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Posted: July 4, 2010 12:30 a.m.

Candidates violate local sign ordinances

As the campaign trail heats up, candidates and their volunteers are breaking local ordinances by placing political signs on public property.

Newton County and Covington’s sign ordinances don’t regulate content, but do prohibit political campaign signs from being placed on public rights-of-way, within 100 feet of an intersection and, in Covington’s case, closer than 10 feet to a road.

Both ordinances state that anyone desiring to place a campaign sign on another person’s property must obtain that owner’s permission.

“Most signs like these are placed by citizen volunteers, not professional sign companies that should know better,” said former County Planning Director Marian Eisenberg in a June 15 e-mail.

Eisenberg and Covington Code Enforcement Officer Brett Reed said their offices frequently run sweeps where they will pass through an area and remove any violating signs. The county will give candidates a courtesy call when signs are removed, but Covington waits for the candidates to contact them. In both cases, the signs are held in case candidates want to retrieve them.

“For the smaller elections they may contact and say they heard you sweeped through an area and took their signs. When they come pick it up we tell them the ordinance,” Reed said Friday.

There are no penalties issued for illegal sign placement, namely because it’s difficult to prove who
placed a sign.

“One of the hardest things to prove in a court is — did that candidate sign put that sign out. Who is responsible? The candidate can be held responsible, but there again you’re dealing with some of the legal aspects. At this junction, we just pick them up,” Reed said.

Reed said he had removed around 25 signs so far this election season from public rights-of-way; Eisenberg said she did not have an estimate.

Reed said there were not any particular trouble areas in the city, but Eisenberg said most illegally placed signs were being found on Salem, Smith Store, Mt. Zion and Gum Creek roads because of the Board of Commissioners race in District 2.

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