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Cape store has new sign, old troubles

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

General Sign Co. installed a permanent sign Tuesday in front of The Mattress Guys on North Kingshighway. Before the legal sign was installed, a banner sign landed the store owner, Dennis McDonald, in jail for violating a city sign ordinance.
(Fred Lynch)
The new sign installed Tuesday in front of Dennis McDonald's mattress store won't eliminate his legal troubles.

Although Cape Girardeau city inspector Tim Morgan said McDonald's new sign meets all city requirements, McDonald, cited for improper signage by the city of Cape Girardeau nine times since May 5, 2006, faces back-to-back court dates anyway.

"The city's still after me," he said. "They're still trying to put me back in jail."

At 9 a.m. Aug. 1, McDonald returns to Circuit Judge Gary Kamp's courtroom for a revocation of probation hearing. Kamp, acting as municipal judge, originally ordered McDonald's probation for refusing the city's order to remove a banner sign, based on three of the nine citations. He later added five days of "shock" detention when McDonald refused to remove the sign or pay court costs. McDonald finished the jail sentence June 23.

McDonald has a new lawyer, Joy Ferguson of the Piedmont, Mo.,-based firm, Hackworth, Hackworth & Ferguson. She appeared in court with him last week, asking Judge Kamp to reschedule McDonald's hearing to Aug. 1.

McDonald may still face jail time, Ferguson said. Punishment could include up to 90 days' incarceration and fines ranging from $100 to $500, Ferguson said. "Whether he goes to jail or not will be up to the court."

Ferguson declined to comment on how McDonald's case has been handled to this point.

She and McDonald are scheduled to appear before Municipal Judge Teresa Bright-Pearson over the six remaining citations at 1 p.m. Aug. 2. Bright-Pearson had recused herself from presiding over the trial for the first three citations, citing a conflict of interest. Ferguson said she was not sure whether Bright-Pearson will recuse herself from the Aug. 2 hearing.

Cape Girardeau's sign ordinance limits businesses to one banner, which must be mounted on the face of the company's building. McDonald insisted his banner, strung between two poles of a 30-foot-tall commercial sign near his shop, The Mattress Guys, was necessary to attract customers. His shop is in the rear of a building on North Kingshighway, and the entrance is not visible from the street.

The retailer had fought the ordinance on the basis that his sign was installed before the 2006 ordinance was passed. McDonald was cited for his banner being in a public right of way.


335-6611, extension 127

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This is all absolutely ridiculous when you consider that signs are plastered everywhere you look around in Cape. I personally think that the one that flips as you are waiting at a stoplight tends to be more of a nusiance. I have seen people mesmorized by watching the signs flip and forget to "go" when the light turns green. The same goes for the digital ones. This poor guy has got wrapped up in a silly ordinance that really makes no sense when you look at the whole picture. Hang in there Dennis, you have a slew of people behind you.

-- Posted by leighann457 on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 2:08 AM

When people make light of law enforcement and the judicial system, its because of idiotic situations like this. Why put a drug dealer or killer in jail when you can incarcerate a guy trying to make a living?

-- Posted by jakebanzai on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 7:20 AM

You think just because he FINALLY gets a legal sign, his NINE citations should just disappear?

-- Posted by B_O_B on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 7:37 AM

You know if he just would have followed the law when he was asked to remove the sign in the first place none of this would have happened. Granted the Cape police really do have more on thier hands with drug dealers but this guy just flat out refused to obey the law. The city is not still after him, he just needs to take care of his business and get over it. Lesson learned

-- Posted by jackson63755 on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 7:38 AM

You people are so naive... This whole thing is just a ploy to get "The Mattress Guys" name in the media for "almost free" advertising, duh! The lawyer, the fines, all of it will still be less than what this kind of advertising is in the newspaper and tv. Advertising 101 - if you don't have a budget, be creative.

-- Posted by Told-U-So on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 8:20 AM

Sheesh all that money for what looks like a permanent mount illuminated sign face plastic sign and it's still UGLY. Ugh now it's "permanent."

-- Posted by Rodney King on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 8:28 AM

Jackson63755, before you comment on an issue that you know nothing about, you might consider that if Dennis had taken his sign down, his business most likely would have been destroyed. The sign that cost him more than $6000 will not be any more effective that the banner that he was forced to take down. In a effort of cooperation, Dennis tried working with the city to get a permit for a sign that the city would approve. Tim Morgan the director of inspections delayed the permitting process by never denying the permit or premitting it. Then Dennis began receiving summones. What was he supposed to do roll over and play dead or perhaps if he was not an outsider in this town he could have pulled some political strings. What you read as news in this newspaper is not always the truth. Today, it was reported as a front page story that Dennis was cited because his sign was in the right of way which is a total untruth. Where did this reporter get her information? Maybe she made it up to paint a biased story: I don't know. However, I do know that what people say can destroy a person's reputation not to mention the impact this can have on his business. I can only hope that God will forgive the reporter and people like you who do not get the true facts before making such blatantly libelous comments.

-- Posted by ithenana on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 8:30 AM

Did I mention that I purchased an AWESOME bed from "The Mattress Guys" and I am a TOTALLY SATISFIED Customer and I will buy all my mattresses from them from now on? Seriously, it's true, Dennis and his family are very professional and have really good products. The foam mattress he sold me saved my back. God Bless The Mattress Guys.

-- Posted by Told-U-So on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 8:43 AM

I agree with the sign ordinance. I have lived in cities with similar laws and after the initial hassels, the businesses adhered to the law and the city looked better becasue of it. This law is in place to make Cape look like the professional city it wants to be.

-- Posted by Falconman67 on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 8:50 AM


If the colonist just before Our Revolution would have followed the Kings Law perhaps we would not be the U.S. OF AMERICA but rather the West Great Britan!Certain laws and regulation require defiance and It seems as if Mr.Mcdonald is doing just that.I applaud him and would ask Judge Kamp to go fly a kite

in some other City or better yet lets vote him out of his position as soon as possible!!

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 10:10 AM

The sign ordinance is a whole lot of mularkey! Cape has more signs in it than Carter has little green pills! And enforcement of the ordinance is strictly subjective. If that is not the truth, why is DSW Signs not getting any summonses, or all these new construction sites, with their temporary banners declaring "future home of..." (Starbuck's come to mind), getting hauled into court? Or banks with their banners for free checking, etc., etc. Why won't the city of Cape focus on more important aspects than trying to screw a small business owner?

-- Posted by sccynic on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 10:30 AM


Good point!Health care for everyone would be

very nice.Were not that far from being a socialistic Country anyway,why not?

-- Posted by GREYWOLF on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 12:29 PM

Funny, Everyone keeps forgetting about the BIG SIGN that reads VOTE NO TO STEM CELL RESEARCH, located at the corner of Sprigg and 74. I think it is time the city addresses that. It's an EYE SORE and that election is OVER.

-- Posted by Proud_Democrat on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 12:50 PM

It's a real simple solution here- obey the law... whether you agree with it or not. That's why we have them. He should have taken it down.

-- Posted by whoknows on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 1:06 PM

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for reading the story and taking the time to add your comments.

I erred in writing that the original citation was for a right-of-way violation and am writing a correction that will appear in tomorrow's paper.

The city cited Dennis McDonald for having an illegal sign -- for the banner hanging between two poles. The first citation was issued on Aug. 29, 2006. Subsequent citations were issued Sep. 27 and Dec. 5, 2006, respectively. The next six citations were issued April 12, 13, 18, 19, 20 and 23, 2007.

Thanks again for visiting our Web site and respondng to stories. I look forward to reading your comments!

Peg McNichol

-- Posted by Peg McNichol on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 1:43 PM

Dennis broke the law, end of story. He was warned several times and continued to break the law. He should be punished.

That being said, I don't agree with the sign ordinance but I do abide by it. It is the law until changed.

All you people who feel outraged should start calling the mayor at work and see how quickly he responds with a new ordinance.

-- Posted by match1 on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 2:29 PM

Here is the first place to cut to make budget for the parks and recreation and the storm sewer project.


I have been trying to convince a few friends with great little business' that Cape is business friendly. They came today for a visit. What is on the front page but this sign BS. My efforts and at least 25 jobs just went down the drain. Cape doesnt look business friendly with this kind of mularky and the 8% sales tax. We need to give the city leaders the boot.

As for as the mattress guy goes He is a hero for standing up to the emperors this long. Hopefully the Judge will just throw the whole **** thing in the trash. Where it belongs.

-- Posted by lovinlife&lovincape on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 2:48 PM

Say what you will, but Mr. McDonald's marketing strategy (going to jail; defying the law) is absolutely brilliant and may some day place him in the Fortune 500 list!

-- Posted by philosopher king on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 3:40 PM

LMAO I think I will go buy those bunkbeds I saw in front of his store in support of him. I am going to post this on Southeast Missouri Marketplace too. To encourage others to buy from him and in protest of Capes Latest attack on our hometown business'

Are you buying or selling something? Do you want to buy something in Southeast Missouri? Anything from a home to a dog come and join and it is free. All you need is a free yahoo email address and yahoo email addresses are free too


-- Posted by lovinlife&lovincape on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 4:00 PM

Ok, if I get 9 parking citations and THEN I decide to start parking in legal spots, should I have all 9 of those tickets thrown out?

Jeeze, this is simple, folks. It ain't "the little man" getting run over by "the man". Pay the fines and get on with it... like everyone else is expected to.

-- Posted by Ignatius Reilly on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 4:54 PM

Its laws and selective enforcement of these laws that drove me to buy a home outside of Cape Girardeau city and county of which I was a resident of 28 years. I have also sold 12 other investment properties within the city limits of Cape to people who will most likely not care for them as I have. All of this because of the lack of a quality and corruption free justice system missing in Cape.

-- Posted by simmonsmo26 on Wed, Jul 18, 2007, at 6:23 PM

This story is hilarious(ridiculous?)! The city government just keeps appearing more stupid and petty every time this comes up. We are paying for our city gov to prosecute some guy trying to make an honest living, not to mention probably paying overtime(I assume) for them to send an extra policeman out on weekends to hunt down the evil garage-sale sign violators. This is all one big unfunny joke--hahaha.

Peg McNichol states in her piece that Mr. McDonald was cited for an illegal sign. Is everyone overlooking that his lil' 12x16 (I'm estimating) sign was tied to the legs of a 30x60 (estimating again) monolithic billboard that is somehow legal. I fail to see the logic.

I applaud McDonald for standing up to the city on his beliefs and will patronize his business in the future. Now he needs to just pay his fines and cut his losses before he's in deeper. I hate to say it, but he probably should've taken the right people out for lunch and drinks, maybe a round of golf or some campaign contributions when this first came up -- haha again.

I understand the city's stance on their ordinance, but they have gotten a little carried with the whole thing. They are not attracting more business this way -- read lovinlife's comment. We have worse problems than sign pollution in this town. I fail to see how this is worth all their trouble, when everyday we read about more shootings, drugs, assaults, burglaries, abuse, etc, etc... Not to mention the problems in our schools. Maybe that's where we could spend this extra money they're wasting on this sign joke.

C'mon whatever happened to good ole' common sense.

-- Posted by libra7 on Thu, Jul 19, 2007, at 12:46 AM

Signs Signs

Everywhere there's signs

Blocking up the scenery

Making the Mayor lose his mind

No more free speech

Don't you put up a sign

And the sign says "Anybody caught putting up signs will be arrested on sight"

So I ran to the council and yelled at the board What gives you the right

If God was here He'd tell it to your face Man You're some kind of sinner

Signs Signs

Everywhere there's signs

Blocking up the scenery

Making the Mayor lose his mind

No more free speech

Don't you put up a sign

-- Posted by Mosely on Thu, Jul 19, 2007, at 10:34 PM

"Signs" by Mosley... Amen brother.

Please someone in city governement go police the area of latest assault/robberies in Downtown Cape we've all read about.

The attention to this sign stuff is shameful compared to the other problems the cities faces.

If I recall correctly, a few months ago the Downtown Merchants group were asking for help from the city because because of the increasing late night robbery/vandalism/assault rates. Does anyone know if any work was done on this?

-- Posted by libra7 on Thu, Jul 19, 2007, at 11:41 PM

I've met Dennis McDonald and I must say what a nice young man. He moved here from Kentucky to establish a business and business he has done.

Is if fair for the city and assistant city prosecutor Reagan Holliday to proscecute and jail a family man for trying to make a living legitimately. He pays his taxes. Why doesn't he city let him do just that.

What most don't know is Mr. McDonald applied for a permit to place a "legal" sign but the city dragged it's feet not allowing him one until he took down his illegal banner.

Had they done that this matter would not had gone this far.

I believe McDonald attempted to inform Mr. Knudtson, our mayor of that at the city council meeting but this fell on deaf ears. Why does it appear the city is selectively enforcing this law, is it because they know they can pick on the little man?. Take for example the many blatant violations of the city's own polices. I will cite just a few. ( How about the hundreds of banners on poles at St. Francis hospital ), are these special poles unlike the one McDonald had his sign attached too? (they are attached to one pole not two), or the numerous banners on fences at Sears on Siemers Drive, (are fences ok?) or the banners on a hand rail in front of Papa Johns Pizza. Get my point.

Oh, must I forget. Well the mayor's own church had a banner this summer advertising vacation Bible school and his own bank has a banner presently soliciting a renter for the office space the bank owns.

The list could go on and on. See how ridiculous we could all make this issue.

Mr. McDonald was in violation of a city ordinance, I understand that, but let us enforce the law fairly and evenly and across the board not pick and choose whom we want to use to make our points. The city and the city's attorney should drop this case.

Let the poor man make his living so he can pay his taxes to the city so the city doesn't keep on trying to raise mine every time they turn aound.

-- Posted by doctorforjustice on Mon, Jul 23, 2007, at 11:29 PM

Great point Doctorforjustice!

The mayor and others get away with outright violations but the city council and the mayors hypocrisy knows no bounds.

-- Posted by Mosely on Thu, Jul 26, 2007, at 12:05 AM

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