Trillo could face thousands in fines due to oversized campaign sign


NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WPRI) — Independent candidate for Rhode Island governor Joe Trillo is facing thousands of dollars in fines from the town of Narragansett after refusing to remove a large campaign billboard from the front yard of his sister’s home.

Brenda Trillo Trust has an 8-by-24 sign supporting her brother in the front yard of her Ocean Road home.

Narragansett Town Manager James Manni said the town’s building inspector issued a summons on July 3, asking her to remove the sign from her front yard.

Upon receiving the summons, Manni said Trillo’s sister initially said the sign would be taken down, but when it wasn’t, she directed the town to contact the Trillo campaign.

Manni said the sign is in violation of a couple of town ordinances. Not only is it too large, according to Manni, the private residential property also sits in a public property zoning district. The town does not allow election signs to be placed on public property.

Trillo said the reason his sister’s home is in a public property zoning district is because their father owned Olivo’s Beach, which is where the property is located. In 1984, Trillo said his father sold the property to the state, which in turn made the beachfront home public property as well.

“The zoning was never changed,” Trillo said. “My argument would be that she should have all the rights and privileges of a public zone, which doesn’t limit any size to signs.”

Trillo said hopes to work with the town to change the zoning ordinance to allow his sister to put political signs on her property.

“What happens is, if you’re running within a town like Narragansett and you don’t challenge the sign ordinance, you don’t want to ruffle the feathers of the town, then they just keep rolling over people and the people just take it,” Trillo said. “I don’t have a problem ruffling feathers.”

Manni said Trillo is facing thousands of dollars in fines since the summons was issued. The town can fine the campaign up to $500 a day the sign is up.

A hearing on the violation scheduled for Thursday was continued until Aug. 23, with Trillo denying the town’s claims. If the fines are upheld by the town, the campaign could face more than $20,000 in fines by the continued hearing date.

Trillo said while he may replace the sign with a smaller version, he said he plans to keep a sign on the property until a decision is made.

“If I take the sign down, I let the government rule over the people, and that’s not my personality,” Trillo said. “This is what I do, I fight for people. In this case, I’m fighting for my rights and my sisters rights to have a political sign.”

Manni said Trillo was treated like anyone in town who violates and ordinance.

“The ordinance is very clear, that is the law in Narragansett,” Manni said. “We enforce it to keep the beauty of the town.”

Trillo said he doesn’t blame the town, but he now suspects the complaint may be politically motivated.

“I’m not saying it’s necessarily the town as much as it might be one or two individuals that are working for my opponents,” Trillo said.

Trillo said while he may replace the sign with a smaller version, he said he plans to keep a sign on the property until a decision is made.

“If we have to, we will take this to the Supreme Court,” Trillo said. “It’s a constitutional right that she has to keep a sign there.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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