MOSES LAKE – Congressional candidate Gavin Seim refuses to accept a Moses Lake agreement to maintain the signs he places on public property.
The candidate called it a violation of his First Amendment rights to be forced to sign the agreement.
City Manager Joe Gavinski said it is how the city protects the public’s property.
The disagreement started after Moses Lake code enforcement officials noticed Seim’s signs were placed on city property at popular intersections. City policy requires candidates placing signs in the areas to sign an agreement to maintain them.
The city allows candidates to use six areas to place political signs, including the intersection of West Broadway Avenue and Third Avenue, the Five Corners intersection and the area near West Broadway Avenue and East Broadway Avenue Extended.
The agreement states the candidate is responsible for any damage to the irrigation system. The candidate can only place one sign per location, can’t have a sign larger than 16 square feet or more than 5 feet tall. The signs can only be at the location for 30 days prior to an election and they need to be removed five days after the election.
The policy does not affect signs in front of people’s homes and businesses.
The code enforcement officials removed Seim’s signs because he didn't sign the agreement, Gavinski said. They were brought to city hall for the candidate to pick up.
Seim accused the city officials of targeting him because they don’t agree with his political message.
“They just pulled this out of their hat,” he said. “We don’t ask for permission for free speech. We don’t ask for permission for our rights.”
Gavinski said he had 12 agreements signed by other candidates.
The city council adopted the policy in 2009.
“It all started several years ago,” Gavinski said. “The city was dealing with a plethora of signs … We had a conversation about prohibiting them all together … The council came up with this policy. Then there was a revision to that agreement … The policy has been considered at least twice by the city council going back several years.”
Seim came into city hall to get his signs on Friday. The candidate and city officials give different accounts of what occurred.
Seim said when he came in he was recording. When the city officials told him they didn’t want to be recorded, Seim didn’t stop. The city manager and the clerk reportedly refused to continue speaking with him.
Gavinski said they explained the situation to Seim and he didn’t want to sign the agreement.
Police Capt. Dave Sands agreed Gavinski spoke with Seim. The candidate refused to leave an “area not generally open to the public,” and an officer asked Seim to leave.
The captain explained any area beyond the lobby is not open to the public.
“He hadn’t listened to Gavinski or the secretary and was told to leave … (The officer) was sent over to defuse the situation and talk to Mr. Seim about how it would be good to leave,” Sands said. “He eventually left so there is no report to send to the prosecutors.”
Seim’s supporters put the signs back out during the weekend, and city officials removed them again.
The candidate said he won’t sign the agreement and will continue to put the signs out, calling the policy “lawlessness.”
“We filed an official report with the sheriff’s office for destruction of property,” he said. “We will not be asking for permission. We will be making sure that we’re doing it in a way that’s unobtrusive and safe to the best of our ability.”
CORRECTION: The city council adopted a policy in 2009 to require an agreement to be signed for placement of any signs on city property. iFIBER One News had incorrectly listed the policy as being part of an ordinance. We apologize for the confusion and regret the error.