Campaign signs for Joe Ayoub were mistakenly spread around town prior to the 90-day pre-election window such signage is allowed, according to Safety Harbor mayoral candidate Ayoub. (Joe Ayoub/Facebook)
The calendar still says November, but in the city of Safety Harbor, it might as well be March.
Two well-known local political figures—current City Commissioner Janet Hooper and former mayor and commissioner Joe Ayoub—have declared their intentions to run for mayor of Safety Harbor in the municipal election on March 14, 2017.
But before the last Thanksgiving-leftover plate has been digested and the bruises from Black Friday have fully healed, the first skirmish of the campaign season has already hit, after Ayoub’s campaign signs were spotted around town over the Thanksgiving holiday, well in advance of the 90-day pre-election window such signage is allowed.
Hooper and many others cried foul, as campaign signs cannot go up until December 14, three months prior to Election Day, according to changes made to the city’s sign code over the summer.
Former Safety Harbor mayor and City Commissioner Joe Ayoub recently announced he is running for mayor again in 2017.
But Ayoub said it was an honest mistake, since the code change was not included in the packet of information all potential candidates receive.
“When I picked up my packet, it gives you the rules for the election, and all it says is you can’t have the signs up seven days after the election,” Ayoub told Safety Harbor Connect by phone earlier this week.
“For years its always been allowed that you could put them out whenever you wanted to. Then several months ago, the City Commission drafted an ordinance that changed the rules. But the change wasn’t in the packet I picked up.”
City officials confirmed the amended code was left out of the initial run of packets.
Ayoub said he moved to remove the signs as soon as he was made aware of the situation.
“As soon as I got notified by City Hall, I posted a message on my Facebook page asking people to please take the signs down,” he said, noting he was out of town for the holiday and could not immediately remove any of the signs himself. “I acted in good faith. I followed the rules to the best of my knowledge.”
For her part, Hooper said she did not file a complaint with code enforcement regarding the signs, as had been rumored, but she believes all candidates should have to abide by the same rules.
Current Safety Harbor City Commissioner Janet Hooper has declared her intention to run for mayor in 2017, although she has not made an official announcement yet.
“I received two emails from the City Clerk outlining the rules and regulations for signage,” Hooper said via email. “Campaign signs are allowed 90 days before the election which is December 14th. I follow the rules as that makes it fair to everyone.”
“I was told that a candidate accused me of filing a code enforcement complaint against him. I did not file any such complaint,” she continued. “Some people probably did choose to contact code enforcement; I did not and, as a normal practice as a Commissioner, I do not file on behalf of residents with complaints.”
Ayoub said he issued an apology to Hooper through his Facebook campaign page, and he is looking to put the issue behind him.
“As this issue is becoming a distraction I would like to apologize to Commissioner Janet Hooper for any confusion this may have caused,” Ayoub’s post stated. “My intent is to run a positive campaign while staying focused on my vision for the city.”
Other candidates who have announced their intentions to run in next year’s election include two contenders for Seat #4, incumbent Carlos Diaz and newcomer Cameron Boozarjomehri. Two others have picked up packets but have not announced an intention to run.
The candidate qualifying period begins after noon on Friday, January 3 and runs until before noon on Friday, January, 10.
While Hooper hasn’t made an official announcement regarding her candidacy, as a current commissioner she has until 10 days prior to the start of the qualifying period to resign her seat, per Florida State Statute 99.012.
The resignation is irrevocable and must be must be effective no later than the date the new commission takes office, per the statute.
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