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Vote 'Yes' sign placement in Williamsburg sparks controversy


This sign, which was placed above the Office of Probation and Parole in Williamsburg, drew criticism from some who felt it was inappropriate.

A sign encouraging Williamsburg residents to "Vote Yes" for a proposal that would allow certain restaurants to sell alcohol within the city limits rankled some against the measure who are calling placement of the sign "inappropriate."

The lime green, 10-foot-long banner strung above the entryway to the Office of Probation and Parole says "Vote Yes For Restaurants March 20" and was placed there by the owner of Scissor's Edge Beauty Salon, located in the same building near the Probation and Parole office. The sign first appeared this past Saturday. Those responsible for putting it there said Tuesday afternoon they planned to move it to another location on U.S. 25 near the Williamsburg Post Office following numerous complaints over the issue.

Williamsburg voters will get to decide the fate of alcohol sales in the town during a special election on March 20.

Amanda Miller, a Williamsburg resident who is active in Citizens Against the Sale of Alcohol (CASA), a group formed to defeat the ballot initiative, said she thinks placement of the sign was unfortunate.

"You have people going in and out of there, many of whom have problems with alcohol addiction and so forth ... It just sends the wrong message," Miller said.

Pat Marple, Chairman of CASA, said he doesn't have any problem with the sign as long as it is legally placed. He notes that campaign signs cannot normally be placed on government property.

But the building used by the Office of Probation and Parole is leased from local resident Marvin Davenport who said he gave employees of Scissor's Edge permission to place the sign on his building. He added that the sign was most likely put where it is because an unused frame for a previous sign was already in that spot.

Davenport said he's heard some complaints about the sign.

"I'll call them and ask them to move it over or something or other, but I really don't care where they put it as far as that goes," Davenport said. "I'll mention it to them. If they move it ... well ... OK. If they don't, I really don't have a problem with it."

"You got a right to say yes just as much as you do to say no," Davenport added. "They are the state and the state gets money off liquor and stuff like that. You have to look at it that way."

A woman who claimed to be owner of Scissor's Edge admitted to placing the sign, but would not provide her identity to the News Journal during an interview Tuesday. She also referred any further questions to Williamsburg attorney Paul Croley.

Angie Ballou, an employee at the Probation and Parole Office, said she was opposed to the sign being where it is and wants people to know that no one from her office had anything to do with it's placement. She said people have been asking questions about the sign.

"We don't own the building," Ballou said. "We didn't put it up there. I think it's inappropriate myself."

Jason Hardwick, a District Supervisor for Probation and Parole whose office is based in Somerset, said he was aware of the issue.

"I knew it was there. That's about all I can tell you," Hardwick said. "We didn't put the sign there. It's not our sign ... I have sent this up our chain of command to our people above. I am sure they are hashing this out and taking the appropriate measures."

Whitley County Clerk Kay Schwartz said Tuesday that the sign was "not an election violation" even though she personally felt its location was "very inappropriate."

She said she had several complaints about the sign.

Emily Dennis, General Counsel for the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, said Registry statutes and regulations "do not govern placement of political signs" in such a location and called the issue a "landlord, tenant" situation.

Individuals responsible for placing the sign told the News Journal late Tuesday they decided to move it because Davenport was afraid it would imperil his lease arrangement with the Office of Probation and Parole if it remained.

 

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