Friday, March 18, 2011

Sign wars hit Orland Park elections

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There are so many issues out there in the election but one that always seems to pop up is the issue of campaign signs.

John Fotopoulos put out a press release and accused deputy village clerk Joe LaMargo of saying that signs placed on private property should be removed. Of course, when I talk to Joe, that’s not the case at all.

I know them both and they are both good people, but I think John’s frustrations about his signs being removed are focused on the wrong person.

Here’s what Fotopoulos said in his press release of March 16, which included his letter to LaMargo:

Dear Mr. LaMargo: 
This letter confirms our earlier conversation wherein you called my office and advised me that you authorized village staff to enter private property to remove my signs. These actions fly in the face of the Illinois Constitution and the United States Constitution, specifically, violating the First and Fourth Amendments. As such, please cease and desist from any action that results in the removal of said political signs from private property.
 Please accept this letter as my formal objection to your removal of my campaign signs from private property. Furthermore, I respectfully ask that the Village of Orland Park and its agents immediately cease and desist from contacting any residents and businesses that exercise their Constitutional rights to support my candidacy for Orland Park Trustee. I will take any and all action necessary to protect the fundamental Constitutional rights of the residents and businesses.

Fotopoulos’ letter though doesn’t reflect what LaMargo told me when I called about it.

“I was shocked at Fotopoulos’ accusation. It’s not true. I would never say to remove signs from private property. I don’t have the authority to do that. He is absolutely exaggerating this. The process is we will call the property owner, not the candidate, and state there is a sign not in compliance with the village code and ask them to remove it. If it is not removed we would issue a citation. We can’t and wouldn’t go on private property to take a sign,” LaMargo said.

“I do give a courtesy call to a candidate when we get a complaint. But Mr. Fotopolous has turned it around completely into something else. The problem with Fotopoulos’ signs is that many of his signs are over sized and will be removed. We called him and said his signs are oversize.”

LaMargo is correct. Fotopoulos has huge signs, just like Rich Kelly.

I have also heard from Cook County Commissioner Liz Gorman who believes the village procedures have changed from the last election to this election and that signs of challengers are being removed. They are being removed.

“On March 14, went to public works after weekend to see what signs were picked up since many of the Fiscal Voices were taken as other candidates. I wanted to verify that the signs were either being stolen or picked up by public works. I spoke with Ed Wilnes, the public works director and he said that they are not picking up any ones’ signs. He said if they are wrongly placed in easements [public property, not private property] then they are to place the signs legally on the property. That’s very different than when I ran against [Patrick] Maher. Obviously the rules have changed because I see that the incumbents have illegal signs all along roadways.”

Gorman makes the point, “I even mentioned, ‘You are not in the sign business in this race, because you sure were in mine.’ It’s a double standard."

Gorman is right. I have also noticed that the campaign signs promoting incumbent village trustees Pat Gira and Ed Schussler are up all over the place, including on public property. No one has bothered them. But signs for their challengers, John Brudnak, Molly McAvoy Flynn and Steven Williams.

LaMargo insisted he only addresses the issue when someone calls his office and he doesn’t pull over when he is driving through the town to pull down signs.

“I can’t remove it if it is on private property. We can only call the property owner and explain the sign is over-sized. If you are in compliance with everything there won’t be a problem,” LaMargo said.

“If Public Works sees signs illegally put up, sometimes they will remove them. No one is telling them to target any signs. I’m just doing my job. There were signs removed from all sides in the last election. I only get involved and make the courtesy call in this when it is brought to my attention. I don’t call any departments about this either.”

But there is no doubt in my mind that some employees for the Village of Orland Park are stealing and destroying signs for candidates who are challenging the incumbents endorsed by the village. It doesn’t make them look good and maybe they are sitting back smiling at all this. But it makes Gira and Schussler look bad when their signs are all over and everyone else’s signs are taken down.

Anticipating the issue, LaMargo said that Orland Village Manager Paul Grimes distributed copies of the rules for sign placement in early March. Here’s what was sent out: (Click the images to view a larger copy.)

Response from village to Fotopoulos:

1 comment:

  1. John Fotopoulos exaggerating and twisting things around....noooo, you don't say! He's nothing but a pit bull that thinks a J.D. gives him license to bully everything in his path, just ask his neighbors. He was the plaintiff attorney in a suit against his own homeowners association in 2010. Mr. Rogers he is not, but no worries, he couldn't even get elected to his homeowners association board in 2009 so there is little threat of him making a respectable showing in April.