Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

August 25, 2010

Mongielo found guilty on sign charges

By Joe Olenick
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

TOWN OF LOCKPORT — Auto repair shop owner David J. Mongielo has been found guilty of violating the Town of Lockport’s sign ordinance, according to a written decision released Tuesday.

Town Justice Raymond E. Schilling found Mongielo guilty on six counts of violating town law with an electronic sign that can play video and changes displays within seconds. The town ordinance says a sign cannot change a display more than once every 10 minutes.

Three of those counts were against Mongielo personally and three against his business, Mongielo’s Auto Specialties, which is located on Robinson Road. Each count could carry a fine of up to $250.

Town prosecutor Bradley Marble said sentencing will be held Sept. 14, because Mongielo didn’t show up to court Tuesday.

Mongielo, contacted by the US&J after the decision, said he didn’t know the verdict would be released Tuesday. Still, he said the decision wasn’t a surprise to him.

“It’s what to be expected,” he said. “It’s sad, it’s politics getting out of control.”

Mongielo, with the sign issue at the forefront, made an unsuccessful bid for supervisor last year.

The town cited Mongielo on three separate dates last year, Feb. 2, March 28 and April 11, 2009. On each date Town Building Inspector Brian Belson photographed the sign showing different images and messages. They changed after a few seconds and Belson recorded the time on paper, which is what he testified to at a July 28 trial. Mongielo’s attorney Frank LoTempio objected, saying there was no official way to know the exact time the photos were taken.

The sign has been used to promote Mongielo’s business as well as charitable events and birthdays for family members. Mongielo moved his business to Robinson Road from Pendleton, where the sign was legal, in 2008.

LoTempio had tried to get the charges thrown out in June on the grounds that the sign law violated the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Schilling ruled it did not, because the law regulates signs regardless of message. He wrote that the town has the right to do so for safety and preserving aesthetic attractiveness.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.