Candidates for First Selectmen Speak out as Early Campaign Signs Appear on Public Property

On Wednesday Fred Camillo who is running for a third term as First Selectman, issued a press release about campaign lawn signs and special event signs.

In recent days hundreds of white and black Glove Up Greenwich signs have blanketed parts of town.

Also, in front of the former Greenwich Motor Sales where excavation work for Lincoln dealership seems to have stalled, signs for Republican candidates appeared last week.

Republican election signage on public property along West Putnam Ave. Sept 26, 2023 contributed photo

Camillo said the proliferation of lawn signs on public property was an issue.

“With all the frustration surrounding the signs and the environmental impact they have as they are produced and discarded, as well as the eyesore they create, I am committed to not installing any of my signs on public property,” he said in his release.

“Rather, I will focus on the citizens of our town who wish to show support by displaying our sign on their own private property. During my time in office, I’ve worked hard to make Greenwich a leader on environmental issues, and cutting down on the landfill waste these signs create is in keeping with our progress toward that goal.”

Camillo asked for Democratic candidate for First Selectman Laura Erickson to commit to the same effort.

“I call upon my opponent to join me in this effort to de-escalate in favor of a more environmentally and aesthetically favorable way,” he said.

Reached for response, Ms Erickson said that political signs during election season are an expression of free speech and raise awareness that an election is coming up.

She noted that the two political town committees have a longstanding agreement that restricts putting signs up on public property to two weeks before the election, which she described as a good solution.

She added that candidates and volunteers work very hard to pick up all the signs within 24 hours of Election Day and historically, the town Highway Department picks up wayward signs after that.

“Nobody likes the signs, especially when the same or similar signs are plastered on the same street corner,” Erickson said.

“It’s perfectly acceptable that Fred Camillo is pledging not to place his signs on public property. However, don’t be fooled. If past elections are any indication, there will be plenty of political messaging signs in the public right of way,” Erickson said, adding, “This is an important local election on November 7th and voters should do their research.”

Protected Speech

Despite a possible pledge to “de-escalate” and not place signs on public property, signs considered political free speech are protected.

Anyone removing signs deemed political free speech, which is heightened in the weeks leading up to an election, may be arrested, which has happened.

In 2021, a woman was charged with Larceny 6  for removing a sign from Binney Park that said, “Do You Enjoy Freedom?”

In 2020, a woman was charged with Larceny 6 and Criminal Mischief 4 after officers on routine patrol in central Greenwich spotted her removing a political sign, bending it in half and taking it into her vehicle.

Kordick versus Town of Greenwich

And, of course, the lawsuit ‘Kordick vs the Town of Greenwich et al,’ was a prolonged ordeal stemming from lawn signs placed anonymously that said Trump/Camillo.

After three years, the lawsuit recently came to a conclusion.

The lawsuit involved the lawn signs posted anonymously in late October 2019, a week shy of a municipal election.

The signs were taken down.

The red and white lawn signs were first spotted during morning rush hour on Oct 25, 2019. Photo: Leslie Yager

During discovery, it was determined that after Paul Cappiali, then a member of Camillo’s campaign staff, hired someone in Texas to claim they were part of the Camillo campaign team and request an invoice from a local company, Signs on the Cheap, for the Trump/Camillo signs, a copy of the invoice with Kordick’s name on it made its way back to Greenwich.

Confronted with the invoice by then Deputy Chief Marino, Kordick admitted to having ordered the signs.

After he was fired by Police Chief Jim Heavey, Kordick sued the Town, Camillo who by that time had won the election for First Selectman, RTC chair Rich DiPreta, campaign manager Jack Kriskey and the First Selectman Peter Tesei who was in office when the Trump/Camillo signs were removed.

Kordick asserted his First Amendment rights had been violated.

The suit against Tesei and DiPreta was dismissed by a judge. The suit against Camillo and Kriskey was withdrawn.

Finally, two weeks ago, the Town settled with Kordick for $650,000.

Republican election signage on public property October 2021 Contributed photo

Political signage on public property October 2021 Contributed photo

Political signage on public property October 2021 Contributed photo