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December 30, 2011

Mongielo could see jail time for sign

TOWN OF LOCKPORT — An auto repair shop owner could be looking at jail time if he is convicted next month of violating the Town of Lockport’s sign ordinance again.

David J. Mongielo was in Town Court on Wednesday to face another count of violating Lockport’s sign ordinance. The law says any sign which is capable of changing the format or message may not change any more than once every 10 minutes.

Mongielo is accused of having his electronic videoboard sign change displays every few seconds to promote a benefit for Niagara County Sheriff’s Deputy Allen Gerhardt. Gerhardt lost both of his legs in an accident in July.

Town prosecutor Bradley Marble said the alleged violation occurred Aug. 25. The sign is in front of Mongielo’s Auto Specialties on Robinson Road.

Mongielo said his sign is used to promote benefits and community fundraisers. When he attends the events, Mongielo said he often gets positive feedback on the sign promotions.

“If they want to put me in jail for supporting a fundraiser, so be it,” Mongielo said. “I enjoy helping people.”

The trial was held Wednesday before Town Justice Raymond E. Schilling. Schilling will deliver his verdict at a court hearing Jan. 17 and will also sentence Mongielo if he is convicted of violating the ordinance.

Mongielo was found guilty on three counts of violating the town sign law in September 2010. He was cited on three different occasions He was fined $750, or $250 for each count.

With the fines came a one year conditional discharge that could carry a 15 day jail sentence. That simply means if Mongielo violates the ordinance again, he could receive jail time, Marble said.

Mongielo, who represented himself Wednesday, said a 10-minute video was introduced in court showing the sign’s displays. The town argued the display had changed completely, whereas Mongielo said the it was a video and the format did not change.

Mongielo also argued that the law is selectively enforced. Other town businesses have signs that violated the ordinance, but Chief Building Inspector Brian Belson testified the businesses received warning letters and changed their signs.

Mongielo said town officials are harassing him.

The video of Mongielo’s sign was recorded by Donald Jablonski, a town zoning board member. Jablonski is also the town Republican committee chairman. Mongielo is a GOP committee member as well but has had differences with Jablonski.

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

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