Midland County township faces lawsuit over fines for political sign

Attorney says sign ordinance is unconstitutional, clients were unfairly targeted
Sign is at the center of a federal lawsuit
Sign is at the center of a federal lawsuit(WJRT)
Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 6:01 PM EST
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MIDLAND COUNTY , Mich. (WJRT) - It was a bitter election that has resulted in a lawsuit.

And we aren’t talking about the presidential election.

It’s all about local races in Midland County’s Lee Township.

And one rather large campaign sign could cost two people a few thousand dollars.

Their attorney says this enforcement is a violation of their constitutional rights.

“Who is going to be president is important but who is going to affect your day to day life more is those you elect to your local office,” says attorney Phil Ellison.

While a lot of attention is focused on the fallout after the presidential election, a sign in Lee Township west of Midland has generated its own legal question, how big can a campaign sign be?

“Lee Township has a ordinance on their books that says no political signs more than 32 square feet,” says Ellison.

He says his clients, Alan Angry, who made the sign, and Heidi PItt, who had the sign on her property, were ticketed a combined eleven times for the sign, that measured 64 square feet.

“Each ticket is seeking up to 500 dollars in fines so you can do the math and see how fast that adds up,” Ellison says.

That’s $5,500. Ellison believes the sign was targeted because township officials didn’t like who the sign supported, including a write-in campaign for Geoff Gwisdala for township supervisor. Gwisdala lost the race. Ellison says there were other signs in the township that exceeded the size limit.

“At the same time, there were Joe Biden signs all throughout M-20. Those signs are bigger than 32 square feet and none of them were ticketed,” he says.

Ellison is hoping his clients won’t have to pay the fines, and has filed a federal lawsuit against the township, saying the sign ordinance violates their constitutional rights.

“So you can’t pick and choose what signs you want, but if you are going to pick signs, you have to treated everyone equally,” says Ellison.

We reached out to a Lee township official, who says he had no comment because of the pending litigation.

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