EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

April 30, 2014

Officials upset over Plaistow business sign

Businessman posts political views for all to see

PLAISTOW — Profanity on an electronic sign at the state line was a test, according to the sign’s owner. Plaistow failed the test, he said.

A sign for The Mortgage Specialists at 2 Main St., on the state line, has been displaying messages attacking government officials for months.

Business owner Michael Gill’s grievances run statewide; the messages target everyone from the governor to the courts and state banking department.

The current messages attack U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., accusing her of extortion. Other messages claim newspapers, TV and radio have failed.

Last week, one message used an expletive — and people reacted.

Gill said he was disappointed after the public took offense to the expletive, rather than the message.

By Friday, the profanity had been removed. A new message says, “The obscene word is extortion ... You failed!”

“We’re so closed-minded because we see the words Shaheen and extortion, but our impulse is on the word,” Gill said yesterday. “You all failed the test.”

Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said the profanity took an already frustrating situation to a new level.

“We put signs up just to help people understand that we have business locations,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s troubling to me that these signs have been used for purposes other than what they were originally permitted for.”

But the sign is in Haverhill and Plaistow leaders can’t do anything about it.

“We did contact the city of Haverhill to file a complaint,” Fitzgerald said. “We have no grounds to tell him he can’t put that information up there, but, certainly, we think it’s a poor use of that sign.”

Haverhill city solicitor William Cox said the city has no plans to fight the use of the sign.

“We regulate dimensional aspects of signs. What we don’t regulate is the content of the signs,” Cox said. “That’s protected by the U.S. Constitution.”

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