Leader Blues

Saturday, November 01, 2008

TOP STORY > >Questions are raised about political signs

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

It’s a given that as long as name recognition increases the chances for getting elected, politicians will put up signs, and where there are signs, it is just as true that there will be contention and maybe even vandalism.

Cabot appears to have both this election season. Just ask Rick Prentice, a candidate for the city council whose 8-foot by 10-foot signs were snapped like twigs during last weekend’s wind and rain.

It probably was the wind that broke the uprights, Prentice said this week, sounding really sincere. However, it was peculiar, he said, that the signs just an arm’s length in front and back of his weren’t damaged at all.

But while Prentice says the campaign is nearly over and he is content to blame the wind for his trouble, former Alderman Odis Waymack has asked City Attorney Jim Taylor to look into the activities of Alderman Becky Lemaster who won his seat on the council two years ago.

Waymack’s sister Ann Gilliam is running against Lemaster, contends that Lemaster is breaking several laws with the trucks carrying campaign signs she has parked near the old Community Bank building that now belongs to the city.

In a letter dated Oct. 26, Waymack asked Taylor to find out if he was right.

“There are some questions I would like answered,” Waymack told Taylor.

“Is it legal to leave vehicles on city property with political signs?” Waymack asked.

“Why have the police not cited these vehicles for no license? One vehicle has a dealer plate on it. It is my understanding of the statute, Act 1929 of 2005, Rule 2005-7, that a dealer plate can only be used for transportation to and from work, demonstrating and transport and that it must be kept on the premises of the dealership during business hours unless it is being demonstrated, test driven or used as a loaner. Is this correct?

“Also, is it correct that the vehicle must have a sticker attached to the window displaying the warranty terms as required by 16 C.F.R. Part 455 to be considered a “motor vehicle for sale” and without such a sticker it would not be considered a “motor vehicle for sale” and would not qualify for a dealer plate.

“I am requesting you to forward the information to the correct authorities if the questions above warrant such notification.

“I would appreciate an immediate response on this subject since three of the vehicles have signs for elected officials giving them a strong advantage over their opponents who probably think like I do that you cannot campaign on city property except the hours voting is open,” he said.

Lemaster said she didn’t know there was a problem and if Waymack thought there was, he should have asked her.

“There’s nothing I’m doing wrong,” Lemaster said.

“As long as you’re the owner, you can use the vehicle for personal use,” she said.

The city attorney said he had looked into the matter and that there was nothing he could do about it.

“There are restrictions on the use of dealers’ tags,” he said. “But (Police Chief Jackie Davis said) it’s got to be rolling on the street for the police to do anything.”

State law does say that no one is allowed to campaign closer than 100 feet from the polling place, but the trucks in question are not violating that law, he said.

“The law is pretty wide open as long as they’re 100 feet away from the voting facility,” he said. “I haven’t found any law they’ve broken outright. It’s just politician against politician and it will all be over Tuesday.”