Surveillance camera found outside polling place

Sep. 28, 2013 @ 04:39 PM

A small video camera found in a tree outside the Monroe branch of Union County Library was placed there by a volunteer with a Monroe council candidate’s campaign.

Friday, volunteers with the campaigns of Debra Duncan and Surluta Anthony noticed something in the tree overlooking the spot they stood campaigning while early voting went on in the library. On closer inspection, volunteers concluded it was a camera, covered the lens and notified library staff.

Two library employees came outside and removed it from the tree.

“We did find a hunting camera in a tree on the property,” library director Nina Meadows said. “I’m not aware that any library staff was asked permission to put the camera there.”

Volunteers then informed elections officials.

“What occurs over 50 feet from the polling place is outside the jurisdiction of the board of elections,” Union County Board of Elections Director John Whitley said.

After some speculation by volunteers, the camera’s owner was determined to be Lance Dunn. It is unclear how the volunteers arrived at that conclusion.

Dunn confirmed it was his camera, and he put it there after someone called his office about it.

“It’s mine,” he said. “I put it there, and then I forgot about it until now.”

Dunn placed a large sign supporting candidates Duncan and incumbent mayor Bobby Kilgore on the library property around the time early voting started on Sept. 19.

“As I was putting it up, three people came by and made comments that the signs wouldn’t be there in a couple of days,” Dunn said.

Sign theft and defacement is common during election season. In case something happened to the sign, Dunn said he put a camera in the nearby tree with the intent to get a description of anyone who would bother the sign. He did not ask the library staff’s permission because he placed it there after business hours.

Dunn said he never told Duncan what he did. Duncan said she knew nothing about the camera until it was discovered.

“No, I found out about it when a volunteer told me,” Duncan said. “That’s his banner, not mine. He’s put them up all over town on his own. I haven’t had anything to do with it.”

Dunn said told only one person — his employee, Susan Craig. He said he did not tell her to keep the camera a secret, but Craig said he told her to tell no one.

“I didn’t tell a soul,” she said. “The day that it happened he swore me to secrecy.”

Craig, who has done some campaigning for Duncan, said Dunn meant no ill will by putting the camera there.

“We just wanted to make sure no one stole the signs, you know? Why else would we put it there?” Craig said. “We never thought it would turn into this.”

During the following week, Dunn said he playfully waved at the tree as he drove by. But he eventually forgot that it was there.

“It just slipped my mind,” he said.

Library staff turned the camera over to Monroe Police officers. Dunn said he was interviewed by detectives who said they would keep the camera for a little while longer.

Dunn said no one told him to put the camera in the tree. Duncan said she had nothing to do with the camera’s placement.

“I didn’t do it,” she said. “I don’t know what else to tell you.”