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Oyster Bay Town resolution outlines settlement in election campaign lawsuit

Christopher Briggs, a former Oyster Bay town board

Christopher Briggs, a former Oyster Bay town board candidate, is shown in this 2013 photo. Photo Credit: Mike Stobe

Oyster Bay officials are taking steps toward fulfilling the settlement of an election lawsuit, in which town employees allegedly broke state law by campaigning while on the job.

The lawsuit was filed in Eastern District Court in Central Islip in October 2013 by the town's former part-time Bay Constable Christopher Briggs.

Briggs, who was running for a seat on Oyster Bay's town board at the time, photographed and videotaped several town employees using town-owned vehicles while removing Briggs' political campaign signs, and erecting opponents' signs that were larger than local campaign sign laws allow.

In June, town officials reached a settlement with Briggs, provided he turn in or destroy photographs of town employees removing signs and using town vehicles.

A resolution approved by the town board outlining settlement stipulations authorizes Oyster Bay to circulate a memo to all town employees within 120 days of an Election Day reminding them they are prohibited from participating in political activities during work hours, and from using town property to do so.

The town will also pay $5,000 to Campanelli & Associates, the law firm that represented Briggs in the case.

"I think it was a reasonable settlement for both parties, and Mr. Briggs and his attorney felt the same way," said attorney Jonathan Sinnreich, who provided outside counsel to Oyster Bay on the case.

At a future hearing, the town also plans to amend the law designating the duration political signs can stay up, and how large they can be. The change does not strictly pertain to the events of the campaign, but Briggs felt it was a First Amendment issue, his lawyer Andrew Campanelli said.

As it was drafted, Oyster Bay's local sign law restricts individuals to one political, noncampaign sign per property, which must have a permit. The sign can be as large as 10 square feet and stay up for seven days.

The amendment to the law would make the 135-day period and 64-square-feet size regulation for political campaign signs also apply to all other political signs without needing to get a permit or being limited to one sign per property, according to the settlement.

"By them amending the law, people seeking to assert their right to free speech are now on an equal footing with those who want to put up campaign signs," Campanelli said.


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