The occasion was videotaped by a private investigator working for a campaigning councilman. Prosecutors allege that White ripped a sign supporting the "3Ms" — the campaign slate comprised of candidates Steve Mensinger, Gary Monahan and Colin McCarthy — and one for Measure V, the proposed city charter.
The signs were in the grassy right-of-way near Fair and Columbia drives, about a half-mile from City Hall. Voter registration records indicate that White lives near that intersection.
The Costa Mesa Taxpayers Assn. posted online a nearly two-minute video of a man tampering with two signs. The fiscally conservative grass-roots group, which supported the 3Ms and Measure V, also offered a $1,000 reward for the identity of the man in the video.
Jennifer Muir, spokeswoman for the Orange County Employees Assn., which represents dozens of Costa Mesa's non-public-safety employees, has called the Orange County district attorney's office charge against White symbolic of inequality for "the sort of shenanigans that happen every election."
"In a county that is steeped in political corruption, which is overlooked for the rich and powerful, the fact that a low-paid working man is charged for removing a lawn sign during a contested election speaks volumes about the disparity in the administration of justice in Orange County," she said.
White's arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 25 at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach. He has been on paid administrative leave since late October.
The city has said it conducted a personnel investigation.