Las Vegas Sun

January 18, 2018

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City/County Q&A:

Former judicial candidate’s signs test limits of legality

Political campaign signs left behind after candidates win or lose races are eyesores that seem to litter just about every vacant lot or open fence area in just about every section of metropolitan Las Vegas.

County and city codes generally say campaign signs must be removed within 15 days after a primary or general election is decided. But what happens to the signs of candidates who run, then drop out early? Or, better yet, what if political signs look like they are being used as advertisements for business instead of advertisements for office?

Intriguing question, but why are you asking?

Martin Dean Dupalo, president of the Nevada Center for Public Ethics, has made an interesting observation on the streets of Las Vegas. Primary elections ended in June but the political signs of at least one candidate who never made it through the primary remain standing. And, Dupalo avers, more of the candidate's signs keep popping up. Dupalo provided a list of almost 20 sites where he had found signs within the last month.

Who is this apparently eternal candidate?

The signs say merely: "Attorney Tony Liker for Judge" then give a phone number for his law office.

So Liker's running for judge. Which judicial seat? District Court? Municipal Court? Justice Court?

The signs don't say. We couldn't find a site on the Internet for Liker's political campaign. We did find some YouTube videos of Liker that appear to be auditions for a show something akin to "Judge Judy."

We also found an ad for Liker that describes the kind of law he practices and includes something of a motto: "Football tough, Stanford smart." Nevada State Bar records say he went to University of Oregon Law School and was admitted to the state bar in 1992.

So is he running for office?

No. In fact, he dropped out of the race for Las Vegas Justice Court as a nonpartisan in March, five months ago.

What does Dupalo say about the signs? Has he filed a complaint with the county?

He hasn't filed a complaint. He believes Liker is using the campaign signs as a relatively inexpensive way to advertise his business. If that's the case, Dupalo says, "It just further degrades the public trust in our election system."

"People expect politics to be a very, very dirty world, but it's the election system in particular that drives mistrust," he said. "So people see what they perceive to be political signs. If that's not the case, it just erodes the trust."

County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said Liker might have found a loophole that allows him to put up the signs without violating state law. State law, she said, gives 15 days for a candidate to remove a sign after an election -- that includes primaries, she said – but it doesn't specify what to do with the signs of someone who drops out of a race.

About a month ago, the commissioner said she took matters into her own hands and removed some of the "Liker" signs in her district, knowing he was not running for office.

Has anyone filed a complaint about Liker's signs?

Yes but not about this particular issue. Sabra Smith-Newby, county administrative services head, said a complaint was filed that Liker put up his signs way too early in the election cycle. In fact, state and county codes do not delineate when a candidate may start putting up signs for an upcoming election.

Smith-Newby said county staff last week surveyed several sign sites indicated by Dupalo. Staff told her most of them were taken down but some remained. She said the county would be issuing citations for those signs still standing.

What does Liker say about all this?

The Sun left several messages with his office.

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