A campaign sign and a citation ordering its removal caused controversy in Pikeville this week.
On Tuesday, Braxton Smith said he was at work when he received a text of a picture of a City of Pikeville citation from his wife, who informed him via a call, “We’re in trouble, we have to take that sign down.”
The sign to which she was referring was a campaign sign showing support for Family Court Judge candidate Justin “Cory” Hamilton, placed outside Smith’s residence on Hambley Boulevard in Pikeville.
Smith said the citation, which said, “Campaign sign in yard (Hamilton Sign) needs removed please,” came as a surprise to him.
“There’s a lot of stuff I disagree with in this county and I’m not ashamed of saying that,” he said. “I feel there’s a lot of stuff we could do better, but this was just kind of baffling. I knew they had no ground to stand on.
“I am a law-abiding citizen,” he said. “I’m not super politically active, but I do care, and I try to promote ideas and things and people that are good for this county. I wasn’t out seeking this big angry rant. But it was one of those things where I wanted to professionally let people know that this is not OK. Because it’s not. It’s not OK.”
Smith said that, after posting the citation publicly Tuesday afternoon, by about 6 p.m., the code enforcement officer who wrote the citation knocked on his door and apologized for writing the citation and told him it would be taken care of, that he wouldn’t have to deal with it.
Pikeville City Manager Philip Elswick said Wednesday in a brief statement that the issuance of the citation was a “mistake.”
“The code enforcement officer made a mistake in issuance of the notice of violation,” Elswick said. “Campaign signs for candidates in the general election can remain in place until the conclusion of that election. The notice of violation has been rescinded, and the code enforcement officer has spoken (to) the property owner to explain the mistake and offer the city’s apologies.”
Smith said he doesn’t understand how anyone on either side of the election could see the issuance of the citation as acceptable.
“It’s pretty much saying ... ‘I know you live in Pikeville, but we don’t want you to express how you feel,’” he said.
Smith said the sign is not even the first that he displayed in the same position, as the Hamilton sign replaced a sign showing support for District Court Judge candidate Amber Hunt Sisco, who lost in last year’s general election.
“For the better part of a year, there’s been a big sign sitting there,” he said.
Smith said he believes the action was targeted and that it related directly to the sign being for Hamilton.
“I feel like most law-abiding citizens ... when they get something like that, I mean any kind of citation you get, it’s threatening,” he said. “I feel like the city just didn’t know they were throwing this down on somebody with a mouth.”
Smith said he was not simply seeking to have the citation dispensed with by taking the matter public.
“It’s not the point for me,” he said. “I feel like most people who got the citation would have just taken the sign down ... so I’m speaking on behalf of everybody else.”
Hamilton was the top vote-getter in the four-way race for Family Court Judge in the May primary, and faces second-place finisher Kent Varney in the November general election to decide who will fill the unexpired term of Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Larry Thompson. Varney was appointed in April to hold the seat pending the outcome of the election.