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Sign-snatchers, city being sued

Daily News Tribune
Wednesday, April 26, 2000

School committee candidate and husband stole opponent's signs

By DeAnna Putnam

     NEWTON - School Committee member Brenda Heyman has not heard the last of her sign-snatching escapade during the Ward 5 committee election last fall.

      "I'm quite disheartened," Heyman said yesterday. "I had hoped it was over, but clearly it's not."

     Former committee candidate Brenda Loew is not about to forget her campaign signs were yanked from various places around the city during that election. After failing to convince a judge last month to charge Heyman and her husband, Kenneth, with larceny, she now is suing both Heyman and the city.

     The incident that set off the sign war happened the day before Halloween last year.

     Newton Corner resident Lisa Rubin later testified before a judge that on that day, she saw the Heymans snatch a campaign sign belonging to Brenda Loew.

     The sign had been planted in front of the Day School Middle School. Rubin said after grabbing the sign, she followed the Heymans to the Newton Police Station on Washington St., honking and yelling all the way.

     Susan Heyman and Rubin started arguing before police came out of the station to see what was "ding on, Newton Police Officer Kenneth Marino said. Police ended up finding a dozen of Loew's signs in the Heymans' car, but no arrests were made.

     Susan Heyman ended up winning the School Committee election.

     Loew filed a citizen's complaint requesting criminal charges be brought against the Heymans. A judge ruled in November sufficient evidence did not exist to charge the couple with larceny.

     Loew appealed the decision and was denied again in March.

     In the Heyman's favor was the fact the city has an ordinance prohibiting the staking of political signs on public property, which Day School Middle School happens to be.

     The Tribune asked Loew if she knew about the city ordinance prior to putting up campaign signs; Loew would not answer the question directly yes or no.

     "We were just having fun on a very nice day in the fall," Loew said. "We were waving, horns were honking as cars drove by. We were haying fun. That's it.".

     Loew said she believes anyone should be able to put up campaign signs on any public property they want.

     "The First Amendment was created essentially to protect political speech in open spaces," Loew said.

     The lawsuit claims Loew's state civil rights and exercise of the First Amendment were violated, among other things.

     Loew has not retained a lawyer because she has decided to represent herself in court She said the case could take until 2003 to come to a close and cost her thousands of dollars.

     Loew has been approached by others who are willing to share the cost and who want to set up a legal defense fund in her name, she said.

     Unlike Loew, Heyman does have a lawyer. Heyman said the suit names her both as an individual and as a School Committee member.

     However, "I was not acting in any official capacity," Heyman said about the incident on Oct. 30. "

     Ouida Young, associate city solicitor for Newton, said the city just received notice it was being sued.

     "It talks about a portion of the sign ordinance, but I haven't looked at it to see which particular part of the ordinance (the lawsuit challenges)," Young said.

     Although Loew's initial complaint against Heyden did not receive a favorable ruling by ajudge, she is pursumg the issue "because it was squashed at (the first) level. "

     "Neither I nor the public knows what exactly took place. It never got a public airing," Loew said.

Reporter DeAnna Putnam maybe reached at 781-398-8005 or dputnam@cnc.com

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