Scientologists stole Clearwater council member’s campaign signs, police say

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Stealing campaign signs is a common offense during election season, but rarely are suspects caught and compelled to tell authorities why they did it.

That’s what happened on March 1, when two Church of Scientology members admitted to Clearwater Police that in one night they took some 25 campaign signs promoting City Council member Mark Bunker, who is running for reelection.

Officers questioned the men after a doorbell camera captured one of them driving a white pickup truck on Palmetto Street after midnight on Feb. 11 while the other jumped out and took a Bunker sign from a yard.

The two men, who are in their 30s, told police they were members of Scientology. One said he learned on social media that Bunker “was an anti-Scientologist” and took offense, so he convinced his friend to drive throughout the city to steal signs together, according to an incident report.

Bunker, a longtime critic of Scientology, was elected to Seat 2 in 2020 on a platform that included condemning the church’s control of large swaths of downtown real estate. In his bid for a second term in the March 19 election, he faces a challenge from Lealman Fire District Capt. Ryan Cotton and marketing executive Mike Mastruserio.

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