Upper Arlington city officials have responded to the ACLU of Ohio's recent letter to the city, stating it is "deeply concerned" by the city's recent removal of political-interest signs from the community.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio this week sent a letter to the city of Upper Arlington, saying it is "deeply concerned" by the city's recent removal of political-interest signs from the community.
The ACLU sent a letter Aug. 10 to Upper Arlington City Attorney Jeanine Hummer regarding the removal of signs from public rights of way and private properties July 27 and 28.
"It has come to the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio that the city of Upper Arlington recently began removing signs critical of the city from public rights of way, as well as private residential property, without providing notice to residents," stated the letter signed by ACLU of Ohio legal director Freda Levenson and ACLU staff attorney Drew Dennis. "We are deeply concerned with the city's actions."
Representatives of Save UA 911, a group opposed to the city's plans to eliminate Upper Arlington's in-house 911 dispatching center and have the services taken over by the city of Columbus, said 200 to 250 of their signs were taken July 27 and 28. They also said they were able to reclaim no more than 25.
Upper Arlington Assistant City Manager Dan Ralley last week said a total of only 18 to 30 signs from Save UA 911 and groups such as Preserve Fancyburg Park were collected as the city sought to enforce its ordinance against signs in public rights of way.
He said they later were returned to residents, and no groups were targeted because of the political positions of their signs.
The ACLU letter to the city said Upper Arlington violated its ordinances by removing signs from private properties and denied due process by not notifying residents or groups whose signs didn't comply with city code.
The organization also requested a number of public records related to city workers' and residents' communications regarding the removal of the signs.
"The removal of these signs is troubling," the ACLU letter stated.
Upper Arlington Community Affairs Director Emma Speight issued a written statement Tuesday, Aug. 11, confirming that the city attorney's office had received a public records request from the ACLU and reiterating that city workers had confiscated around 30 signs.
"The city believes that its employees did not violate the city¹s ordinance pertaining to the removal of illegally placed signs," Speight said.
"Approximately 30 signs were removed as a crew of Public Service workers returned from a regular workday assignment in Upper Arlington to their base at the city¹s Roberts Road facility," she added. "The city does not discriminate based on the content of signs and those removed were taken solely as a result of their locations in the city right of way.
"These signs were returned to two residents affiliated with the two groups that had purchased and distributed the signs that same afternoon. Since all the signs removed by city workers were subsequently collected by these two residents it was not considered necessary to send out a notification to property owners whose signs had been removed."
Speight said the city attorney's office "is in the process of determining what materials are required in order to fully comply with the public records request, and has every intention of doing so in a timely manner."