A dilapidated former theater in the Baltimore's Park Heights section has once again become the subject of a political controversy, this time over accusations that campaign leaders for a Democratic candidate for governor violated city law by hanging campaign signs on the marquee.
The former Avalon Theater at 4312 Park Heights Ave. contained three giant blue and red marquee signs supporting Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann for governor. However, the vacant property is deeded to the Mayor and City Council, making the property public and the hanging of political signs prohibited.
Stanley E. Sugarman, a broker with Homewood Realty Inc., took a picture of the sign and sent it to State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, questioning the legality of political posters on city property.
City Code prohibits the posting of political signs on public property. If a candidate is found in violation of the law, the campaign chairman and treasurer could face a misdemeanor charge and a penalty not to exceed $500.
"Damn," said Larry Gibson. Rehrmann's campaign manager, when told of the signs. "Whether the building is owned by the city or not, I wouldn't want the signs on that building."
The signs were likely left over from two weeks ago when Gibson ZTC plastered the neighborhood near Pimlico Race Course with Rehrmann signs during the running of the Preakness. Most of the signs were removed, Gibson said.
He said he had no knowledge that campaign workers placed the signs on the theater and promised to remove them. "Sometimes it's appropriate, and sometimes it's not," Gibson said. "When it's not, you take it down."
Under the City Code, the sign violation is to be reported to the Department of Public Works, which must remove the signs and send the candidate the bill. But a spokesman said his office has received no reports of a political sign violation at the theater.
Likewise, a spokeswoman for the State's Attorney office said she has not reviewed Sugarman's letter and photograph, which was taken and sent May 28.
Gibson is familiar with the building. Two years ago, a similar controversy embroiled Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke when he placed campaign signs on the blighted property that read "Mayor Schmoke Makes Us Proud."
Schmoke and his campaign, managed by Gibson, was ridiculed for the putting political signs on a dilapidated building.
Asked whether the city had any intention of prosecuting the Rehrmann campaign for the sign violation, Clint Coleman, the mayor's spokesman, said: "Not if he takes it down."
Pub Date: 6/04/98