Law, ethics, and what campaigns do

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Is that truck in the background with a campaign sign on it the same one that Phil Henderson has the county pay for?

The Bend Police Department curtailed “officer initiated stops” during the height of the covid lockdowns in late Spring. That didn’t mean speeding suddenly became legal.

If ethics is doing the right thing when no one is looking and law is doing the right thing to avoid punishment, we have some local candidates in need of a refresher on both points.

Yes, political signs are still regulated

Bend City Council loosened certain regulations in order to accommodate struggling local businesses during the pandemic. The Sign Code is one where enforcement has effectively stopped. The rationale is that businesses may need to display, for example, parking spot signs for take out customers longer than the period allowed by the Sign Code.

When it comes to political signs, it’s understandable if regular people don’t know the rules and keep their yard sign out after the primary and before the Sign Code says you can post it again for the general. Local codes vary from place to place and are often arcane afterthoughts for people busy living their lives.

However, if you are a professional political campaign operative paid for your expertise – or a sitting city councilor – you should probably know the rules and abide by them.

Bend Code 9.50.060(B)2:

Temporary signs with a maximum sign area of six square feet in residential zones and 16 square feet in other zones and a maximum height of six feet in residential zones and eight feet in other zones may be displayed for the period starting 60 days before and ending seven days after any election date established by State statute.

Per Bend Code, signs may not be posted more than 60 days before an election. That means September 4th was the first day to post signs for the 2020 general election. Many campaigns eagerly awaited the date, clearly communicated it to their followers, and even built events around it.

Then there’s Chris Piper, who just started plastering the town seemingly as soon as his printing order was delivered well before that date.

Sure, the code isn’t being enforced and campaigning is arguably just as impacted by the pandemic as restaurants. Still, everyone else seems to be playing by the rules.

Well, except Phil Henderson.

Henderson is a Yale trained lawyer, but he’s become notorious for his proposals on the Deschutes County Commission that facially won’t stand up to the slightest legal scrutiny – often costing the County. His campaign also paid almost $200 to have signs installed (most campaigns muster volunteers to do that). What’s more, the person paid to do installation is an official in the local Republican Party.

Put all that together and there is no excuse to break the rules. Each person involved there should know better.

Instead, Henderson insists the rules don’t apply. In a Facebook post where he offers a bounty for arrests (!) relating to alleged vandalism, he says, “As the city of Bend is not currently enforcing their sign code regulations, our signs were unjustly removed and not by the city.

That same Facebook post also includes a picture of a large sign in a residential zone in Bend in violation of the code. Alas.

Is that truck in the background with a campaign sign on it the same one that Phil Henderson has the county pay for?

This article is part of a series: Law, ethics, and what campaigns do