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Wagman campaign signs cause a stir in the city

ST. PETERSBURG — The calls trickled in at first. Then came a slew of complaints.

Overnight, roughly 900 Scott Wagman for mayor signs were suddenly everywhere — medians, next to sidewalks, curbs — and residents were not too happy about it.

The city's codes compliance department assigned an investigator to pluck errant Wagman signs across the city after the complaints started rolling in Wednesday. There were so many signs the investigator asked for help and a second investigator also was assigned to the task. Workers still were removing signs Thursday morning.

"There's quite a lot of them," said Todd Yost, director of the codes compliance assistance department. "That's not the appropriate place to put them."

The cleanup cost the city $800, Yost estimated.

City candidates sign a form acknowledging they are familiar with the city's sign placement rules. Signs are prohibited in the right of way.

Wagman, a real estate investor, said he purchased 600 signs after supporters observed he didn't have as many as some of his rivals. The signs were distributed Tuesday night because absentee ballots were mailed out Wednesday.

Wagman, 56, said his campaign had not intentionally violated city rules.

"We did have some overzealous campaign organizers that didn't listen to instructions and put them in the right of way," he said.

There is no penalty, Yost said.

The signs were found throughout the city, including Snell Isle, Central Avenue and Fourth Street N, Yost said.

Meanwhile, Wagman's campaign released a photo Thursday of Wagman flanked by City Council member Wengay Newton and Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch.

Newton previously endorsed Wagman. He is the only council member other than mayoral hopeful Jamie Bennett to publicly support a candidate. Bennett, of course, is supporting himself.

Welch, however, is playing hard to get.

"It is not an endorsement per se," he said. "That photo certainly reflects that I have a great relationship with Scott. He would be a great partner and I would look forward to working with him."

Welch said he is not posing for pictures with any of the other mayoral candidates.

So is it fair to say Wagman has his support?

"You don't write a $500 check for someone who you don't support or you don't think would be a good person for that job," Welch said.

Welch was considered a frontrunner in the mayoral race earlier this year before he announced he would not run.

His father, former City Council member David Welch, has endorsed corporate executive Deveron Gibbons.

In other campaign news, District 2 City Council candidate Stephen Corsetti said City Hall is charging him for public records that his rival, incumbent Jim Kennedy, receives for free.

Corsetti, a retired police chief, said he paid roughly $41 to obtain a copy of the proposed 2010 budget. The city charges 15 cents per page for public records requests.

Corsetti said all candidates should receive public records for free once they qualify for the ballot to even the playing field.

Cristina Silva can be reached at (727) 893-8846 or csilva@sptimes.com.

fast facts

If you go

There are several opportunities to hear directly from the candidates this month:

• The Jungle Terrace Civic Association will host most mayoral and City Council candidates Monday. The public meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Walter Fuller Recreation Center, 7891 26th. Ave. N.

• The Suncoast Tiger Bay Club will host a forum for two of the three City Council races scheduled for the September primary Wednesday. The District 5 and District 6 candidates will discuss the issues at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club at noon.

• St. Petersburg Preservation will host most mayoral candidates at a forum at the Studio@620 on Wednesday, July 29. The free event starts at 7 p.m.

Wagman campaign signs cause a stir in the city 07/16/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 23, 2009 3:43pm]

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