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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