School board candidates in Brookhaven can put up campaign signs -- but not along public highways.

That was the message in a letter sent last week by Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, who reminded superintendents of Brookhaven school districts that the town's sign law applies to contestants in May 19 school board elections.

The town sign law, adopted last year by the town board, bans political and advertising signs on public rights of way, such as along highways and on utility poles. Signs are permitted on private property with permission of the property owner.

"Not only will the town discard these signs, but the offending parties could be subject to a $250 fine for each and every offense," Romaine wrote in the May 1 letter. Town officials furnished a copy of the letter to Newsday.

Brookhaven officials announced earlier this week they had collected more than 1,500 illegal signs -- including advertisements and signs posted by candidates for elected offices -- since the law was enacted last year.

School officials said the town law seems reasonable and does not impede school board candidates from getting their messages out to voters.

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"I happen to agree with the law, that we shouldn't be clogging up our roadways with signs," said William Floyd school board president Robert Vecchio, who is running unopposed for re-election. He also serves on the board of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association. "I think we're all trying to be respectful of the law," Vecchio said. "On the public rights of way, that's not the place for signage."

A spokesman for the state School Boards Association said the group had not received complaints about Brookhaven's law or similar sign bans.

Roberta Gerold, superintendent of the Middle Country school district in Centereach, said she had not heard of any problems associated with the sign restrictions. "Sometimes you drive and you see all these signs on poles," she said. "I guess they want to keep the community looking tidy."