Ohio City Council Hopeful Fights Political Sign Rules

TOLEDO, Ohio (CN) – An independent candidate for city council in Perrysburg, Ohio claims in court that a municipal ordinance limiting the amount of time political signs can be displayed on private property violates his rights under the First Amendment.

Charles Pfleghaar sued the city of Perrysburg and its planning and zoning administrator, Brodin Walters, on Tuesday in Toledo federal court.

Pfleghaar is joined in his lawsuit by Katina Holland, who says she is a concerned citizen and supporter of Pfleghaar’s election to city council.

According to the complaint, Pfleghaar posted several innocuous signs reading “Chip Pfleghaar for Council” on his private property to drum up support for his campaign in the November 2017 election.

He was then allegedly notified by Walters that his signs could be confiscated and he could face $100 per day fines for displaying the campaign signs outside of a 67-day period that the city’s sign ordinance allows for temporary signs.

The ordinance at issue stipulates that temporary signs are only permitted up to 60 days prior and 7 days after an event or election.

“As a matter of policy, the city characterizes political signs for and against candidates and issues as ‘temporary,’ and therefore prohibited other than during a 67 day window of time surrounding the election related to the sign,” the lawsuit states.

Pfleghaar alleges Walters’ warning prompted him to remove the signs and relinquish his right to engage in political speech that he believes is protected under the First Amendment.

“The city’s threats have chilled and threaten to further silence plaintiffs’ protected political speech, including their use of otherwise-compliant yard signs advocating for the election of Mr. Pfleghaar to city council,” according to the complaint.

Pfleghaar and Holland seek a declaration that Perrysburg’s prohibition on using private property to display political signs outside of the 67-day window is unconstitutional.

They also seek nominal damages and an injunction enjoining Perrysburg or Walters from enforcing the ordinance.

The city council hopeful and his supporter are represented in the lawsuit by Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law in Columbus, Ohio.

The Perrysburg Division of Planning and Zoning declined to comment on the pending litigation.

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