Mesa vows to remove early, misplaced political signs as Pearce backers refuse - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Mesa vows to remove early, misplaced political signs as Pearce backers refuse

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Russell Pearce represented Mesa in the Arizona Legislature and served as president of the state Senate.

Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2011 4:16 pm | Updated: 10:53 am, Wed Aug 31, 2011.

Mesa is threatening to remove hundreds of signs posted by supporters of state Senate President Russell Pearce, saying signs that read “stand for the rule of law” actually violate state election law.

The anti-recall group had agreed to take down the signs Wednesday — only to reverse its position hours later, said Christine Zielonka, Mesa’s development services director. Members of the Citizens Who Oppose the Pearce Recall told Mesa they’d send the city a removal schedule on Wednesday. Instead, they sent a message that they believe the signs are legal and aren’t coming down.

The city gave the group until Monday to remove the 300 signs that popped up across west Mesa last week. The city will begin taking them down at that point, Zielonka said on Thursday.

The large red signs target Randy Parraz, an organizer of the signature drive to place a recall on the Nov. 8 ballot. Parraz is pictured and statements accuse him of opposing the rule the law, among other things.

Parraz learned from the Tribune on Thursday that the anti-recall group is refusing to take down the signs.

“It’s hypocrisy by the Russell Pearce campaign that they’re going to disobey the law again, disobey the city of Mesa and force Mesa to use taxpayer dollars to take these down,” Parraz said. “That’s just incredible.”

Parraz had heard Wednesday of the group’s plans to remove the signs but to repost them later. He threatened to sue for slander if the signs appeared again, saying the claims against him are untrue.

Under Arizona law, political signs can only be up 60 days before an election. That makes Sept. 9 the first date in this election.

Mesa cited other legal problems.

The city estimates half or more of the signs are posted illegally because they’re within 15 feet of a right-of-way.

None of the signs include contact information, which is also required so the city can contact organizers if there’s a problem with the signs such as illegal placement.

Mesa had to use a liberal interpretation to even consider the signs election-related because they feature a person who isn’t a candidate, Zielonka said.

“We’ve agreed that is an issue for attorneys to discuss,” she said. “At this point, we’re deeming them to be political signs.”

Had the city considered them non-political signs, they would have been treated like illegal weight loss advertisement signs and thrown away, Zielonka said. If Mesa collects political signs, it is required to keep them 10 days so the owners can retrieve them.

The anti-recall group has told Mesa it would move signs that are in the right-of-way, Zielonka said. They block views from driveways and streets, she said.

“They really seem to understand that was a traffic safety problem and they told us that they were mobilizing folks to move them,” she said.

The anti-recall group is chaired by Mesa resident Matt Tolman. He did not return calls for comment.

Parraz said signs have been spotted in Tempe, Chandler and Gilbert — communities outside of Pearce’s legislative District 18. The district covers much of west Mesa, generally areas west of Gilbert Road. Parraz estimated the signs targeting him cost $30,000.

Parraz denied a claim on the sign that Pearce opponents are “his recall candidates.” He said he’s never had contact with the opponents.

The candidates are charter school executive Jerry Lewis, Mesa resident Olivia Cortes and attorney Michael Kielsky. So far, only Lewis has given the Arizona Secretary of State the 621 signatures required to get on the ballot.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6548 or ggroff@evtrib.com

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