February 12, 2014 - For City Council member Mike Sabol, leadership sometimes means action. Last fall and summer action meant patrolling Clarkston streets and removing illegal signs.
Clarkston Mayor Joe Luginski, at right, makes a point while Councilmember Mike Sabol listens. Photo from villageofclarkston.org (click for larger version)
"For the record, it was me that took the signs down – I felt like I have the right," Sabol said at the Jan. 27 council meeting. "I didn't want the city to look like crap."
But Council member Sharon Catallo said some of those signs had permission, including signs for the Clarkston Farm and Garden Club's annual fall fund raiser.
"The problem I have is it was done by a member of the council so it makes it looks like it was a council decision," Catallo said. "You have to be so very careful when you are serving on the council when you are doing things like that."
Art Pappas, city manager at the time, gave the group a permanent green light to install the signs, Catallo added.
"They used to come every year and Art said to them, 'if you are not going to change anything, just put them up,'" said Catallo, adding the club has always removed the signs promptly after the event.
Sabol said he doesn't care what the old manager said and indulging in selective enforcement, like with signage, is not something the city should partake in.
"We either change the ordinance or say why are we here and why do we have laws," he said.
Sabol continued to defend his actions by saying the signs were in the right-of-way and one in front of a fire hydrant—all of which were wrong, he said. He added there are many other requirements, like insurance, that must be met to installing signs.
The city has a process in place regarding the issue, he said.
"This city right now looks absolutely beautiful with all the snowflakes and all the lights," he said, adding he does not get to see it much every day because he leaves so early for work.
But one morning, he took his wife to work and did not see any signs on the way. When he returned, the city was plastered.
"The city looked like crap, it looked terrible," he said.
City offices were closed and no one was around to address the problem, he said.
"I decided, yes I decided, to take them down," he said.
After deciding the signs had to go, Sabol said he walked city streets for three hours and yanked out about 21 signs from five different groups, including many from the Clarkston Farm and Garden Club.
Sabol said he also removed signs in the summertime, which City Manager Carol Eberhardt was aware of and since no one reprimanded him for his actions in summer, he thought nothing of removing more signs.
Sabol added the city manager asked for help and many people support his actions.
Sabol's wife, Kathy, speaking outside of public comment, said she was appalled certain council members took an oath and then breaks the rules.
Mayor Joe Luginski said the ordinance may need to be amended, but the discussion was closed with an agreement that organizations come before council for permission to install signage.
"We will make sure we follow the process of make a change," said Luginski.
Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.