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Controversy Swirls Around Campaign-Sign Removals In LA City Council Race

LOS ANGELES ( – A candidate in the Los Angeles City Council District No. 7 race believes dirty politics are behind the theft of his campaign signs.

Karo Torossian is facing Monica Rodriguez in the May 16 runoff election to fill the vacant seat for Los Angeles City Council District No. 7, which represents the northeast San Fernando Valley.

Sylmar resident Claudia Pacheco, who volunteers for Torossian's campaign, told CBS2 that her home-surveillance video showed someone removing Torossian signs from out in front of her home.

"I was really shocked," Pacheco said. "I was like, so what's the purpose of this, what's behind all this?"

In the surveillance video, which Pacheco showed CBS2, a worker is seen getting out of a city-contracted truck that belongs to Sylmar Graffiti Busters, a nonprofit organization that receives city money to clean the streets and beautify the area.

"I was hoping to see, like teenagers, like grabbing it and taking it, but my surprise was it was a city truck," Pacheco said.

The video shows the worker getting out, walking over to the house, grabbing several signs off Pacheco's property, taking them back across the street and putting them in his truck.

"I think it's … from our perspective, all roads lead to Monica Rodriguez," said Eric Hacopian, campaign manager for Torossian.

The Torossian campaign believes that since the Graffiti Busters contract is approved by the Los Angeles Department of Public Works -- and Rodriguez used to sit on the public works board -- the company may be under pressure to illegally remove signs.

"It's hard for me to imagine that some basic level staff employee would have done this without clear instructions from their supervisors," Hacopian said.

CBS2 followed Graffiti Busters for several days and did not see their workers remove any signs. However, CBS2 found several Torossian signs tossed in a trash bin next to their office, along with a few Rodriguez signs as well.

When CBS2's David Goldstein confronted Graffiti Busters project manager Manuel Sabedra about the allegations, the manager denied his workers were removing campaign signs.

Sabedra was then shown the surveillance video.

"Are you telling your people to do this?" Goldstein asked.

"I'm telling them not to do that; that is wrong," Sabedra said.

When Sabedra was shown the signs in the trash, he responded:

"It shouldn't be that way; we're not doing anything against any candidate."

Sabedra said his workers only removed signs that are posted illegally.

"I apologize to that resident who was there, and I'll even go talk to him and apologize," Sabedra said. "We shouldn't be doing that."

The Rodriguez campaign provided CBS2 the following statement this week:

"Monica's supporters have had signs stolen or vandalized at their homes or places of business by people posing as city employees since early April. Sadly, these types of activities happen during elections and should not be tolerated. At the same time, politicians like Karo Torossian should deal directly with the culprits rather than playing the victim card and attacking a well-respected non-profit that has partnered with the city for more than 20 years to rid Valley neighborhoods of gang graffiti and illegal dumping."

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