KENNEBUNK (AP) – A restaurateur has renewed his attack on the town sign ordinance that required him to remove or alter outdoor table umbrellas advertising products including Hebrew National hot dogs.

Brian Bartley has filed an amended version of the lawsuit he brought in January and has asked a federal judge to reconsider his March decision not to suspend the ordinance while the suit is pending.

Bartley, who claims the ordinance violates the First Amendment by judging signs on the content of their messages, is seeking to force the town to overhaul the current sign ordinance.

The amended lawsuit reiterates that Bartley was unfairly treated by the town, and the reasons for this treatment “include intentional and purposeful discrimination on the basis of religion and punishment of the exercise of constitutional rights.”

But the counsel is different for Round 2. Bartley has replaced attorney Ronald Coles with Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, a Washington law firm.

that has handled high-profile civil rights cases including the University of Michigan affirmative action lawsuits.

“Mr. Bartley has a constitutional right to engage in speech that includes speech about business matters,” said Maya Alexandri, his attorney. The umbrellas, she said, “are telling people on the street what he serves in his restaurant.”

The other compelling issue in the case, Alexandri said, is the alleged selective enforcement applied by the town, which violates Bartley’s First Amendment rights and his right to equal protection.

The umbrella flap emerged after a town code enforcement officer told Bartley that his umbrellas violated the town sign ordinance, which limits businesses to only three signs.

Bartley said the code enforcement officer told him the Hebrew National umbrellas were “personally offensive.”

The code enforcement officer denied making the remark, and the town manager has backed him up. Town attorney Mark Franco called the allegations in the amended lawsuit “absurd.”

“The allegations are just totally exaggerated,” he said. “They’re not based in fact, they’re fiction.”

Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said a new lawsuit and a new complaint does not change anything.

“We allow signs, just a limited number and that is not unconstitutional,” he said. “I think we’re really on safe ground.”

AP-ES-05-22-03 0817EDT



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