ALBANY — Call it the power of social media.

Minutes after a story appeared on the website concerning the apparent theft of a sign put up by Albany businesswoman/City Commissioner B.J. Fletcher, Fletcher said she received a call from the person who removed the sign.

Fletcher had announced she was offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who took the sign.

“I got a call from the owner of the adjacent property, and it turns out I had mistakenly put the sign on someone else’s property rather than on this property owned by (businessman) Dave Patel,” Fletcher said moments after the story of the apparent sign theft appeared on this newspaper’s website. “The owner (who Fletcher chose not to name) said he took the sign down because it was on his property. Then he (apparently kiddingly) asked if he got the $500 reward.

“I made a mistake, but I hope everyone realizes it was an honest mistake. I was told that property was part of the property my business is located on. Obviously, I was wrong. (The businessman) and I talked it over, and he’d very kindly removed the sign without damaging it and kept it for me.”

Security footage taken of the parking lot of Fletcher’s 2401 Dawson Road BJ’s Restaurant showed an older black van pull up adjacent to the newly erected sign at 11:54 a.m. Tuesday. At 11:58 a.m., after the van pulled away, the sign was no longer there.

“I believe it was malicious,” Fletcher said of what she thought was a theft. “The person or people in that van did not mess with the (nearby) San Joe’s (Mexican Restaurant) sign, so it’s obvious they targeted my business. I would like to look that person in the eye and have them tell me what I did to make them do that.

“For those businesses that have re-opened under these stringent new social distancing rules, it’s been tough. A lot of people are still scared, and we’re doing everything we can to let people know our dining room is now open. People can’t really see us; we’re blocked by the Mexican restaurant in our parking lot, so this sign was a way to let people know we are open for business. We’re kind of hidden back here, and we need to do everything we can to let people know we’re open.”

Fletcher said when she was informed that the sign was missing that she was prepared to offer a $500 reward for “information that leads to the arrest and conviction” of the apparent culprit.

“This is not just about me,” she said. “My employees represent 32 families, and many of them live week-to-week. I’m doing everything I can to keep our business going so that these families are able to survive. This is a setback that hurts all of us.”

Fletcher said she plans to work out an agreement with the business owner that will allow her to put the sign back up.

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