Trillo family facing fines over giant campaign sign

Narragansett says this campaign sign for Joe Trillo violates town ordinances. (WJAR)

The shoreline hasn't been friendly lately to the campaign of Joe Trillo, an independent candidate for governor of Rhode Island.

His yacht with a campaign sign on it ran aground Sunday, and his family is facing fines for a giant sign on his sister's Scarborough Beach property.

Trillo claims the manner in which Narragansett town officials are enforcing an ordinance is "political," while Town Manager James Manni told NBC 10 News that's not the case.

"This is not politically motivated. We're treating Mr. Trillo as we would treat any candidate for any office," said Manni.

There are three issues with the sign.

Trillo's sister's property is zoned as "public space," which Trillo told NBC 10 News is the result of his father selling what's now part of Scarborough Beach to the state of Rhode Island years ago.

Having a campaign sign on publicly zoned property is in violation of a Narragansett town ordinance.

"By town ordinance no signs except by the United States government, the state of Rhode Island, or the town of Narragansett, are allowed in a zoned public area," said Manni.

Even if the sign was on private property, at 192 square feet, it's larger than what is permitted.

Also, political candidates aren't allowed to display signs earlier than 60 days before an election.

"Mr. Trillo's sign is over 120 days prior to the general election," said Manni.

Trillo said the sign won't come down without a legal battle.

"The town is arguing that she doesn't have a right to put up any sign, so we're going to see how that holds up. You've got to give her a right to do something or you're taking away her First Amendment right," said Trillo.

The Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union is siding with Trillo, arguing Narragansett's ordinance is unconstitutional.

The town is fining the Trillo family trust $500 a day. As of Thursday, the penalty was about $5,000.

A municipal court hearing is scheduled for July 19.

On Sunday, Trillo's motor yacht hit rocks and took on water near the Charlestown Breachway, prompting a Coast Guard response. No one was hurt.

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