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Wisconsin county decides not to fine man for displaying Bush yard sign

By The Associated Press,
freedomforum.org staff
05.16.01

A Wisconsin county's attorneys say they will dismiss a citation against a man who faced a $100-per-day fine for displaying a sign supporting President Bush for months in his yard.

Meanwhile, A Florida man who ran unsuccessfully for state representative last year is suing his town for charging him $10 for putting up a Bush-Cheney campaign sign on his front lawn.

Eau Claire County, Wis., resident Timothy Galarnyk faced up to a $17,600 fine for allegedly violating a county sign ordinance. Galarnyk said he was surprised when he received notice of the fine last week, believing it violated his First Amendment rights.

He put up a "Bush for President" sign last October during the presidential election. He changed the sign to read "George W. Bush is President" after Bush was declared the winner in December.

The citation accused him of violating a county ordinance that required people to take down campaign signs a day after elections.

"I'm proud of the fact that we now have a leader who has some scruples and some dignity and some morals," Galarnyk said May 14.

Nathan Novak, assistant county attorney, said the citation, issued by the county's zoning department, would be dismissed during a May 22 court appearance scheduled for Galarnyk.

"Once he changed the wording, arguably it doesn't become a campaign sign anymore," Novak said May 14. "Our advice was we don't think they can enforce it."

County officials will send a letter soon to Galarnyk telling him the citation will be dismissed, Novak said.

Galarnyk said he ignored the first letter he received in March about the sign, thinking it was a joke. He had planned to take down the sign next week.

He said he never intended to pay the fine, which amounted to $100 a day since Election Day last fall.

Meanwhile, Joe Kaufman, of Tamarac, Fla., says he filed a federal lawsuit against the town because he wants to keep local officials from passing laws banning the posting of signs on properties.

Three years ago, town commissioners passed an ordinance prohibiting residents from posting signs on their properties without a permit. The commission changed the law in March, removing the permit requirement and allowing campaign banners to stay posted until 30 days after an election.

Kaufman, who posted the Bush-Cheney sign on Oct. 19, sued the town last year, saying the ordinance infringed on his First Amendment rights.

Jonathan Sabghir, Kaufman's attorney, says although commissioners revised the ordinance, it is still unconstitutional because it prohibits freedom of expression on political issues. City attorney Mitch Kraft says the law is modeled after a state statute.

Tamarac code officers are prohibited from removing the sign while the lawsuit is pending, said Cindy Diemer, the town's code enforcement manager.

Kaufman says the sign will stay up until a judge issues a ruling in the case.

Both sides are expected to meet with a mediator in July.

Kaufman, a Republican activist who was defeated by Democrat Stacy Ritter in November, said he also was warned in March by his homeowner's association of a possible lien on his house if the sign wasn't removed. But Kaufman threatened to sue the association if it carried out its threat or tried to force the sign's removal.


Related

ACLU sues Wisconsin town over political-sign restrictions

Pewaukee resident Walter Fiedorowicz wants to put a 'Let Us Vote' sign on his property. 08.29.02

Candidate's sign can stay on supporter's lawn — for now
Federal judge allows campaign sign to remain until hearing on Pennsylvania township's demand for $50 refundable bond. 10.11.02

Alabama judiciary panel scolds judge who jailed man over yard signs
Circuit Judge Wallace Haralson had ordered sheriff to arrest Phillip Dean for signs criticizing court's handling of child-custody battle. 03.19.04

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