‘Offensive’ sign is protected as free speech

Joy Ufford photo The sign in question was in place several days after the council’s Aug. 16 meeting. This image has been edited for publication.

SUBLETTE COUNTY – A Big Piney resident’s large sign fastened to the front fence that says “F– Biden” is protected free speech, even if neighbors are concerned about the “offensive” F word.

That was the consensus from the town’s attorney Doug Mason and Sheriff KC Lehr, to the Big Piney Town Council, at its Aug. 16 meeting.

Town clerk Kristi Gray said five or six callers complained to town staff and the sheriff said a deputy reportedly went to the house to check it out.

The sign reads: “F– Biden and F– you if you voted for him.”

Mayor Tyler Maxfield brought up the possibility of an ordinance, which Mason said would have “to be narrowly tailored” to avoid violating the sign poster’s freedom of speech. Maxfield said he hoped the resident might understand that the language offends some people.

“I haven’t spoken with Deputy Winer yet,” Lehr said of the sign. “It’s worth a try. That’s a sticky one” because posting the F word is not a crime.

“Even if he can X out the words,” Maxfield said. “See if he’ll reason with us.”

The sign was still in place Friday afternoon, legible from the church parking lot across the street.

Lehr also reported that Big Piney teachers and staff recently participated in active shooter training before students return to school at the end of August. Trainers shared safety tips learned from past school experiences.

“The school board has been very receptive to our recommendations … to delay or prevent anything from happening,” the sheriff said.

MIP

Another timely issue encountered by deputies was underage drinking at the Sublette County Fair, with some parents approving their minor kids’ drinking. When that happens, law enforcement cannot enforce any minor in possession violations, he said.

A deputy talked to the minors in question who said their parents allowed them to drink. The parents confirmed that and told deputies “to leave.” So they did.

Councilmember Sherri Redden asked about an alcohol beverage vendor selling drinks to adults during a concert in one of the municipal parks. Servers checked IDs and those 21 and over received bracelets but even at a town park, a minor could legally drink with a parent, Lehr said.

A minor without a parent present can be arrested for having alcohol or being intoxicated, he clarified.

“If it becomes an issue, we won’t allow any alcohol in the parks,” Maxfield said.

Stormy night

Recent stormy weather that swept through knocked down trees, some falling on power lines, Redden noted.

One brought down a power line and wrecked a mobile home, with people inside that water-sewer manager Mike Wagstaff had to extricate. Another knocked out power on Milleg Lane that caused the computerized water and sewer system to go offline, he said.

“It blinked and then it went out all night,” he said. The SKADA communications went down too.

Wagstaff said the system needs a battery backup or a natural gas generator – “It would be good to have one onsite. … We only have one backup generator for four wells.”

In other Big Piney news:

  • The full council attended: Mayor Maxfield, Redden and fellow councilmembers Tawnya Miller, Stafford Polk IV and Sierra Banks.
  • Shannon Dawson of Bridges out of Poverty Sublette County introduced herself and the program, saying the nonprofit would like to start a weekly program in Marbleton or Big Piney. Miller offered use of Big Piney Library facilities after its renovations are completed, by Dec. 1.
  • Code enforcer Greg Eiden said several people have requested business licenses and building permits.

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