Judge strikes down Hamilton County's restrictions on road signs

April 12, 2018

A judge has struck down a central Indiana county's sign ordinance and says that the restrictions created a chilling effect on free speech.

Wednesday's ruling about Hamilton County's sign ordinance by Hamilton Superior Court 3 Judge William Hughes followed hearings on the issue, The Indianapolis Star reported.

The order nullifies an ordinance that county commissioners passed Feb. 12 and updated April 3. The commissioners sought to ban signs in unincorporated areas they control, largely targeting signs along roads. Signs from candidates and real estate sales were among those affected.

County council candidate Rick Sharp and his attorney, Tim Stoesz, filed the lawsuit, saying it violated political free speech.

Commissioner Steve Dillinger said it's unlikely the county would appeal the decision. He said a new ordinance might be proposed later.

Campaign signs created controversy in Hamilton County during the 2016 primary elections when Fall Creek Township Trustee Jeff Hern, who was running for an at-large council seat, was accused of stealing incumbent Rick McKinney’s campaign signs throughout Fishers. McKinney and Hern both won four-year terms in at-large seats in the election.

Hern later admitted to criminal mischief and agreed to pay McKinney $891 for the cost of the campaign signs. He also had to send McKinney a letter of apology as part of a pleas agreement. Hern later said he didn't steal the signs and made the plea to avoid thousands of dollars in court costs. He was censured by the council.




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