An Appeals Court ruling nearly 20 years ago is still having an impact on lake-area municipalities.


An Appeals Court ruling nearly 20 years ago is still having an impact on lake-area municipalities.

The Lake Ozark Board of Aldermen recently agreed with a recommendation from its city attorney and removed a portion of its sign ordinance regulating political signs. City Attorney Roger Gibbons said the ordinance was too restrictive in establishing the “durational” limits on when political signs can be erected and removed.

His recommendation was based on an 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in 1995 that the city of Gladstone’s political sign ordinance was unconstitutional and violated a candidate’s First Amendment rights.

Larry Whitton sued Gladstone, near Kansas City. Whitton was running for sheriff in Clay County when Gladstone told him he had to take down his signs because of time limitations. The court of appeals ruled in favor of Whitton, saying the time limitation took away his freedom of speech.

Before it was repealed last month, Lake Ozark’s ordinance restricted sign placement to no more than 30 days in advance of an election and said signs had to be removed no more than seven days after the election.

Gibbons said there had been complaints this spring about political signs already erected in advance of the Aug. 7 primary election.

“The way our ordinance was written, had we been challenged, we would have lost,” the attorney said. “The city’s not in a position to be sued.”