By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
The dispute over political campaign signs continued this week with the filing of a lawsuit on the matter in State Supreme Court by a candidate for Town Board against the Town of Grand Island government.
James T. Maloney, a candidate for Grand Island Town Board, has filed suit against the town, the Town Board, Town Supervisor Mary Cooke and Deputy Supervisor Gary Roesch alleging his civil rights were violated. He claims Cooke and Roesch conspired to remove his and other candidates' political signs.
The suit asks for "a permanent injunction restraining the Town of Grand Island and its officials from removing any political sign within the town limits during the course and throughout the general election to be held on Nov. 3."
The case is scheduled to be heard at 11 a.m. Oct. 23.
The filing claims Cooke and Roesch, both seeking re-election in the general election, "are utilizing Town of Grand Island taxpayer resources (town employees, vehicles and equipment) to selectively and incorrectly enforce Town of Grand Island code in order to gain an unfair advantage in their re-election bids. They are abusing their positions as elected officials to commit political espionage and remove and/or steal challenging candidates' political signs from both residential and commercial properties in the Town of Grand Island. Their egregious conduct is severely undermining the local electoral process."
The filing also claims the respondents' actions violate Maloney's freedom of speech and that the removal of political signs is "selective and punitive." It further stated the town created and enforced "new regulations that they bring forth from thin air to suit their own personal agenda."
Jim Sharpe, Democratic Party chairman, is named in an affidavit as part of the suit and Sept. 23, he filed a complaint with the Erie County Board of Elections. In his complaint, Sharpe said the sign removal was to subvert or undermine political parties and the electoral process because it was "broad, politically biased and selective" and done in a way "that intimidated candidates and voters."
During the public comment period at the Grand Island Town Board meeting Monday, Sept. 21, Nathan McMurray, candidate for town supervisor, asked who ordered the removal and Cooke said, "No one ordered it. It is code enforcement's job."
Roesch said he lost 25 signs himself. "I have no idea where they are," he said, adding it wasn't selective enforcement, but rather "Everybody's getting hit the same way."