By Carley Dangona
WESTFIELD – A complaint regarding the removal of political campaign signs from the tree belt along East Silver Street between Cross Street and Lindbergh Boulevard in November 2011 was finally resolved this month. However, the tension between the mayor and some officials has not.
Mayor Daniel Knapik announced on April 28 that he and the three plaintiffs – at-large City Councilor David Flaherty, Gas & Electric Commission member Jane Wensley and property owner David Costa – had reached an agreement.
Per the settlement, the city will pay an estimated $53,000 to cover the legal costs of the plaintiffs in addition to the $40,000 in legal fees of the mayor.
“They spend two years crafting this story,” Knapik told Reminder Publications. “City Councilors [Mary] O’Connell and Flaherty have made it very clear to me that they’ll do whatever they can to drag me through the mud.”
As far as Knapik’s concerned, it’s time to go forward. “End of story. Move on,” he said.
The announcement comes after Federal District Court Judge Michael Ponsor ruled in February that Knapik had violated the First Amendment rights of Flaherty and Wensley by having the Department of Public Works (DPW) remove the signs. Knapik moved for reconsideration of the ruling on Feb. 24.
The settlement stated, “The removal of political lawn signs on Nov. 7, 2011 by order of the Defendant [Mayor] Daniel Knapik constituted content-based, but not intentional, discrimination in violation of the rights of the Plaintiffs as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article XVI of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights.”
It concluded, “The parties have resolved all other outstanding issues in this case, including attorney’s fees. Any remaining claims offered in the complaint are hereby dismissed by agreement.”
“Well, obviously, it’s great to have this behind us, “Knapik stated. “In the end, it’s an outcome that is the best you could have.