WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Candidates have begun to campaign in earnest. Warner Robins council elections are just a few months away.
Where is it legal for them to put their signs?
It's a question that seems to come up (and cause confusion) every election cycle, and, for some, it draws out strong feelings.
"There are community beautification advocates that feel very strongly that governments ought to be far more proactive cleaning the roadways up," said Warner Robins attorney Jim Elliott.
Joseph Howard is one of them.
"The law is the law," he said. "People who are writing the laws should be following the laws, so political signs are a particular nuisance to me."
The law he's talking about dictates where signs -- including campaign signs -- can and cannot be placed in the International City.
"It's got be on privately-owned property with the permission of the owner," he said.
A frequent sticking point for some is the public right of way. Many believe they can post signs there.
Elliott says that's not the case.
"We don't allow that under our local ordinance, but more importantly, it's prohibited by state law," he said.
That means the right of way, typically the space between a utility pole and the road, is off-limits to signs of any type.
Howard has strong views on the subject and stands by them.
"I have been arrested," he said, "Handcuffed, put in the back of a van, and toted across town to jail."
According to an incident report, Howard was arrested by the Warner Robins Police Department in 2012 and charged with theft after he was caught picking up campaign signs placed in the right of way.
"I got arrested for cleaning up their litter," said of the people who placed those signs.
Elliott says across the state, the law isn't always strictly enforced.
"My observation across the state is that it's very rare for anybody to be charged criminally for violating that statute," he said.
However, Elliott says in Warner Robins, Code Enforcement works diligently to remove signs that are improperly placed. After they're removed, candidates can retrieve them from their office.
Elliott also willingly admits, in his view, Howard does have a point, but he doesn't recommend removing signs unilaterally.
"I think the safest thing for a citizen in that situation is to call whatever the local agency is that's responsible for that and make them aware of it," said Elliott.
In Warner Robins, that job falls to code enforcement. They can be reached at 478-302-5509.
According to documents provided by Joseph Howard, his charges were dismissed in 2012 soon after they were filed, but after his experience, when he now sees a sign that catches his eye, he just calls code enforcement.
While reporting this story, 13WMAZ noticed Warner Robins council candidates Miranda Britt and Charlie Bibb both had signs that appeared to be posted in the public right of way.
When reached by phone, Britt said she would remove any of her signs that violated the law.
Charlie Bibb said he wasn't aware any of his signs were illegally placed and promised to remove any that are.
One sign supporting Councilman Larry Curtis appeared to possibly be in the right of way. When reached by phone, he said he believed that sign was placed on private property. When asked, he said the property owner gave him permission to post it.
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