Selah is “not encouraging” residents to remove signs put up by the Selah Alliance For Equality, the city’s attorney said Tuesday.
City Attorney D.R. “Rob” Case said anyone who takes the signs is responsible for their own actions.
But a member of the group said that Case’s remarks did not go anywhere near SAFE’s demand for a declaration that sign theft is illegal.
“To me, that was a cop-out. I wanted them to take a firmer stance,” said Kalah Lalley, a Selah Middle School teacher.
She also said Case’s statement about the city not being liable for any surveillance cameras deployed by SAFE being stolen appeared to be a hint to people to take them.
The statement comes after an attorney representing SAFE demanded that the city stop removing the group’s signs that promote racial equality, the Black Lives Matter movement and call for the firing of City Administrator Don Wayman. Joseph Cutler also demanded that the city tell residents that removing signs from the sides of streets is illegal, as well as amend its sign ordinance to address what Cutler said are unconstitutional content-based restrictions on signage.
Case said earlier that the city had instructed its employees, including Wayman, not to remove signs.
His statement at Tuesday’s meeting addressed people taking what he described as “supposedly political signs.”
“The city government and its employees are not encouraging any person to take any action in regards to those signs. Any person who takes any action in regards to those signs is solely and personally responsible for his or her own actions, both under civil law and criminal law,” Case said.
Dan Gamache, owner of the Red Rooster bar and grill, said in an interview that he was told he would not be prosecuted if he removed signs along South First Street. An Aug. 30 video shows him and his wife taking signs and confronting a SAFE member.
Case also said he would not address the question of whether SAFE’s signs constituted “quote-unquote political signs or quote-unquote political advertising.”
Lalley said she was bothered that Case’s statement was not more emphatic that removing the signs is a crime, and the fact that he called them “supposed” political signs.
She was also not happy about Case saying the city is not responsible if cameras put up by SAFE to monitor signs are stolen or vandalized.
“To me, it felt like a covert way of telling people that they are there,” Lalley said. She said some cameras have been taken, but others have captured Wayman and others removing signs.
Case also said city employees who find the cameras will remove and “permanently dispose” of them.
“As a matter of common sense, anyone who leaves a surveillance device in a public right of way is taking a risk of having it stolen,” Case said.
This story was updated to correct the name of the owner of the Red Rooster bar and grill.