It’s a sure sign of election season on Longboat Key:
Commission candidates put up signs, and some of those signs disappear. It happens every year.
Commission candidates Larry Grossman and Gene Jaleski reported on the disappearance of at least 10 of their signs during the public comments section of the Monday, March 4 Longboat Key Town Commission meeting.
“We feel aggrieved, and we feel we have to get to the bottom of what’s going on,” Jaleski said.
Jaleski said before the Longboat Observer/Longboat Key Public Interest Committee candidate forum in February, Vice Mayor David Brenner handed him two of his signs and said they were on private property and the property owner didn’t give him permission to place them there.
Later, Jaleski discovered Brenner took them from the outskirts of the Lido Shores neighborhood, within city of Sarasota limits. Jaleski said he may file a police report against Brenner, but hadn’t done so as of press time. Brenner, though, told the Longboat Observer he received permission from a Lido Shores property owner to place campaign signs for his fellow commissioners on the outskirts of the neighborhood and that the property where the signs were placed is private.
“I’m going to object to this,” Gans said after hearing Jaleski’s complaint. “This is a political statement, and it happened in the city of Sarasota, if it happened at all. This has nothing to do with the town of Longboat Key, and my name being brought into it is unfair because I had nothing to do with it.”
“You’re out of line,” Jaleski said.
“You’re out of line, sir,” Gans said.
Gans asked for a ruling on the appropriateness of what was happening before Mayor Jim Brown, whom Grossman is challenging, banged his gavel.
“Gene’s got his three minutes … and you’ve got one minute of that left,” Brown said.
Jaleski said both he and Grossman contacted city code enforcement because their signs were removed, and they said they believed Gans’ signs were in the right of way, where it’s illegal to place signs.
Jaleski and Grossman showed photographs of Gans’ signs. According to Grossman, a city code-enforcement official couldn’t determine whether they were on public or private property.
“We’d like to know who took the signs and what happened after that,” Jaleski said, describing the removal as petit theft.
“You said they were handed to you by Commissioner Brenner, so they must be in your hands,” Brown said.
Jaleski protested, repeating that more than 10 of their signs were removed.
Brown said that at least 10 of his campaign signs have disappeared, too.
Meanwhile, at the end of the meeting, after Jaleski and Grossman had left, Brenner took advantage of his commissioner comments to tell those in attendance he spent more than an hour earlier in the day with a Florida Department of Transportation official and a city of Sarasota code officer to receive clarification.
After a stake was placed showing how far back the signs could be placed from the right of way, Brenner put four signs in the area.
“If it wasn’t clear earlier, the attack made by the two gentlemen who left was against me,” Brenner said. “I’m stubborn, and I’ve done my homework.”
Managing Editor Kurt Schultheis contributed to this story.
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