Resident sues town for right to display ‘Impeach Clinton’ sign

Wednesday, December 16, 1998

A resident of the exclusive Hillsboro Beach, Fla., community sued the town Monday saying his political free-speech rights allow him to display a 40-foot-long banner that reads “Impeach Clinton.”

Town officials, however, contend that Sandy Satullo's sign violates the town's land development code. A provision in the code provides: “No flags, pennants, banners, streamers, or any other type of … signs will be allowed within the limits of the town.”

Satullo made his sign, which is attached to a fence surrounding his property, large enough so that boats passing on the Intracoastal Waterway in front of his estate could see the message.

“There can be reasonable, time and manner restrictions on signs; however, this is a blanket prohibition on signs, banners or flags,” Valentin Rodriguez, Satullo's attorney, said.

Satullo's complaint says that the sign is “political speech of utmost public concern.” Furthermore, Satullo alleges that the town is selectively enforcing the ordinance against him based on the content of the sign's message.

Town officials first cited Satullo for the sign in October. Mayor Larry Fink said the banner violated town codes, was too large, was erected without a permanent foundation and was illuminated by floodlights installed without a permit.

A hearing before a code violations board was scheduled for Monday but was not held. Instead, Satullo filed his federal lawsuit, Satullo v. Town of Hillsboro Beach.

Rodriguez, a cooperating attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the decision to file suit this month was made in part because there are numerous holiday banners in town that also violate the ordinance but have not been targeted.

“This is the first and only code violation of the year,” Rodriguez said. “In fact, we think it is the only one in five years.”

Satullo stated in an ACLU press release: “I believe that [Clinton] has disgraced the office and is no longer fit to serve as President. But I am more outraged that, despite our constitutional freedoms, the Town of Hillsboro Beach is trying to stop me from expressing my views on this — even on my own property.”

Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, said: “This case is about the right of a citizen to express himself on the most important issue facing the nation — the impeachment of the president.”

The mayor and vice mayor were out of town and unavailable for comment.

A hearing in the case has been set in federal court for Jan. 8.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.