Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Democratic Signs Displayed At Labor Department

By John Estus/The Oklahoman ~ Several campaign signs for state Democratic candidates are on display outside the state Labor Department's office despite laws against political signs on state property.

The catch? "This ain't state property," Labor Commissioner Lloyd Fields said.
The building at 3017 N Stiles is privately owned, and the Labor Department leases its space there, which means state ethics laws forbidding political signs on state property don't apply.

A sign for Fields, a Democrat, is among those hanging in the building's lobby, but Fields said he isn't the one who put it there.

Ivan Holmes, the former chairman of the state Democratic Party whose political consulting company also leases space in the building, said he put up the signs.

Fields said he expressed concern about the signs to Holmes but hasn't asked Holmes to take down the signs. "I'm not going to tell nobody what to do. It ain't my job," Fields said.

Three Democratic candidates' signs sit outside the building's east entrance. Five more are on the wall in the east lobby above a sign reading: "Welcome to the Oklahoma Department of Labor."

Signs for Holmes' company, Unified Strategies Associates, and another political group, L.L. James Printing and Political Consulting, also hang above the Labor Department sign. Fields' opponent in next month's election said the signs are unacceptable because they make it appear there is partisanship in a state office.

"Just because it's legal, doesn't make it right," Republican labor commissioner candidate Mark Costello said. "It's got to be intimidating for anybody who walks in there."

None of the signs are in the space in the building the Labor Department leases, but visitors must walk past the signs in order to get to the office.

"I think a lot of people don't realize this is not a state building," Holmes said. "Lloyd Fields could have signs and stuff in there if he wanted it, but he never did decide to do that."

Ethics Commission Executive Director Marilyn Hughes said she could not confirm or deny claims by Fields and Holmes that someone filed a complaint with her office about the signs.

Holmes is working with several Democratic candidates this year, including some whose signs are on display near the Labor Department office. Holmes was state Democratic Party chairman from 2007 to 2009. He previously worked as a communications director for Fields at the Labor Department.

State Republican Party Chairman Matt Pinnell said his office has received several calls about the signs Holmes put up outside the Labor Department office.

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