Athens residents have noticed “Vote No on Issue 3” yard signs, stickers and door hangers posted around the city for the past two weeks.
Along with signs under windshield wipers, in public right-of-way areas and on cigarette butt receptacles, there is also a website for the anonymous group.
Issue 3 is an Athens City School District levy that, if passed, will refurbish and rebuild several schools in the school district.
In partnership with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, the state will pay part of the final cost of the project if the levy passes, according to a . If the levy is not passed, the repairs and new construction would have to be locally funded.
The anonymous group, also known as the “” and “,” placed signs in public areas, such as the strips of grass between roads, sidewalks and cigarette butt receptacles, and on private property without permission from the landowners. Both are against Athens zoning code, Paul Eschenbacher, code officer for the Athens Office of Code Enforcement and Community Development, said.
The websites and signs state the signs are paid for by Heartland America, Inc., an online catalogue company based in Minnesota. Sonja Kendle, office coordinator for Heartland America, Inc., said the company has no official association with the group.
“We don’t pay for that, so I’ve turned it into our legal department. We have no association with that whatsoever,” Kendle said. “I think they’ll probably end up shutting down the website.”
The websites and signs also state that the message is not authorized by any issue ballot committee.
Debbie Quivey, director of the Athens County Board of Elections, said the group has not turned in the pre-general election campaign finance report that is required of political campaigns that have spent $1,000 or more. The deadline was Thursday.
If the group has spent under $1,000, it has until Dec. 14 to file a post-general election finance report with the Board of Elections, well after the Nov. 6 general election.
Quivey said that if an individual believes that a pre-general finance report should have been filed, a complaint can be filed with the Ohio Elections Commission.
The yard signs, featuring the group’s logo along with the tagline “There are smarter ways,” appeared around off-campus residences. Many students who live along Mill Street and College Street were confused about the origins of the signs.
Quentin Reams, a senior studying political science and pre-law, lives on Mill Street and said he thought his roommate had put the signs in their yard.
“I saw them up and down the street in other people’s yards and realized it’s probably someone (else) who put them there,” Reams said.
Morgan Baldwin, a junior studying communication and member of Chi Omega, said the signs also appeared in the yards of Greek Life organizations, which could get Greek Life chapters in trouble with their national organizations.
“Most Greek life organizations are national, and have rules that don’t allow us to support a certain issue, so someone probably put the signs there without telling anybody,” said Baldwin.