NEW PALESTINE — Southern Hancock School Board candidate Larry Lee has been called out for a common rookie mistake: posting illegal signs.
The first-time candidate who’s been a vocal critic of the school board has been asked to appear before the Hancock County Election Board on Thursday because his yard signs didn’t include a small-print disclaimer that’s required by law.
His opponent’s husband filed an official complaint with the election board on Oct. 10.
It’s created yet another touchy issue between Lee and incumbent Barbara Snyder, who have clashed over board policies and the performance of Superintendent Jim Halik.
In the complaint, Snyder’s husband, Daniel Snyder, who is also treasurer of his wife’s campaign, accuses Lee of failing to display a disclaimer that identifies who paid for certain political material, a violation of Indiana Code 3-9-3-1.
While Lee has acknowledged the mistake to the election board and formally apologized, he’ll still have to appear for the hearing. The meeting will be at 10 a.m. at the Hancock County Courthouse.
“The board must discuss this in a public forum,” said Hancock County Clerk Marcia Moore, who supervises elections. “Even if the board should decide to dismiss or cancel the case, we have to do that as a public board together.”
According to the code, all candidates must print the disclaimer on literature and other campaign materials if the material clearly identifies a candidate for office and expressly advocates the election or defeat of a candidate.
Barb Snyder’s political signs carry a disclaimer. But that is not the case for other school board candidates throughout the county, a spot check of yard signs Tuesday shows.
Of the four Eastern Hancock candidates running for school board, two of them, Neil Floyd and Jim Jackson, do not have disclaimers on their political yard signs.
A yard sign promoting Greenfield-Central School Board candidate Kathy Dowling also did not include a disclaimer.
Lee said he immediately pulled the signs as soon as he learned of the error and was surprised that Snyder’s camp would make a formal complaint over the missing line of text.
“Despite the tax referendum and poor performance of our board members, I am beginning to understand why the other two seats were not challenged,” Lee said.
Neither Barbara nor Daniel Snyder wanted to comment on the issue until after the Thursday hearing.
In addition to requesting Lee to remove all illegal signs, Daniel Snyder has asked for the board to refer the complaint to the county prosecutor.
According to state code, an individual, an organization, or a committee that circulates or publishes material in an election without the disclaimer statement required under IC-3-9-3-2.5 commits a Class A misdemeanor. The penalty of a Class A misdemeanor is punishable with a fine up to $5,000 or one year in jail or both. Such cases, however, are rarely prosecuted.
Lee maintains it was just a simple mistake, one for which he was not responsible.
“My sign maker shipped my original signs without the disclaimer that I ordered, and I didn’t notice until Snyder filed a complaint,” Lee said.
Lee said he received an apology from the sign maker for the mistake and received 100 new signs with the disclaimer and 200 labels to stick on the old signs.
“I have the old signs in my garage and have already attached the new stickers, and they are compliant and ready to re-deploy,” he said.