Ever since sweeping into office in January, our fearless all-Republican Board of Supervisors made it clear they had no interest in enforcing the law that prohibits the posting of advertising signs on roadsides. Now the Blue Ridge Leader reports that our local GOP bosses have taken their “business friendly” policy one step further—by filing criminal charges against a Purcellville couple for removing illegal signs from the public right of way on East Main Street.
As one of their first official acts, the supervisors did away with the county’s official volunteer sign cleanup program; at that time several of the supervisors actively vilified those citizen-volunteers who had devoted hundreds of hours of their time to fighting this blight and cheap eyesore on our county. Ken Reid, (R-Leesburg) termed them “sign vigilantes”, and offered lots of sympathy to the real estate developers and other scofflaws who now continue to pollute the roadways with a deluge of their trashy signs every week.
Never mind that placing these signs is flatly illegal, or that Virginia statute provides for a $100 fine per occurrence against violators, and empowers localities to prosecute violators under the public nuisance law and seek equitable relief from a court — i.e., a restraining order on the offenders — as well as fines of up to $25,000.
Several years I wrote to our very partisan Republican commonwealth’s attorney Jim Plowman requesting that he take action against the repeat offenders of this law. I got in reply a remarkably snotty letter stating that in his view there were “other” ways to deal with the problem of illegal signs and that his office had better things to do.
Now apparently Plowman has decided that this issue does merit his office’s attention—by siding with the violators and harassing citizens who deign to clean up this litter. Acting on a complaint by the aggrieved Purcellville businessman (who goes by the improbable name of Magic “Dane” Kayhan), Plowman’s office issued arrest warrants and are charging the couple with trespassing and misdemeanor larceny, both offenses that carry up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
Even if these dangerous cleanup desperados had strayed onto private property to remove the signs advertising “cage fighting” and other such worthy ventures—and they adamantly deny they did so—you might think they would have been charged with, say, destruction of property rather than larceny. (Trespassing is an even more remarkable charge to bring against someone whose offense consisted of being in a public area outside a place of business.)
It’s high time Loudoun citizens rose up to stop this nonsense, which is now advancing from failure to enforce the law to outright abuse of the law by our elected officials.
Under Virginia statute, placing illegal signs in the roadway is defined as a both a public and a private nuisance. Virginia statute also provides the following mechanism to get the law enforced if, just for example, your local prosecutor is a corrupt partisan scumbag with a long record of harassing political enemies and waging vendettas against innocent citizens:
§ 48-1. Investigation of complaint by special grand jury. When complaint is made to the circuit court of any county, or the corporation court of any city of this Commonwealth, by five or more citizens of any county, city or town, setting forth the existence of a public or common nuisance, the court, or the judge thereof in vacation, shall summon a special grand jury, in the mode provided by law, to the next term of such court, to specially investigate such complaint.
Let’s start gathering the evidence and petitioning the court to call special grand juries every term until the sleazeballs who are now breaking the law with impunity with their illegal signs find there is a price to pay after all—regardless of how many Republican friends they have in high office.
All it takes is a digital camera, and five citizens.