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Campaigns respond to new video showing alleged sign tampering

By KESQ & CBS Local 2 News Staff, newsline3@kesq.com
Published On: Apr 24 2014 06:57:59 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 24 2014 11:15:00 PM CDT

New video obtained by CBS Local 2 of man placing one of his campaign signs and removing another campaign sign. Can be seen in the upper right corner of the screen.

INDIO, Calif. -

We're staying on top of the developing story concerning Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach and allegations he tampered with his opponent's campaign signs.

Zellerbach admits to knocking down his challenger's campaign sign claiming he did it by accident.

That's just the beginning of the story.

We found out about the incident after obtaining grainy cell phone video that shows part of the incident,  taken by a man who says he witnessed it.

Take a look at this new video obtained by CBS Local 2. Watch in the upper right hand side of your screen.

District Attorney Paul Zellerbach was seen on surveillance video at the corner of an ampm convenience store removing campaign signs and placing his own campaign sign on Wednesday.

Dave Gilliard with the Zellerbach campaign confirmed to News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 on Thursday that it was Mr. Zellerbach in the video.

He said the owner of the property gave Zellerbach permission to post his sign on the property and remove the Hestrin sign. Gilliard says the owner told Zellerbach that permission was never given to place the Hestrin sign on the property.

We're attempting to contact the owner of the property to see if this was indeed the case.

Zellerbach's opponent, Mike Hestrin, responded telling us quote, "I have no idea if what he's saying is accurate or not.  I knew we had permission from the owner.  I won't further comment on this.  It kind of speaks for itself.  People are going to have to make their own decisions."   

Another issue is whether Zellerbach used a county car for campaign purposes; that would be a violation of state law, one which could bar Zellerbach from holding office if he's convicted in court.  

In a statement to us Thursday afternoon, Zellerbach said, "On the questions that have been raised about the car, because my schedule was filled with official events during the morning as well as a campaign event later in the day, my campaign reimburses the county for the use of the car for the entire day. There is no expense to taxpayers."

We have obtained Zellerbach's campaign finance reports from the Riverside County Registrar's Office.  In his latest filings, we have not found an instance where his campaign has paid back Riverside County for using a county car.  Keep in mind that this filing would not have included his use of the car Wednesday. 

Another interesting note we found in looking at both candidate's finance filings, is that the owner of the ampm, Nachhattar Chandi, is a campaign contributor to both campaigns, giving $5,000 to Zellerbach and $8,000 to Hestrin. 

Indio police are investigating. We saw a police detective at the ampm convenience store on Thursday afternoon.

We'll have more information to come.