Competing signs send conflicting message on Gardens ballot question

Dueling signs outside an early voting site could confuse voters on a city ballot question.

RELATED: Palm Beach Gardens voters to get 3 ballot questions in August

The nearly identical signs from two opposing factions are side-by-side in the landscaping median of the Gardens Branch of the Palm Beach County Library. One sign on a plain white background is printed with the message: “SAVE TERM LIMITS. VOTE NO, NO & NO on Palm Beach Gardens questions.”

Next to it, on a blue background is a sign printed: “VOTE YES. KEEP TERM LIMITS.” A disclaimer on the sign says it’s paid for by the Voters in Control Political Action Committee.

RELATED: Gardens will annex area west of Ibis; voters reset council term limits

The problem is that the first of three Palm Beach Gardens ballot questions isn’t about whether to keep or cancel term limits, as the ‘yes’ sign implies. Question No. 1 is asking voters if City Council members — including the current five — should be able to serve three terms in a row instead of two. A council term is three years.

If the majority of voters say “yes” to the first question, council members will be able to serve for nine consecutive years instead of six. A “no” vote means term limits will stay the same. The blog PBG Watch first called attention to the “misleading” signage.

The nonprofit U.S. Term Limits sent out an email blast with a photo of the signs, calling them “Scam 2.0” and encouraging people to vote “no” on the question.

Pete Banting is listed as the PAC’s chairman in campaign finance documents. Banting did not return calls about the PAC on Friday.

The PAC has not reported contributions in recent months. Leading up to the March referenda, also about term limits and other City Charter changes, the group collected $13,750, largely from Palm Beach Gardens developers and landowners.

Volunteers with Voters In Control wearing “Vote Yes” T-shirts gave voters election guides sponsored by the city. Palm Beach Gardens spokeswoman Candice Temple said the volunteers are not affiliated with the city and passing out the literature was not coordinated by the city.

The city hired Rick Asnani’s Cornerstone Solutions to do public information campaigns, including mailers, robocalls from the mayor, a Google Ad campaign and sponsored Facebook posts, before both elections.

Palm Beach Gardens paid Cornerstone $43,200 for the public education campaign before the March election, Temple said. The city plans to spend no more than about $65,000 on the current campaign, Temple said.

Kim LeeBove, who works for Cornerstone Solutions, is listed as treasurer for the Voters In Control PAC. Asnani said she handles the accounting for many PACs, including Voters In Control, but that Cornerstone has no direct involvement with the PAC.

“They’re doing that on their own,” he said of the PAC. “Because of the fact that we’re doing the public education campaign, we’re not running the PAC campaign.”

Cornerstone received reimbursement for the cost of setting up a post office box and buying software for reporting the campaign contributions and expenditures, Asnani said.

The term limits question is only one of three on the Aug. 28 ballot.

The second question asks voters if the City Charter should be modified to, among other changes, add a provision that indicates council members who serve half or less than half of a full, three-year term will not have that term count against the limit.

The third question asks if the city should eliminate a requirement that the city manager be a resident within one year of appointment. If it passes, any city manager residency requirement would be determined by the council in the employment contract.

Palm Beach Gardens is asking residents to go back to the voting booth after a judge tossed two of four questions from the March ballot after he determined they were misleading. The city rewrote the questions to be more explicit.

In approving one of the surviving questions in March, voters said a term-limited council member must sit out for three years before running again. Sid Dinerstein, a resident and former Palm Beach County Republican Party chairman, filed a lawsuit challenging the court’s decision to leave the question on the ballot.

The matter is before the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

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