Is the man wanting to be sheriff breaking the law?
By LeaAnne Klentzman and B.K. Carter
A sheriff’s deputy who is a candidate for sheriff in 2012 recently received a warning from TxDOT about his political signs, and is choosing to ignore the law quoted to him.
For over a year political signs have been cropping up across the west side of Fort Bend County for the chief deputy who is vying for the office of Sheriff. His political signs have come in many forms, posters advertising his fund raisers, magnetic signs on supporter’s cars, giant billboards dotting the Westside side highways, and the unbitquiticis 4×8 plastic political sign.
The chief deputy’s signs first came to the forefront last year when his political signs were photographed on his county-issued car while it was parked in the driveway of his Richmond home. His neighbors photographed the incident and then ended up having their trash gone through by another deputy. One can only surmise the trash incident was an effort to get something on them. This latest flap has come in response to complaints filed with the Texas Department of Transportation over the plastic 4×8 political signs placed on properties along FM roads and state highways.
In a letter dated June 22, 2011 addressed to Craig Brady at his Richmond campaign address, a TxDot official tells the sheriff’s candidate, who advertises on his billboards that he is “uniquely qualified to continue to run the Sheriff’s office,” that he is in violation of the Texas Transportation Code and the Texas Administrative Code. The June 22, 2011 letter explicitly states the codes and rules for posting political signs.
According to the letter, any candidate wishing to erect and maintain campaign signs may only do so if they meet the requirements set by the Texas Administrative Code, which included the stipulation that the signs must be on private property, can only be erected no sooner than the 90th day before the election and removed no later than the 10th day after the election, is constructed of lightweight material and the surface area of the sign is not larger than 50 square feet.
The letter also states that: A person commits an offense if the person wilfully violates a rule adopted by the commission under this chapter; an offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $500 or more than $1,000, and each day of a rule violation is a separate offense. Something of concern to property owners is that they are responsible for the payment of the fine, not the candidate.
In a follow-up calls to TxDot on Tuesday morning, TxDot officials indicated that candidate Brady did not agree with their (TxDot’s) interpretation of state codes. But, that official said they stand firm on their actions; the signs must come down until 90 days prior to the 2012 election. Fort Bend County Attorney Roy Cordes said the principle authority to enforce state codes lies with the Texas Attorney General. However, according to TxDot officials, this code is mandated by state and federal law and failure to comply could result in a loss of 10% of state and federal funding to Fort Bend County. This is sometimes called “passing the buck.”
Candidate Brady did not return an inquiry call.