A federal judge has formalized her earlier order barring Selah city officials from enforcing portions of the city’s sign ordinances.
U.S. District Court Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson’s 35-page order issued June 30 expanded on her original oral order in the lawsuit filed by members of Selah Alliance For Equality against the city.
SAFE alleges in court that the city’s ban on its signs placed along city streets violate free-speech provisions in the U.S. and Washington constitutions.
“The court finds that there is a likelihood of irreparable injury to plaintiff in the absence of injunctive release precluding the city of Selah from enforcing the political sign provision, permit process and public sign ban,” Peterson wrote in her ruling.
In addition to the city, SAFE’s lawsuit also names Mayor Sherry Raymond and former City Administrator Don Wayman as defendants.
Wayman was fired May 25, following a closed-door City Council meeting. Raymond has refused to say why Wayman was fired, claiming it would only stir more controversy in the city.
SAFE filed suit after the city, at Wayman and Raymond’s direction, removed signs SAFE placed along city streets calling for racial equality and Wayman’s firing.
Last year, Wayman accused Black Lives Matter of being a “neo-Marxist” organization and publicly disparaged its local supporters. He also directed city crews to erase chalk art supporting the movement from city streets and sidewalks, as well as removing signs.
Video shot by a SAFE member shows Wayman personally pulling up SAFE signs that were placed in the grass strip along the side of South First Street.
City officials argued that the signs violated the city’s sign ordinance, which requires permits for all signs except those promoting political candidates and ballot issues.
SAFE has argued that its signs constitute political speech, and that the city has allowed people to post signs promoting yard sales, events and businesses on public street without permits.
While city officials have since said that they will no longer enforce the sign ordinance and are in the process of replacing the sign ordinance with one that will pass constitutional muster, Peterson said that was not enough to stop her from issuing an injunction.
“Although Selah represents to the court that it has suspended enforcement of the political sign provision ... Selah has not carried the ‘heavy burden of persuading’ the court that enforcement of (the sign ordinance) could not be reasonably expected to recur where the regulation has yet to be repealed or amended,” Peterson wrote. “Selah city officials, including the individual defendants, being instructed not to take any action ‘for the time being’ does not amount to permanent change.”
Peterson also said there was a strong likelihood that SAFE would prevail in its case, justifying the preliminary injunction.