December 2, 2021

Cortlandville board halts enforcement of political sign law

Cortland County Seal

The Cortlandville Town Board voted unanimously Wednesday night to suspend enforcement of the town’s political sign law following questions of whether the law was constitutional.

Town code states that political signs for a candidacy for election can be posted no more than 45 days before the last day of voting, to be removed within 14 days from the election.

Questions of whether the law was enforced fairly, though, have become apparent as town residents recently received citations for having signs up now and been asked to take them down, but have noticed other signs up for opposing candidates.

Such is the case with resident Kathleen Fitzgerald, who said she was cited for posting a sign against President Trump, not actually supporting any other candidate, but has seen plenty of signs in favor of Trump’s re-election campaign and Republican Claudia Tenney’s campaign in the the 22nd Congressional District.

Board member Douglas Withey brought up the issue during the meeting, saying how it had been raised at the board’s Aug. 5 meeting and he spoke with Fitzgerald and others who had shared their concerns.

Fitzgerald had sent Withey and other members of the board a copy of a packet regarding sign regulations from the state Division of Local Government Services.

By having the current town code, “we are in violation of the First Amendment and we should not be in violation,” Withey said, and that creates a conflict because town board members take an oath to both protect the Constitution and enforce the town’s laws.

Earlier in the meeting, Peter MorseAckley of McLean Road, who has been cited for his sign supporting Joe Biden for president, said he appreciated that a review of the code was being conducted after he had brought up the issue, but questioned what the town board and town attorney would do to review future town codes after Town Attorney John DelVecchio previously said it was not his role to review a town code’s constitutionality.

The code will be in effect until the board votes otherwise, DelVecchio said.