Princeton Resident Charged with Theft for Removing Lawn Signs

lawnsignsA Princeton resident was arrested Monday for allegedly stealing 21 business lawn signs valued at $470. The lawn signs for Princeton Computer Tutor and Repairs allegedly were taken between June 30 of 2013 and July of this year. The lawn signs were taken from Rosedale Road near Elm Road.

John Mulvey, 67, a professor of operations research and financial engineering at Princeton University, was charged with theft after police conducted an investigation into the missing lawn signs. Mulvey was in possession of all of the lawn signs and returned them to the police, undamaged. Police returned the signs to the victim, Ted Horodynsky. A court date is pending.

Many residents dislike the lawn signs that advertise local businesses or promote political candidates. Some residents would like to see the town manage the placement of signs better, while others want them banned.


  1. Where I live, lawn signs are illegal and are usually collected by the police when someone complains (usually politicians battling each other). They should be outlawed everywhere. They represent urban blight at its finest, er, I mean cheapest.

  2. Illegal? Where do you live Anne? Communist China? I thought Communist China censored internet free speech. So how then were you able to access Planet Princeton. Princeton has ordinances that are business friendly, not business repressive. And some of us own our own business. I guess you’re not the Anne Saunders of Princeton, for 2 reasons. 1.) Princeton is about 86% Democrat and Liberal, and your point of view is far from Liberal Dem, and 2.) In Princeton lawn signs, whether of a political theme or business theme are not illegal, and are allowed within guidelines, though you assert they are illegal in YOUR town and, and one would infer that you imply you’re knowledgeable and with an opinion of the cause of urban decay. How do you earn your living Anne? Thanks.

  3. Dear Mr. Horodynsky,

    It sounds like you had placed the signs according to the law, and therefore Prof. Mulvey was in the wrong the remove them. I am not justifying him in any way, and I very much understand why you would feel frustrated when someone takes action against you in this way – esp. since you had invested some money and effort in these signs.

    But I also want to tell you that many Princeton residents – I include myself, Prof. Mulvey obviously, and a large number of friends and neighbors with whom I have talked about this – do not at all like these signs. We might not be organized, or even populous enough, to change the relevant policies on this; and as long as we don’t change the policies, you are completely within your rights to place the signs and right to ask the assistance of the police if someone takes them off. But we will continue to avoid as much as possible using services or buying products that are advertised in this way. There are many alternatives of advertising – if you want a better reception in town, I would suggest that you consider them.

  4. If you want to call it a free speech issue, fine., I’m not going down that road. To me it’s a capitalism issue, as a part of the market, I’d never utilize a product that advertises this way and only think negatively about that company. There are far more effective, and frankly, classier, ways to get your name out there. I wouldn’t call it urban blight – it’s more like urban spam.

  5. Typically Princeton, sweating the small stuff. If these signs are on private property, then leave them! I don’t even notice them. Sounds to me that one particular business was targeted – how about signs for painters, builders, soccer, school open days etc… As a graphic designer, the only thing that bothers me about them is the use of certain fonts and font sizes (too small to read etc). Maybe they ruin the view of perfectly manicured lawns? But THANK YOU, we were just looking for a computer repair place and thanks to you we found one!

  6. Other places that I’ve lived only allowed these signs on private property – thus insuring that they are removed in a timely manner. While I think the signs are ugly – no matter what they are advertising, – my objection is that they remain in one location too long. I am less likely to purchase from or use the services of a business that, in my opinion, is contributing to visual litter.

  7. Signs like these are already highly regulated by Princeton ordinances and zoning regulations. Many people don’t like them, which is why Princeton regulates them. If the neighbor had a complaint, it should have been addressed to municipal code enforcement, not dealt with by stealing signs. Usually, neighbors will talk to one another before involving the town.

    Mr Horodynsky, maybe you can comment on the history of this story? Did anyone complain to you about the signs, or did they just start stealing them? I’m presuming it was you who took the image still labeled June 17 in the piece above.

  8. Krystal, could you update the article, or publish separately, a summary of existing regulations pertaining to lawn signs? This is a useful debate and it would be good to know what rules are currently in place.

  9. I think these signs are tacky. Plus, isnt it strange for a computer tutor to advertise with lawn signs? Has Mr. Horodynsky heard of the internet?

  10. Signs left on public property are trash, same as empty bottles or cans. Dispose of them as such.

  11. OK… so here are the facts. Signs can not be placed in the “public right-of-way”, meaning sidewalks OR the area between the sidewalk and the road. The signs must be on private property. (SEE BELOW FROM THE PRINCETON ONLINE CODE BOOK – Section 10B-293(e))

    (e) Are located in a public right-of-way, except with the approval of the zoning officer based on a finding that the particular type of sign is customarily located within the right-of-way (such as, but not limited to, no hunting signs, farm produce signs, names on roadside mailboxes, entrance/exit signs, etc.) and that the interrelationship among the right-of-way line, the information to be conveyed by the sign, and the particular characteristics of the property (including its topo­graphy, vegetation, and structures) requires the sign to be located within the right-of-way. No sign shall be located so as to cause a visual obstruction within an approved sight easement.

    Signs can also NOT be attached to places like benches or telephone poles:

    (h) Are located, painted or affixed on benches, water tow­ers, storage tanks, smokestacks, utility poles or other similar structures, or on trees, rocks or other natural features.

    How many signs around town are in violation of this? Crap is tacked on utility poles all the time. Construction signs are regularly jammed on the tree lawn to promote that architect or builder.

    Time for the town to crack down and enforce the rules established. Hand out summons and take the signs. (Unfortunately for Mr Mulvery, it is not his individual job to enforce this, so he is in trouble.) And let’s do the same for folks who have their yard crews leaves piles of sticks and leaves in the street after the published pick-up dates. And in the winter, start handing out tickets after 48 hours following a snowfall for anyone who chooses not to clear their sidewalk.

    Time to live by the rules. The town clearly has time to arrest Mr. Mulvey — they must have plenty of time to enforce the rest of the town’s ordinance’s too?


  12. I have seen signs for this business stuck in the ground where, I suspect, ownership of the property is not so obvious – e.g. along a wooded stretch of Mt. Lucas Road. Unlike the signs that businesses put up in front of a house where they are working (and remove when they are done), these signs are left indefinitely for someone else to remove. Someone the local tax payers are probably paying. It’s poaching advertising at others’ expense. I would suspect that there are already applicable ordinances. It’s just too bad Professor Mulvey chose to take this on by himself.

  13. Derrick,

    RE: “Has Mr. Horodynsky heard of the internet?”

    In the same way that you would choose not to advertise “Can’t read? I can tutor you!” on a billboard, you might not advertise for a computer tutor on the internet only. He was reaching a demographic that doesn’t have email or internet skills which is probably a good marketing technique.

  14. Glad the signs were taken down. They are an eyesore. Be careful who you hire. Just saying.

  15. The signs are an eyesore. I have been looking out for computer tutor Ted since he chased me with his car when I was on foot. I had angered him when I crossed Nassau St on a yellow light– delaying him, I guess, and causing him to make a quick u-turn to chase after me and shout. See how he turned against Anne’s comments in a personal attack? It must be the same fellow. Some might not hire him because of his lawn signs. I wouldn’t hire someone with such a temper to come in my home.

  16. The professor just proves that even at the elite levels of education, humans are still humans and still do very stupid things. Aside from a wormy liar hiding behind a lawyer, he is a criminal. If it’s on private property, the computer guy should sue the heck out of that professor. If his business sales suffered during that period, the genius, “risk management adviser” (of all things) is liable. The defense of a delinquent stealing another working mans tools shows the professors friends in the same light as the family of a thug on the evening news defending their precious thug child.

  17. John Mulvey, Princeton University’s M. Knight Shyamalan Professor of a seminar entitled – I See Signs Not Dead People.

  18. Lawn signs diminish the order and serenity of an environment we all share, equivalent to highway billboards and excessive on-property or in-window commercial signage.
    It is actually a “sub”urban blight, since a lawn or yard is the required attribute. And, It is not a First Amendment right.
    If not already codified by our consolidated municipality’s newly blended or to be amended ordinances, there should be a ban or restriction on commercial advertisement in various forms on public ROW, residential neighborhoods, and other public properties or private lands.
    “Commerce” would include businesses, non-profits, sports or summer camps, and private educational institutions, to name a few, as they are the most frequent offenders. Real estate sales signs, restricted by size and placement, would continue to be an obvious exemption.
    The municipality could issue special permits to accommodate specific timing and purpose for which a partially refundable fee would cover cleanup and actively enforce violations with fines.
    Anyone can wrap their personal vehicle in a custom ad or signs, but using our shared environment as though it is the Las Vegas strip or Times Sq. is not what we want for the town of Princeton.
    Let’s thank and “Free the Professor!”

  19. Ted Horodynsky appears to be a nut job.

    I happen to live in Princeton, and these signs are not only visual garbage, but typically fall over, and pose a danger to drivers. It is clear that the signs that John Mulvey is removing are actually on public domain, not private property. The edges of the sign cross over and intersect the roadway. The base of the signs touch the curb before they are removed. The curb is not private property.

    Ted should be charged with littering.

  20. Check out Ted’s facebook page. Then, sit in silence for an hour and unscramble your mind.

  21. I’ve met Mulvey. He seems like a lost tragic soul who needs to be sentenced to a serious treatment facility where he can get major therapy and heavy doses of psychoactive meds. He clearly has issues of dishonesty, anger, rage, obsession, hatred, and extreme pathological narcissism. It will be interesting to see if Chris Eisgruber, Deborah Prentice, his dept chair, and his colleagues attempt to sweep this one under the rug. Meanwhile, there are talented young assistant professors denied tenure (essentially fired) every year because there are no spots. Yet, this guy has a reputation as a complete ZERO in the ranks of the Princeton faculty, unremarkable research, mediocre teaching, no grant funding, zero collaboration, zero campus participation. And wait, he’s running a hedge fund? (RRRIIIIP!…that’s the sound of a needle scratching the record as it screeches to a halt!) HE’S RUNNING A HEDGE FUND? Really? At a school where Occupy Princeton ambushed Andy Golden?

    Harassing, stealing, shaming your school, generally being an all-around sad-sack pathetic loser, and LYING TO THE POLICE? Princeton!! Really??!!

  22. The real theft Mulvey committed is stealing millions of dollars from his students and his clients over the years. The police should charge him with that.

  23. The number of comments here by Ted = the number of different voices he hears in his head.

  24. I have used Computer Tutor Ted over a period of 10 years. In addition to exceeding any reasonable expectation I could have possibly had with regard to my personal and business computers, he was very gracious, which is more than can be said of most of the commentary here. His signs are never placed anywhere illegally and are an honest attempt at advertising his small business. It is why realtors, private schools, and politicians continue to avail themselves of this venue in advertisement. I’m continually amazed that the more progressive and liberal we become as a civilized society, the nastier and more elitist we behave. Shameful.

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