• November 28, 2014

Digital campaign signs raise concerns in Killeen races

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Posted: Sunday, April 20, 2014 4:30 am

Questions have been raised over some candidates seeking municipal office in Killeen being in compliance with state and city political campaign sign mandates; however, the city says they’re in the clear.

Mayoral candidates Scott Cosper and Harold “Hal” Butchart along with council at-large candidate Gary “Bubba” Purser Jr. have signs on digital billboards in the city.

Cosper and Purser’s sign is on a reader board at D&D Plaza, a private business, on Stan Schlueter Loop.

Although the city’s ordinance regarding political signs states that signs cannot be illuminated or have any moving elements, Deputy City Attorney Traci Briggs said Cosper and Purser are in compliance with the city’s standards. Butchart’s ad, on a digital billboard at the corner of W.S. Young Drive and Business Highway 190, is also in compliance with the city.

“Political advertising on billboards and digital billboards is allowed in Killeen,” Briggs said.

However, Section 31 of the city’s zoning ordinance, addressing political signs, stipulates that the sign must have an area no greater than 36 square feet, is no more than 8 feet in height, is not illuminated and has no moving elements.

The signs for Butchart, Cosper and Purser appear to violate several of those stipulations.

Hilary Shine, city spokeswoman, said the city’s code corresponds with state law.

“Political signs outside of (state-mandated) parameters are allowed to be regulated by cities,” she said. “But the city of Killeen does not.”

Shine did not elaborate on why the city elects to not regulate political signs as directed by city ordinance.

Mayoral candidate Richard “Dick” Young said, “Killeen has a clear political sign ordinance in Section 31 of the zoning ordinance for a reason. Killeen deserves a mayor who is a law maker not a law breaker. I choose to honor the city ordinances and state law. My signs have all required notices.”

Although the signs for Butchart, Cosper and Purser supposedly meet with city-approved regulations regarding the method of advertising, all three lack a disclosure statement required of all political ads by the Texas Ethics Commission.

“The person who causes the political advertising to be published, distributed or broadcast is responsible for including the disclosure statement,” the mandate states.

Disclosures are required to include the words “political advertising” or a recognizable abbreviation, the person who paid for the ad, the political committee authorizing the ad or the candidate or specific-purpose committee supporting the candidate.

The mandate also states that ads using the words “vote for” constitute “express advocacy,” which requires a disclosure.

Cosper said he is aware of the sign at D&D Plaza; however, he did not pay for the ad. The business owner decided to include the message of support without his prior knowledge.

“I am in the process of addressing that,” he said. “That is a private business owner and it’s on their on-site reader board. They chose to put that up, I guess to show support. It is not a paid advertisement.”

Cosper said he plans to either have the business take it down or add a disclosure statement.

“I absolutely want everything to be within the law,” Cosper said.

Purser did not return phone calls from the Herald. It’s unknown if the ad was paid for, however, according to his campaign finance report, he spent $4,792 at Dynamic Designs on “campaign literature.”

Butchart, who paid an advertising company for the billboard on which his ad appears, said he is aware the ad lacks the necessary disclosure statement and he is working to get it added.

Texas Ethics Commission was closed Friday and could not be reached for comment.

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