It wouldn’t be campaign season on Longboat Key without a political-sign dispute.
District 1 commission candidate Lee Pokoik refused to remove political signs he placed in front of County Club Shores entrances last month, at the request of town officials, because he said real-estate agents use the same entrances to place open-house signs there on the weekends.
“Why can a real-estate person put his or her sign in the median on Gulf of Mexico Drive and I can’t put my sign up?” Pokoik asked.
Pokoik, who has placed approximately 50 signs around town and has at least 50 more signs waiting for placement, only moved the signs out of the Gulf of Mexico Drive median near Country Club Shores after assistant town attorney Kelley Martinson was forced to make a ruling on the dispute Dec. 30.
Wrote Martinson: “Political signs are exempt from the town’s sign permitting requirements but are subject to certain restrictions. For instance, political signs can be placed on private property, but not within street rights of way and cannot exceed two per lot, parcel or tract. As the medians are public property within street rights of way, it is my opinion that political signs cannot be placed in the medians of Country Club Shores.”
Open-house signs are permitted, Martinson said, because they are temporary signs that require a town permit. Open-house signs can only be placed one hour prior to when the house is open for public viewing until one hour after the house is closed. Unlike political signs, Martinson said the sign code does not restrict them to private property and specifically allows them to be placed, temporarily, at an intersection.
Pokoik disagrees with the ruling, but placed the signs onto private property after receiving permission from the property owners to do so.
Said Pokoik: “Obviously, the sign code needs to be revisited.”
However, another issue has arisen regarding the placement of signs on private property.
Pokoik has several signs on vacant Key parcels for sale in Country Club Shores and throughout the island.
Fellow District 1 commission candidate Lynn Larson, who is running for the seat along with Mayor Lee Rothenberg, said many of the signs are on properties in Unit IV of Country Club Shores without permission.
Larson, the president of Unit IV, said that when she placed some of her 120 signs in her neighborhood, the decision was questioned by a resident who reminded her that the Unit IV board must OK signs other than real-estate signs that are placed in the yards.
That’s because Unit IV has stricter regulations than other sections of Country Club Shores.
For instance, Pokoik, the president of Country Club Shores Unit V, said his unit did away with covenant restrictions years ago.
“I would be thrilled to put my signs up where they are allowed or legal,” Larson said. “But I’m not going to put them on private property without permission.”
For now, Larson said she has removed any signs she had previously placed in her community.
“I’m sitting here with a box of signs,” Larson said. “But I’m not interested in breaking the rules.”
Pokoik, however, said he has not broken any rules.
“I have permission from property owners and real-estate agents to place my signs where they are at,” Pokoik said. “In fact, the residents of Country Club Shores are asking me for signs.”
The first issue with Pokoik’s signs arose Dec. 17, when Town Clerk Trish Granger informed Pokoik that his signs did not include the correct language required by state election laws.
Pokoik fixed the errors by scratching out words and adding words with a black magic marker to all of his signs.
Although Granger said a Dec. 29 meeting about political signs went well and was attended by almost all candidates from each contested seat, there was one candidate absent from the meeting — Pokoik.
Said Pokoik: “I know the rules. There was no need for me to attend the meeting.”
Anonymous sources have dropped off at the The Longboat Observer office and e-mailed copies of news articles showing that Lee Pokoik, a Town Commission candidate in District 1, was sued for alleged sexual harassment and race discrimination in New York years ago.
In 1994, a black man alleged that owners of an Upper East Side apartment building in New York City, which included Pokoik, would not rent him an apartment without a financial guarantor, even though he claimed his income was more than adequate. In May 1997, federal prosecutors revealed that the owners agreed to pay a $15,000 settlement.
And in March 2002, Pokoik’s former office manager at his New York real-estate management firm alleged in a sexual harassment lawsuit that Pokoik denied her a request for a raise, countering with an offer to pay for breast implants. The woman also claimed Pokoik made lewd comments and touched her in an inappropriate manner.
Said Pokoik: “I fired somebody and they claimed sexual harassment. The whole case disappeared and I was never found guilty of any sexual misconduct. The allegations were unfounded.”
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].