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Complaints spur sign removal

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

LEESBURG, Ga. -- Lee County Code Enforcement Officer Jim Wright wasn't making a political statement Thursday; he was just making sure local politicians and supporters followed county rules while making theirs.

Wright confiscated 22 political signs that were illegally placed in rights-of-way on county streets and roads, following up on orders from County Administrator Alan Ours to look for illegal sign placement.

Ours' order came after a complaint by Tim Nelson, the vice chair of the local Libertarian party.

"The biggest thing that concerns me is that they're talking about passing a new sign ordinance in Lee County, but they're not enforcing the one that's in place now," Nelson said. "The county could have been accused of supporting one political candidate over another by allowing certain signs to remain in the rights-of-way."

Wright confiscated 11 signs supporting County Commission District 3 candidate Lester Leggette and five others supporting his opponent, current Commission Chair Ed Duffy. He also got three signs of Republican U.S. House District 2 candidate Mike Keown and one of his primary opponent, Lee Ferrell. The other political sign confiscated supported Georgia Attorney General candidate Ken Hodges.

"(Leggette and Duffy) knew we were coming Thursday; Mr. Ours sent them a letter letting them know our intention to enforce the sign ordinance," Wright said Friday. "Most of the signs in the county are in compliance; we only found a few.

"We didn't get the opportunity, obviously, to check every single street in the county, but we covered a pretty good area. If we see others, we'll remove them. We've notified candidates that they can pick up their signs at Public Works."

Nelson, meanwhile, said Thursday's effort by Wright was "a good start."

"There are still plenty of signs out there," he said. "Mr. Wright could double the number he got Thursday by looking on Cedric and around Northampton."

Nelson sent an e-mail to County Zoning Administrator Marshall Wilcox complaining about signs on rights-of-way and said he was angry when Wilcox informed him that it could take up to "45 days to resolve non-essential complaints."

"By then, the (primary) election would have been over," Nelson said. "So I fired an e-mail back and told him I intended to inform the news media."

Nelson also threatened a lawsuit to stop the election.

"It wasn't just me," Nelson said. "Somebody complained to Mr. Ours, and I think when it reached his desk, that's when action was taken. (Commissioner) Rick Muggridge stayed on top of the situation after I talked with him, but I think Mr. Ours had a lot to do with something getting done."

Ours was out of his office Friday and could not be reached for comment.