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It’s the time of year when political yard signs dot the landscape. But the landscape in Wilton Manors has a lot fewer of them after the city ordered many of them removed.

It happened on Monday, Aug. 29 as code compliance went around removing them from public property. The move was met with shock and anger by the candidates and their supporters.

“All morning I've received calls telling me their signs are stolen,” City Commission candidate Don D’Arminio told SFGN. “Our residents are proudly displaying the signs of Candidates they are supporting, and our city has taken away their rights.” Pictures show piles of signs in the back of a city code compliance truck. Signs from many different candidates have been removed.

Wilton Manors resident Carl Shearer was home and confronted the officer. “Monday afternoon my neighbor called and stated that Code Compliance had picked up his yard campaign sign and was picking mine as we spoke. I immediately went outside where the Code Compliance Officer had picked up my sign and had it in his patrol car.”

Much of the issue comes down to what property owner thinks they own versus what they actually own. Wilton Manors City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson said temporary signage on public land, such as medians, the right of way between streets and sidewalks, and swale is prohibited by code. Much of the confusion comes to misunderstandings of where swale ends and property begins since often, unlike a sidewalk that provides a clear border, people don’t know the boundary.

Vice Mayor Paul Rolli, who is running for re-election, told SFGN his supporters work within the rules.

“All candidates attended a briefing session about the location of campaign signs and were advised signs can only be located with property owner permission on private property, not city swales. My team delivered signs that were requested by homeowners and businesses with a note attached about city rules.”

Mayor Scott Newton, who is also running for re-election this year, echoed the policy and said any signs, including his, need to be in the proper place. However some say this isn’t the best use of city resources and the city, to some degree, seems to agree. Henderson said that places like medians and sidewalk areas will still be monitored, but Code Compliance will not be removing signs from swale since it’s hard to define.

As for Shearer, his signs are back where they were.

“I asked for my sign back, and [the compliance officer]  said that I could go to Don’s [D’Arminio] house to pick it up. I said no sir, I want my sign as it was in my yard and not on the swale! He stated that the sign was less than 5’ from the street, and I challenged his statement. After some thought, he returned to his patrol car and provided the sign and apologized. As I drove through the [city] today, a huge number of signs for most candidates are in the swale and have not been removed. I am disappointed that the city’s valuable limited resources are focused on removing political signage!”

Some campaigns accuse other campaigns of bringing the issue to code enforcement’s attention. So far, no one has admitted to doing so. With the election less than ten weeks away, Rolli says this type of thing comes with the territory.

“All this hoopla is a waste of everyone’s time. It's campaign season, so I guess antics and mudslinging are expected.”

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