HOLMES BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – Political season is heating up in Manatee County with the August primary election fast-approaching, and District 6 commission candidates Carol Whitmore and Jason Bearden are at odds over campaign signs posted in the small island community of Holmes Beach.
Earlier this month, current Commissioner Whitmore removed three of Bearden’s signs from public and private properties around the city and brought them to the police department. During a news conference outside city hall, the elected official explained Bearden’s yard signs were posted illegally.
“She did this because she used to be a commissioner and mayor out here and knew our rules were that 45 days before the election is when you can start putting up the signs,” Holmes Beach Police Chief William Tokajer said.
The city sign ordinance states, “no political sign may be erected earlier than 45 days prior to an upcoming election, and all such signs shall be treated as temporary signs and shall be removed within 48 hours after the election.”
A police report shows Bearden and his campaign manager told authorities the city ordinance is “unconstitutional.” The report states the police chief made contact with the city attorney who “did agree the way the current ordinance read needed to be changed.”
During her news conference Wednesday, Whitmore referenced the ordinance saying “to this day, right now, this very minute, it is still in effect.”
“Politicians aren’t code officers, so why is she going around picking up signs? That is very, very unethical in my opinion,” said Bearden. “Stealing is stealing, regardless of who is doing it. Whether they are citizens or elected officials, there should be accountability across the board for all people.”
In a written statement to Holmes Beach Police dated June 22, Bearden wrote, “I’m very upset that she had stolen my signs and I would like to press charges against Carol Whitmore for obtaining and stealing my signs immediately”.
No charges have been filed against Whitmore.
The police department filed a report Wednesday. The police chief says it has been forwarded it to the State Attorney’s Office for review.