A former Princeton Township board supervisor was arrested July 22 after allegedly attacking two other men over the removal of street signs.
Gregory Anderson, 60, is charged with one gross misdemeanor for interfering with an emergency telephone call, misdemeanor fifth-degree assault and misdemeanor disorderly conduct, according to a criminal complaint filed in Mille Lacs County District Court.
Just before 8:30 p.m. on July 22, Anderson called police to report that his signs were being stolen from their location near the intersection of 107th Avenue and Highway 95. Soon after the first call, William Whitcomb, a current Princeton Township board supervisor, called police to report he and another individual had been assaulted by Anderson, according to the complaint.
Anderson told deputies he found his signs on the back of a trailer and retrieved them, but someone driving a skid steer attempted to back over him, according to the complaint.
Deputies spoke to Whitcomb, who told them the signs had previously been removed because they violate township statutes. State statute also prohibits individuals from placing signs that resemble official traffic-control devices and attempt to direct traffic.
Whitcomb reportedly received a call about the signs being back and went to take photographs. He was then advised by the township attorney to remove the signs, the complaint statesw.
While Whitcomb and two others were removing the signs, Anderson allegedly drove his truck onto the ramps to the trailer used to haul the signs and blocked a skid steer from driving off. Anderson then reportedly attempted to enter the skid steer. Whitcomb allegedly drove forward and stopped so the skid steer could leave the trailer, according to the complaint.
Whitcomb attempted to call police, but Anderson allegedly knocked a phone from his hand and hit him in the chest multiple times. He then reportedly used a sign to hit Whitcomb and the driver of the skid steer, according to the complaint.
Deputies confirmed Whitcomb’s version of the story with other witnesses before placing Anderson under arrest, according to the complaint.
Anderson’s arrest is the most recent development in a conflict brewing between himself and the township board. The township’s sign policy was passed during a 2020 township board meeting to better maintain signs and save money by removing signs considered unnecessary, according to a June 16, 2020, presentation given by Whitcomb.
It implemented a replacement schedule to update old and potentially inadequate signs once their expected useful lifespan was up — instead of testing the signs to determine if they met standards for qualities such as reflectivity, according to the presentation. The township did not have the tools to adequately test the signs, according to the presentation.
Whitcomb argued during the June 16 meeting part of the reasoning behind removing the signs was to remove inconsistencies in where signs and crosswalks were located in the township to avoid possible liability and litigation.
The township had 165 road signs at that time, but was able to remove approximately 54, leaving Princeton Township with around 110 signs, according to the presentation.