The Northeast Democrats of Mercer County and the Great Stoneboro Fair Board reached a settlement in court Wednesday that, once signed, will put an end to a political dispute over a billboard.
The agreement requires the fair board to fork over $500 to the Dems. That’s the price the group paid to rent a billboard outside the fairgrounds to tout Democratic congressional candidate Missa Eaton in her quest to unseat Rep. Mike Kelly, Butler, R-3rd District.
The billboard went up Aug. 31 and was first covered with burlap, then torn down the next day. The Democrats maintained the fair board’s removal of the sign was politically motivated.
“We basically settled for nuisance value,” said fair board lawyer David Ristvey. Fighting the Democrats’ suit would have cost more time and money in court, he said.
“We’re not apologizing. We’re not putting a (new) billboard up,” Ristvey said. “We believe from the beginning there was no politics involved in this.”
The fair board maintains the billboard was set to be removed before the Dems rented it from General Outdoor Advertising, which was behind on rent payments to the fair board.
A lease between the fair board and the advertising company was no longer valid, Ristvey said, adding that fair board minutes prove the billboard was to be removed and that David Urey, the company’s owner, was behind on rent and was evading attempts to be contacted.
The Dems contend that Urey’s arrangement with the fair board was a separate issue from theirs, according to Fred Hlusko, president of the group.
Nancy Seddon, a member of the group who was working the Dems’ booth at the fair Thursday, Aug. 31, shared what fair board vice president Donald Barbour told her that day.
Seddon said Barbour approached the booth in a rage and she asked him what the problem was.
“And he said, that sign, the Democrats,” Seddon said. “I said we’re just a couple foot soldiers here.”
He asked if they had already paid for the sign and if not, told them “don’t pay for it, (because) I’m going to tear it down.”
Barbour wasn’t in court on Wednesday and has declined comment since the story surfaced in September.
The Dems stick to this story, Hlusko said, and J. Jarrett K. Whalen, the lawyer who volunteered his services to the Dems, disputed Ristvey’s defense of the board.
The decision to settle was made so everyone can move on, Whalen said.
“Our goal was not to tarnish the Stoneboro Fair. We wanted to make sure we got (the Dems’ message) out,” Whalen said.
“We have to be realistic,” Hlusko said. “In the end, it was probably the best settlement we could have reached.”
Will get refund of billboard fee
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