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The Telegram
  • Unwilling to fight legal battle, village plans to rescind sign law

  • The Village Board has suspended a village ordinance that places restrictions on political signage after a federal complaint stated it violated basic First Amendment rights.

    Bart Carrig, representing the village in the lawsuit, said during a phone interview Tuesday he recommended that the village board suspend the law and consider redrafting.

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  •  The Village Board has suspended a village ordinance that places restrictions on political signage after a federal complaint stated it violated basic First Amendment rights.
    Bart Carrig, representing the village in the lawsuit, said during a phone interview Tuesday he recommended that the village board suspend the law and consider redrafting. A public hearing to give residents an opportunity to comment about rescinding the law will be held Aug. 9.
    In June, Herkimer County Judge candidate Mary Iocovozzi filed a federal lawsuit against the village after she was told she needed to remove the 6 foot by 3 foot banners displayed at her 126 Mary St. residence that read “Elect Mary Iocovozzi Family Court Judge.” She was first notified verbally in May and then sent a written notice shortly after from village Codes Enforcement Officer David Kuehnle that the signs had to be removed.
    The ordinance, just passed last year, stated that political signs could not be more than five square feet in size and must be 34 inches off the ground. Violators could be fined up to $100 a day for each day the sign was not removed. Political signs also are required to be removed within seven days after the election. Iocovozzi’s compliant said this was unconstitutional because there are no such restrictions on commercial signage.
    Iocovozzi, who is running on the Democratic ticket, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The three banners that were considered in violation of the ordinance have been put back on display at her residence.
    Village Trustee Katie Nichols, who worked on the ordinance for more than a year, said the board voted unanimously in favor of suspending the law due to the cost of fighting the lawsuit in court. She said the village had already spent over $6,000 on filing and attorney fees related to the lawsuit.
    “It’s too bad that the village couldn’t afford to take it to court and make a ruling on it,” she said, noting similar laws in Ilion and New Hartford. She said the ordinance was put together by reviewing policies in municipalities across New York state.
    Nichols said the board had a special meeting a couple of weeks ago with Carrig, who was recommended by Village Attorney Nicholas Macri since Carrig is admitted to federal practice. Nichols pointed out that the ordinance stated that someone who had any complaints could have gone through the Zoning Board of Appeals.
    Carrig said one thing the board will need to review are the restrictions on the size and height of the political signs.   
    The two other candidates for family court judge also had to comply with the ordinance. Carrig said someone posting a sign for Republican candidate John Brennan checked to make sure the sign complied, which it did. Carrig said a sign for Republican candidate Stephen Getman violated the ordinance, but the campaign complied when notified.

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