Morgan LPIN Libertarian Party of Morgan County
Please provide your occupation for donations over $200:

Donate to our Legal Fund

Should the Mooresville Town Council have the authority to force its political opponents to come beg them for permission to advertise that opposition?

Please provide your occupation for donations over $200:

** Contributions by corporations and labor organizations are limited to $2,000 annually; contributions by individuals, LLC's, and political committees are unlimited. Contributions are not deductible as charitable contributions. Contributions from foreign nationals are prohibited. All donations made to the Libertarian Party of Morgan County Legal Fund will be retained by the Libertarian Party of Morgan County for the purpose of legal needs.

On March 20th, 2020 we received an email from the head of the town’s public works superintendent Dave Moore stating the following:

Good afternoon. This email is to let you know that some of the political signs are in violation of the Town of Mooresville UDO. The signs are not to be placed on the town right of ways.

Chapter 3, Site Development Standards;

Section f, Location and Placement;

Sub-section I, Signs may not be installed at any of the following locations:

  • (a) In any public right-of-way, unless specifically authorized by the legislative body or their designee;
  • (b) In any drainage or utility easement;
  • (c) In any no-build or no-disturb zone;
  • (d) In any public park or other public property, with the exception of those signs specifically permitted in this UDO;
  • (e) On any traffic control signs, highway construction signs, fences, utility poles, street signs, trees, or other natural objects;
  • (f) Obstructing any door, fire escape, stairway or any opening intended to provide entrance or exit for any building or structure; or
  • (g) In a manner that obstructs or interferes with safe movement of vehicular or pedestrian traffic.

We are asking that you notify your candidates and let them know that they have 3 days from receipt of this email to remove the signs or they will be disposed of. Thank you for your help with this matter.

Regards, Dave Moore

Dave Moore
Public Works Superintendent

On April 1st, this sudden change in the practice of allowing temporary signs on public property was covered by the local paper. Read that full story here. There were several things to worth noting in this article.

One is the towns official legal opinion regarding the sign ordinance.

“Mooresville cannot tell politicians how big their signs can be or how many signs he/she can place on a property during that (60 days before and six days after an election) time frame,” Copeland wrote in her email. “But, since Mooresville’s ordinance clearly prohibits all signs, except those specifically permitted in the UDO, on public property, IC 36-1-3-11(c) doesn’t apply.”

IC 36-1-3-11(c) clearly states:

(c)Subject to subsection (d), an ordinance or a regulation of a political subdivision relating to the number or size of signs is unenforceable during the following period:

  • (1)Beginning sixty (60) days before an election.
  • (2)Ending at the beginning of the sixth day after the election.
Signs

The sign ban does not violate state law only if all signs of all types are banned from these areas. Ironically, the main photo accompanying this story is a picture of a sign in an island style right-of-way located at the corner of Indiana and Samuel Moore Parkway. That sign remined in that location until at least April 4th.

On March 27th the Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian chairs held a meeting to discuss a response to this sign ban. A letter was drafted and sent to the Mooresville Town Council with the support of all three party chairs. In that letter they detailed a request to place political signs on public property and requested to be placed on the agenda in order to request permission on behalf of all candidates during the 2020 season. You can read that letter here.

That request to be on the agenda has been consistently denied. President Shane Williams took to Facebook on April 3rd in response to the request saying the party chairs needed to go before the Board of Zoning Appeals to get permission. Mr Willaims expressed that to his own party chair as well, since Mr Elliott was working with the all Republican council to get our concerns on the agenda. Attempts to get on the BZA agenda have also been fruitless.

By April 18th the sign at Indiana & Samuel Moore had been replaced by another sign advertising a local plumbing business. We have documented many signs of all types on public property. On April 21st we began documenting signs for Republican candidates in public spaces.

We placed our first political sign for Tonya Millis next to a Republican sign near the South Mooresville Gateway monument on May 13th. That sign remained throughout the primary election season and we did not receive any complaints about it or calls to remove it.

On May 19th at approximately 8 pm we placed a Don Rainwater sign at the South Gateway location as well as in the island median at Indiana and Samuel Moore Parkway. At that time the plumbing sign had been at this location for a month with no public complaint from the Town Council or Shane Williams.

Approximately 17 hours later at around 1pm on May 20th Town Council President Shane Williams posts a photo of our sign at the Indiana / Samuel Moore location with the business sign carefully cropped out. On this post he claims we are “getting an unfair and unlawful advantage” and generally saying other derogatory and inflammatory things about Libertarians, which he has a history of doing. We then received the following email at 2:21 PM that same day (approximately 18 hours after placing the sign).

Mr. Lundy,

It was brought to my attention that there is a sign placed in the towns’ right of way at Indianapolis Road and Samuel Moore pkwy. I was asked to reach out to your party and remind you that the town U.D.O. prohibits this unless you have been granted permission by the Town Council.

Respectfully,
Dave Moore
Public Works Superintendent

We responded as follows:

Dave,

Thank you for all your hard work as Public Works superintendent. We really appreciate all you and your team do for the Town of Mooresville. The Libertarian party of Morgan County wants to do our best to work within the city's guidelines. Unfortunately, the Town Council and the BZA have been refusing our requests to be on the agenda for this issue for two months now. Therefore, we have been unable to ask for permission.

We would appreciate some guidance on how we can proceed when we are being stonewalled.

Danny Lundy
Libertarian Party of Morgan County, Chair

On May 23rd we placed a Don Rainwater sign next to another Republican sign located on the west side of town. We have documentation of that sign being there since at least May 5th. That sign remained throughout the primary election season and did not receive any public ridicule or calls to remove it. At about that same time, we received this email from Town Council President Shane Williams:

Danny,

As you know, there's been a pandemic.

Also, as you know, we take public comment at every meeting....multiple times. Every public meeting has been open to the public, even during the pandemic.

There's been nothing preventing you from coming before us during public comments over the last "two months." We do not turn any public comments away.

It is my personal view that the matter was settled when both a Planning Commission and former Council passed the UDO. I also think you're on the wrong side of public opinion.

I'm only one of five though.

Shane B. Williams
President
Mooresville Town Council

On May 24th, President Williams again took to Facebook to specifically call out the Libertarian Party while never mentioning the Republican candidate signs, business signs, or variety of other signs currently on public property within the town. No other candidate, business, organization, or individual has received this kind of treatment from any official for allegedly violating the sign ordinance.

On May 27th, sometime between 1 pm and 5:30 pm and just 1 week after being placed, our sign was removed from the Indiana St / Samuel Moore location. The plumbing sign next to ours, which had been there nearly 6 weeks, was also removed. Meanwhile, signs in public spaces all over town remain untouched. Our signs placed next to Republican Candidate signs remained untouched throughout the primary political season and without public outrage from Mr. Williams.

On July 9th we submitted a Freedom of information request to the Town of Mooresville Clerk's office. We requested copies of the following documents [or documents containing the following information]:

  • All signage removed by town employees, officials, or agents due to Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) infractions, including their locations, since 1/1/2019;
  • All external communications requesting the removal of signage due to UDO infractions since 1/1/12019;
  • All internal communications regarding the removal of signage due to UDO infractions since 1/1/2019.

We received a response to that request on the morning of July 14th. It contained many items of note.

  • Dave Moore was ordered by the Town Council President to send a letter to the political chairs telling them to remove their signs.
  • As of the July 14th the sign ban had only been enforced on three occasions. In all those instances the order came directly from Town Council President Shane Williams. Those three instances were:
    • On April 20th, in response to a Facebook post of several signs around town, Town Council President Shane Williams ordered the removal of Pro Source Roofing signs from the medians on Indiana Street. Pro Source Roofing is not publicly denounced, shamed, or ridiculed by Shane Williams.
    • On May 20th Town Council President Shane Williams ordered the removal of the "Libertarian Party Governor Sign" in the island on Indianapolis Road. At no time during the conversation regarding the removal of our Don Rainwater sign was the Drain Works plumbing sign mentioned. Despite the fact the plumbing sign had been there for more than a month prior to our sign and was mere inches away from our sign. Drain Works Plumbing was not publicly denounced, shamed, or ridiculed by Town Council President Shane Williams.
    • On May 28th Town Council President Shane Williams falsely claims that the Libertarian party chair Danny Lundy put out another sign and orders its removal. At no time during the conversation is the Grace Church sign next to the "In God We Trust" sign mentioned. The conversation is focused solely on the sign Mr. Williams incorrectly believes Mr. Lundy placed. All of those signs are removed on June 15th. None of these signs are publicly denounced, shamed, or ridiculed by Town Council President Shane Williams.
  • On July 13th the Theta Tau Sorority requested permission to place signs in town right-of-ways to advertise a 5k. They were granted permission.
  • On the afternoon of July 13th, just before we received this FOI response, Town Council President Shane Williams orders Dave Moore and the street department to "begin the process of removing unpermitted signs in town right-of-ways". Immediately following this FOI response reports began to surface online from people all over town having signs removed, including "Just Be Kind" signs, political signs, business signs, and even a "Slow, Children at Play" sign.

On or about July 11th a large trailer letter sign was parked in the Indiana Street island. Several other signs promoting concerts and local businesses also appeared around this time. The large park sign and all other signs in that island were removed by July 14th. None of these signs are publicly denounced, shamed, or ridiculed by Town Council President Shane Williams.

On Tuesday, July 21st the Mooresville Parks Depart gets on the agenda and appears at the Mooresville Town Council meeting. After much debate, the Town Council does vote 4-1 to authorize the Parks Department to place signs in the parks as needed, and to place the large portable trailer sign in the Indiana Street island location. You can read the news coverage of that meeting here or watch the video of that meeting here.

On August 13th the Morgan County political parties are put on the Board of Zoning Appeals agenda to ask permission to place signs during the 2020 election season. Libertarian Chair Danny Lundy spoke on behalf of the issue, and Town Council President Shane Williams spoke against it. The board voted to deny the request. You can read the news coverage of that meeting here or watch the video of that segment of the meeting here.

In response, Libertarian County Chair Danny Lundy penned an op-ed on the topic claiming the sign ban places the Town of Mooresville in a "no-win scenario" and stresses that the way this law is being enforced will hurt more than just political speech. In it he calls for the law to be fixed. That article was published in the Mooresville Times on August 19th and can be read here.

On September 1st we submitted another FOI request to the Town of Mooresville Clerk's office. We requested copies of the following documents [or documents containing the following information]:

  • Documentation of any requests for permission to place temporary signs on town property since 1/1/2019;
  • Documentation of any decisions granting or denying permission to place temporary signs on town property since 1/1/2019;

On Thursday September 3rd we received this response to our request: "I have reached out to both the Public Works and Building departments and they have found no such documents."

This response is puzzling given there have been at least three documented requests to-date this year.

  • The Theta Tau Sorority requested permission from Dave Moore on July 13th and was granted permission.
  • The Mooresville Parks Department requested permission from the Mooresville Town Council on July 21st and was granted permission.
  • The Morgan County political chairs requested permission from the Mooresville Board of Zoning Appeals on August 13th and were denied permission.

It is difficult to ascertain if more than these three requests exist since the official response to our FOI request states that there is no documentation of any requests at all. Assuming these are the only three instances of permission being requested to place signs, there appears to be a bias against political speech, which is protected by the first amendment. This is reaffirmed in the conversations and actions taken to remove signage. Only political signage, especially that of one particular party, appears to have been initially targeted for enforcement.

It is our belief that:

  • This sign ban, by its very nature, disproportionately punishes minor parties in favor of the ruling majority party in Mooresville.
  • By only enforcing this ban selectively, the town has not followed its own legal guidelines to ensure they are not in violation of state law IC 36-1-3-11(c) and, in fact, have violated state law.
  • That the nature of the manner of their selective enforcement would suggest they are unfairly discriminating against the Libertarian Party specifically.

It is apparent to us that this town council is using taxpayer funded town resources to carry out a private political agenda. We need your help to right this wrong. Donate to our legal fund today and help us fight this abuse of power in Mooresville.

Thank You

Paid for and authorized by the Libertarian Party of Morgan County
J&L Online Marketing