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2002-10-08 County worker removes anti-tax signs; Leaves pro-tax signs

Leaves pro-tax signs undisturbed

Arthur G. Purves, President of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance (FCTA), reported today that a county worker was observed this morning removing FCTA "More taxes? Vote NO" signs that had been placed on Route 28.  However, the worker did not remove nearby pro-tax signs.

The FCTA signs had been posted yesterday by Mr. Eric DiDomenico.   While crossing Rt. 28 at Westfields Blvd. in a van this morning at 8:47 A.M., Mr. DiDomenico observed a county worker carrying an FCTA sign under his arm.  The worker, wearing an orange vest, was walking toward a white late-model pickup truck with a wood headboard behind the cab and a logo on the door.  Yellow lights were on the headboard.  Approximately four FCTA signs were already in the truck.  Pro-tax signs about 300 yards away from the FCTA signs were left standing.  The FCTA signs were not removed for mowing, because by the end of the day the grass was untouched.

Mr. DiDomenico was not driving the van and was unable to get the license number or read the logo on the truck door.  Mr. DiDomenico asked a friend to check the truck’s license, but five minutes later the truck had gone.

If the signs had been placed illegally, the FCTA could have been contacted since the sign permit number was printed on the sign, along with the FCTA name and website.  However, no contact has been made with the FCTA.  When asked about the incident, Merni Fitzgerald, Fairfax County Director of Public Affairs, stated nothing could be done without a license number and emphasized the fact the logo had not been verified as belonging to Fairfax County.  She stated that no one in the county had instructed that FCTA signs be taken down and pro-tax signs left standing.

Mr. Purves commented, "Whatever government branch he belonged to, the worker had no right to remove anti-tax signs while leaving pro-tax signs in place.  It is unsettling that government workers can violate First Amendment rights with impunity.  What is to prevent a government official from suggesting that anti-tax signs could be removed and pro-tax signs left standing?  Is government so big that it can no longer protect a citizen’s right to freedom of speech?"

Pro-tax supporters have stated they will spend over $2 million on their campaign.  The FCTA has spent about $5000 on its campaign to stop the sales tax, including $2000 for signs and stakes.  The FCTA does not know how many of its signs have been removed by government workers.