Last week’s flap over an independent group’s campaign signs had a surprising result: Turns out, virtually every campaign sign in town is illegal.
Almost none include contact information for the sponsoring political committee as required by ARS 16-1019.
Section C, part 5, says the sign must “contain the name and telephone number or website address of the candidate or campaign committee contact person.”
A quick survey of existing signs suggests almost none of them comply with that provision of the law governing political signs.
The issue arose last week after a local ammunition maker spurred criticism and controversy by printing up campaign signs opposing some Payson council candidates and praising others.
Advanced Tactical Armament Concepts paid for the signs to support Payson Mayor Kenny Evans and other council incumbents up for re-election.
Some signs praised the incumbents, but others criticized mayoral candidate Randy Roberson and council candidates Bob Lockhart and Charlene Creach Brown.
The signs had a line on the bottom saying, “Paid for by Payson Citizens Who Want Jobs. Not Authorized by Any Candidate of Campaign Committee.” However, the signs had no contact information.
The council incumbents all said they had nothing to do with the signs.
When asked about the legality of the signs, town officials termed the signs illegal for lack of a registered political committee, lack of contact information on the signs and improper placement of many of the signs in town right of way. Town workers then collected many of the offending signs.
Campaign law allows independent groups to put up signs, so long as they don’t coordinate with the candidates. If the independent committee does confer with the candidates, then the signs count as a political donation the candidate must report.
ATAC owner Jim Antich said he paid for the signs mostly to support Evans, who played a key role in finding a manufacturing facility for the company up near the airport and helping the company work through the town bureaucracy. He said the company has outgrown its current facility and may have to leave Payson if it can’t find a bigger property. Evans is now spearheading an effort to annex the 80-acre Fox Farm in Granite Dells to keep the manufacturer from leaving town.
Several of the council challengers have sharply criticized the proposal to build the 80-acre light industrial park on the property.
Antich said he didn’t know that he had to register a political committee to put up the signs. He also didn’t know the signs had to include contact information.
So on Friday Antich and his son Jim collected the signs the town had taken down, registered a political committee and put a sticker with contact information on each sign. Supporters then again posted the signs around town, taking care to avoid the forbidden right of way and private property without permission.
That could make the controversial independent signs just about the only legal campaign signs in town.
The brouhaha may have one additional ironic post script.
ARS 16-1019 does give the town the right to remove signs that don’t meet the five conditions listed in section C. But there’s a catch, as outlined in Section D. The town or county may only remove the sign if it “deems that the placement of a political sign constitutes an emergency.”
Otherwise, the town has to notify the committee that put up the sign and give them 24 hours to fix the problem.
Which leaves us with one question: Does confusion constitute an emergency?
Text of law on political signs:
ARS 16-1019. Political signs; printed materials; tampering; classification
A. It is a class 2 misdemeanor for any person to knowingly remove, alter, deface or cover any political sign of any candidate for public office or knowingly remove, alter or deface any political mailers, handouts, flyers or other printed materials of a candidate that are delivered by hand to a residence for the period commencing forty-five days before a primary election and ending seven days after the general election.
B. This section does not apply to the removal, alteration, defacing or covering of a political sign or other printed materials by the candidate or the authorized agent of the candidate in support of whose election the sign or materials were placed, by the owner or authorized agent of the owner of private property on which such signs or printed materials are placed with or without permission of the owner or placed in violation of state law or county, city or town ordinance or regulation.
C. Notwithstanding any other statute, ordinance or regulation, a city, town or county of this state shall not remove, alter, deface or cover any political sign if the following conditions are met:
- The sign is placed in a public right-of-way that is owned or controlled by that jurisdiction.
- The sign supports or opposes a candidate for public office or it supports or opposes a ballot measure.
- The sign is not placed in a location that is hazardous to public safety, obstructs clear vision in the area or interferes with the requirements of the Americans with disabilities act (42 United States Code sections 12101 through 12213 and 47 United States Code sections 225 and 611).
- The sign has a maximum area of sixteen square feet, if the sign is located in an area zoned for residential use, or a maximum area of thirty-two square feet if the sign is located in any other area.
- The sign contains the name and telephone number or website address of the candidate or campaign committee contact person.
D. If the city, town or county deems that the placement of a political sign constitutes an emergency, the jurisdiction may immediately relocate the sign. The jurisdiction shall notify the candidate or campaign committee that placed the sign within twenty-four hours after the relocation. If a sign is placed in violation of subsection C and the placement is not deemed to constitute an emergency, the city, town or county may notify the candidate or campaign committee that placed the sign of the violation. If the sign remains in violation at least twenty-four hours after the jurisdiction notified the candidate or campaign committee, the jurisdiction may remove the sign. The jurisdiction shall contact the candidate or campaign committee contact and shall retain the sign for at least ten business days to allow the candidate or campaign committee to retrieve the sign without penalty.