A Mobile County man paid to plant political signs has been using a truck with an expired municipal tag, leading some observers to believe public employees were working on political campaigns.
Johnny Hatcher is not a municipal employee, but purchased the white 2003 Ford F-150 pickup truck from the city of Robertsdale on Oct. 28, 2016, according to records connected to the vehicle identification number. The vehicle still has its original blue city tag, which a source familiar with the sale said was a “simple mistake” on the city’s part. Hatcher has long been involved in local political circles and frequently works as a “sign man” for those seeking office.
Hatcher admitted using the white 2003 Ford F-150 as his personal vehicle as well as for hauling a trailer full of signs around while doing campaign work. Complaints about “a city truck” placing political signs led Lagniappe to publish a story in April about the city’s handling of illegally placed signs. But concerned readers have continued contacting the paper with worries a city-owned vehicle is being used to place campaign signs.
Hatcher said at the time he purchased the vehicle he was too busy to have it properly registered and says he has since lost some of the paperwork.
“At the time, I had up to six foster children in my home,” he said in a telephone interview Friday. “My wife fell to illness and has been in and out of the hospital at times in the past three years.”
In addition, he said he has had rental property to maintain.
“It has been tough keeping up with everything,” he said. “That truck stayed parked for some time.”
Hatcher said he wouldn’t even be driving the truck if his daughter’s vehicle hadn’t broken down and he hadn’t loaned her his every-day vehicle.
At one point, the pickup also sported a city of Mobile decal on the tailgate, which may have also led to confusion. The decal, Hatcher said, was a joke and has since been removed. Hatcher apologized for any confusion he may have caused.
A Carfax report still lists the city of Robertsdale as the current vehicle owner, although Robertsdale officials confirmed the truck’s sale in 2016. The purchaser has up to 20 calendar days to register a vehicle, according to the Mobile County License Commission. Hatcher has owned the vehicle for roughly a year and a half.
Political strategist Jon Gray wouldn’t confirm that any of his clients were using Hatcher’s services this year, but said he’s worked with him in the past. Gray called Hatcher “the best sign guy in Mobile County.” Asked if he was at all concerned over the registration of the pickup and the use of the municipal license plate, Gray said he wasn’t and that none of his clients would be either.
The truck has been seen carrying signs for Derrick Williams, a Republican candidate for Mobile County district court and Judge Sarah Stewart, an incumbent circuit court judge running for a spot on the state supreme court.
Williams did not return a call seeking comment, but Stewart said she did not know Hatcher was working from a truck with a municipal tag on it. She said County Commissioner Jerry Carl helped organize Hatcher’s work for her.
Williams is included along with Hatcher in a feature in Mobile Bay Monthly called “Meet the Regulars.” The story highlights a breakfast group the two men are said to be a part of that meets every Saturdays. Hatcher said Williams was not a regular in the group, but was there during the day of the feature interview.
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