Judge Rules Against Westfield’s Mayor In 2011 Lawn Sign Scuffle

The mayor of Westfield is fighting a judge’s ruling that he violated the constitutional rights of some political opponents.

It’s not in dispute that the day before the November 2011 municipal elections, Westfield Mayor Dan Knapik ordered his public works department to remove signs near his home.

A landowner and two candidates whose names were on those signs – a city councilor and a Municipal Light Board preventative – sued Knapik.

And now, even before going to trial, federal Judge Michael Ponsor has ruled against the mayor on some counts, saying Knapik violated the plaintiffs’ first amendment rights. That’s because, Ponsor says, Knapik only ordered political signs removed, not a real estate sign on the same land.

Knapik’s attorney wants the judge to reconsider, arguing the mayor actually directed city officials to remove all the signs from the property – political and non-political, because they could block a driver’s view of a crosswalk. Therefore, the attorney argues, the mayor was focused on public safety and not the content of the signs.