City workers have ticketed the campaign of Democratic mayoral candidate Andrey Bundley 79 times for raising illegal signs, but cited Mayor Martin O'Malley only twice, prompting accusations of politically motivated enforcement.
Officials say the city hands out citations - which carry fines of at least $100 each - based solely on the law. They point to a large number of Bundley stickers posted improperly on public utility poles.
"It doesn't matter who it is. If a candidate or somebody else has an illegal sign up, the enforcement officers will write them up and take the signs down," said Kurt Kocher, Public Works Department spokesman.
Bundley, who will face O'Malley in the Sept. 9 mayoral primary, said he found it suspicious that incumbents O'Malley and City Council President Sheila Dixon would avoid penalties while challengers are fined.
Dixon's campaign has not been ticketed for illegal signs, while that of her challenger, city Councilwoman Catherine Pugh, has received 14 tickets, according to the Public Works Department.
"There is a lack of parity in terms of sign enforcement," said Bundley, principal of Walbrook High School. "The mayor understands that he has not done what he should have, and that his mandate is disintegrating before his eyes, and now he's becoming desperate."
A Sun reporter saw at least a dozen illegal Bundley signs on utility poles along North, Park Heights and Cedonia avenues during the weekend.
Bundley said the city never told him that volunteers couldn't place signs on utility poles. The law also prohibits signs on public property, median strips, trees owned by the city and any place that would obstruct the views of drivers or pedestrians.
Kocher said all candidates received booklets outlining the rules when they registered with the elections board. The city's Transportation Department also sent three memos to candidates outlining sign regulations, Kocher said.
Bundley said the elections board sent him his regulation booklet last week, more than two months after he registered as a candidate.
Pugh said the Public Works Department was wrong to accuse her campaign volunteers of raising illegal signs.
She said a public works employee broke the law when he improperly tore down a Pugh sign from the wall of a car dealership on Monument Street in East Baltimore whose owner wanted the sign.
Pugh said the worker apologized to her after she confronted him about it.
"I know that every sign we've put up is legal and has been requested," Pugh said. "I also know that we've gotten an apology from a city worker who went onto private property and took down signs improperly."
Kocher said he had not heard of the incident and that it sounded like an accident.
Two other candidates said they were never informed that the city was issuing their campaigns citations for improper signs.
The city wrote eight citations to the campaign of Benjamin A. Neil, an attorney who is running as a Democrat for a 1st District City Council seat. Neil said he had heard nothing about the citations, adding that all his signs were legal and proper.
"I suggest they stay out of 1st District politics," Neil said of the Public Works Department.
Kocher said the department - which has seven sanitation enforcement officers looking for illegal signs - has been policing campaign signs for years and that this year's effort is no different from those of the past.