did not elaborate.
Johnston said the whole incident has been "bizarre."
He thanked Covington resident Laura Morgan who originally located the home where the men were stashing the stolen signs.
"She's my hero," Johnston said.
Morgan said she didn't actually see the thieves in action, but her neighbors did, and after consulting with them, she went searching for the men and found them at a home in a nearby neighborhood off Flat Shoals Road. Police would find around 70 signs on the property, Johnston said.
Several Johnston signs dotted the area, along with a Sigman ones, and Morgan said she was supporting Johnston because he spent an hour talking with her and answering questions as he was going door to door.
For Johnston's part, he said wants to get back to discussing the issues. He said he would not change his campaign strategy and still planned to visit every home in Covington by Nov. 8. He asked people to pray for the Sigman family.
"I'd like to believe it's an end of an era to a certain extent. We're really planning to move on, because after today, I plan to stop talking about this," he said. "I don't think it does anybody any good. I'm ready to move forward."
Click here to read the previous story detailing Sigman's arrest on Oct. 12.