by GEOFF FOX
Hancock Mayor Ralph Salvagno has been charged with one count of malicious destruction and served a criminal summons after a local property owner asked police to investigate who had painted over a Confederate flag on a mural on her family’s property.
Salvagno was charged by the Hancock Police Chief on Thursday, June 11 with the misdemeanor.
According to police documents, the incident took place on Sunday, June 7, at 15 West Main Street in Hancock.
Hancock Police Officer Scott Wolff was contacted at the Hancock Police Department by the owner of the Town Tavern to report a malicious destruction of property to the mural on the wall both in front of and on the side of her business.
Wolff went to view the damaged mural, which is of a crossed Union and Confederate flags on the front and a Confederate flag and “Dedicated to Major James Breathed of the Confederate Army” under it on the right side.
The owner told Wolff the mural was painted to honor Breathed and stands facing a small park next to the building named for the Confederate artillerist.
According to the court document, the suspect painted over the battle flag and just crossed the Confederate flag with red paint. The Union flag was left untouched.
The portion of the saying under the flag reading “of the Confederate Army” was also painted over with red paint. The “Dedicated to Major James Breathed” portion was left untouched.
The owner stated she had recently received phone calls from several Main Street Hancock members requesting she take down the flag.
The document said Wolff checked the area behind the wall, as well as several trashcans around Breathed Park for evidence of red paint, with no results.
Chief Jim Robison assisted Wolff with the investigation.
Since the wall was directly adjacent to the sidewalk, Robison confirmed the wall was owned by the Town Tavern and not the Town of Hancock.
To confirm this, Robison sent Mayor Salvagno and Town Manager Joe Gilbert an email explaining the police had received a malicious destruction of property complaint.
According to police, within several minutes of sending the email, Robison received a phone call from Salvagno who alleged told him there had been discussion among the “Main Street Hancock Group” that the Confederate flag in the painting was offensive.
The mayor also alluded to the fact he knew who had painted over the flags, the document said.
According to police, Salvagno told the chief he would admit to painting over the flags.
Salvagno allegedly told police he painted the areas after dark on Wednesday, June 3.
Police said Salvagno told Chief Robison he should check the cameras because, according to the document, Salvagno looked at the camera near the wall and waved to it with his red spray paint can in his hand after he was done painting it. Salvagno also told Robison he would see his black SUV parked out front of his business, which is across the street from the wall.
Robison at the time Salvagno painted the wall, the camera in question was facing west and did not capture any footage.
During their conversation, Salvagno allegedly told Robison he believed the wall he painted was owned by the Town Tavern and not the Town of Hancock.
On Tuesday, June 9, Robison contacted the owner of the tavern building and informed her the mayor had painted the wall.
According to police, the property owner said her father had the wall built wall years ago and had the painting done. She was very upset someone would deface the wall by painting over the flags.
The owner was unsure what the cost would be to have the paintings redone and was getting an estimate. It is believed the damage is under $1,000.
In the document, Robison requested a criminal summons charging Salvagno with malicious destruction of property less than $1,000.
In an email, Robison said a court date has not been set in the case.