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Portsmouth: Notice of violation doesn't target signs’ content

Allegations in Michael DiPaola’s federal court complaint are false and erroneous, town says

Posted 1/24/21

PORTSMOUTH — The Town of Portsmouth did not use its local sign ordinance to ban the posting of “political” signs by a local man on residential property, the town stated in a …

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Portsmouth: Notice of violation doesn't target signs’ content

Allegations in Michael DiPaola’s federal court complaint are false and erroneous, town says

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — The Town of Portsmouth did not use its local sign ordinance to ban the posting of “political” signs by a local man on residential property, the town stated in a press release Saturday.

The statement was in response to a federal lawsuit recently filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Rhode Island on behalf of Michael DiPaola, who erected several signs in front of a home at 184 Bristol Ferry Road that make several allegations of unfair treatment against him by town building officials.

After he had posted additional signs, Mr. DiPaola received a notice of violation, stating the placards violated the town’s sign ordinance. He was given seven days to remove the signs or face $500-a-day fine for each sign left standing.

The lawsuit argues that the zoning ordinance violates Mr. DiPaola’s free speech rights under the First Amendment.

On Saturday, however, the town issued a statement denying there was any intent to curb Mr. DiPaola’s free speech rights.

“Mr. DiPaola recently purchased a parcel of real estate at 184 Bristol Ferry Road, for investment and business purposes,” reads the statement, which was e-mailed by Town Solicitor Kevin Gavin. “Mr. DiPaola installed nine signs at this property, along Bristol Ferry Road, in blatant violation of the town’s sign ordinance. As a result, the town issued a notice of violation of the sign ordinance and directed Mr. DiPaola to remove the signs.”

According to the statement, the property is not Mr. DiPaola’s residence. 

“The signs that he posted are not ‘political’ signs. In no way was the notice of violation based on the content of the signs,” the statement continued. 

“The allegations of Mr. DiPaola’s federal court complaint are false and erroneous. His lawsuit has no merit and will be vigorously defended by the town. There will be no further comment on this pending litigation.”

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