Commissioners Exempt Themselves From Political Sign Laws
LABELLE, FL. -- In the months before the 2010 elections, the Hendry County Commissioners quietly changed the Hendry County sign ordinances to exempt themselves and other politicians from getting a sign permit for roadway advertising during campaigns.
All other signs in the county, including temporary signs, need permits except the category of official highways signs and directional signs. Before June, a sign permit was required for political signs, although ironically politicians, sworn to uphold the law, ignored the law.
The new sign ordinance doubles the previous number of days that signs are allowed and doubles the time for taking them down, after an election. And the ordinance eliminates any penalty for not taking them down.
On June 8, 2010 the Commissioners added a new ordinance, section 1-56-3, to the Hendry county code making political signs "exempt from regulation under this code."
Previously signs for politicians came under a temporary sign provision, requiring a permit, and the taking down of the sign within two weeks after an election. Failure to take down the signs formerly provided that "the county may remove and dispose of the signs and recover the costs of removal and disposal against the applicant.''
The former law also allowed political signs to be erected 60 days before an election. The new law allows 120 days before elections and that they be removed before 30 days, instead of the former two weeks, with no penalty now stated, for non-removal.
The only restriction of the new law is that signs may not be placed on county or state right of way.
The commissioners apparently changed the law after a meeting between, Vince Cautero and Lucretia Strickland, the Hendry Elections Supervisor.
Bob Bott, Hendry building official says that his office has taken down signs found along county and state right of ways, and the signs were delivered to the Florida Department of Transportation office in LaBelle. Large signs for Hendry commissioner Darrell Harris and Glades commissioner Donna Storter Long were spotted, Bott says, and he asked the commissioners to remove them.
When questioned about the requirement for permits, Bott had been evasive, only saying the county code had recently been changed and that he would enforce restrictions on signs on road rights of way. Although the new ordinance did away with the requirement for permits, Bott would not speak definitely on whether a permit was required anymore and said he would get back to us.
Bott noted about the new ordinance that ''no provision for size or permits for political signs were included, (but) there are other pertinent regulations in Hendry County Code of Ordinances e.g. corner visibility we enforce.''
Hendry's Building Official Chain of Command And Who Interprets Code
Although Bott is the county's head of Building and Zoning, and state licensed as a Building Code Administrator, Plans Examiner, and Inspector, he takes his orders from Vince Cautero, the county's planner, who is not licensed by the state. When questions arise about the code, it seems Bott gets his guidance and marching orders from Cautero, even though Cautero is not licensed as a building official.
Cautero does have certification from the American Planning Association as a planner. To become a certified planner, APA members must meet certain education and experience requirements and pass a written examination, given twice a year, in May and November. Cautero has been a member of the Association since 1986.