UPDATED: Campaign sign 'permission slips' up in the air

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

Score another one for sunlight. 

When Southwest Ranches sent out code notices to property owners threatening to fine property owners who put up campaign yard signs without town permission, we made a little trip to council meeting on Thursday night. 

Town Attorney Keith Poliakoff hustled away from the camera -- but Southwest Ranches has already stopped forcing folks to fill out permission slips when they want to practice a little free speech.

Town Administrator Andy Berns told me that if a complaint is filed about a yard sign in the future, the homeowner will need only to give verbal confirmation to the town that they have given their consent, with no written permission slip required.

The issue came to a boil when supporters of Mayor Jeff Nelson filed complaints against supporters of his opponent, Holly Hugdahl, alleging they weren't getting the go-ahead from the city for their yard signs. At least one Hugdahl supporter, Lily Sayre, was sent a notice of violation from the city and threatened with fines if she didn't fill out a form. 

I'd never heard of such a practice, and it was made worse by the fact that the permission slips required residents to fill in the name of the candidate they were supporting. Understand that Southwest Ranches is a very rough little political town where revenge is often served piping hot. Leaving such information in a public record would not only chill political action but also possibly lead to harassment. Watch the video above to get an idea of the tenor of the political discourse in SWR. 

But Hugdahl said she's learned the town has already stopped requiring the permission slips -- so her supporters are safe from code enforcement fines for now. It's no time for town residents to rest easy, though -- when a government pulls stunts like this one when no one is watching, you never know what else its got up its sleeve. Here's a guarantee: There's more news coming out of the Ranches soon. 

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