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Remove sign or leave, GOP chair told

| Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, 12:31 a.m.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
A sign calling for the impeachment of President Barack Obama was painted over in the window of the Mon Valley Republican Committee storefront in the Port Vue Shopping Center along Washington Boulevard.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | daily News
A sign calling for the impeachment of President Barack Obama was painted over in the window of the Mon Valley Republican Committee storefront in the Port Vue Shopping Center along Washington Boulevard.
submitted photo
Before the sign was painted over, a passerby caught the content of the call for the president’s impeachment and emailed this photograph to The Daily News.
Mon Valley Republican Committee chairman Brent Kovac stands in front of a sing painted on his Port Vue storefront earlier this week. He said he was told to paint over the sign or leave.

The chairman of a Port Vue-based political organization said he was given an ultimatum — remove an “Impeach Obama” sign or vacate the quarters he rents in a shopping center along Washington Boulevard in the borough.

Mon Valley Republican Committee chairman Brent Kovac said he did neither, so on Thursday his landlord Helen Siudyla-Totty painted over a sign that was painted on plywood posted after the political committee storefront was vandalized in October 2008.

“We did that mural on the panels where our windows were,” Kovac said.

Bricks and a tire were hurled through the storefront window a few weeks before the 2008 general election.

Kovac said Siudyla-Totty told him she had received “so many threatening phone calls” about the sign. Port Vue borough officials said they had no reports of any complaints about it.

The sign reportedly went up on Tuesday and was painted over later in the week. As of Friday morning red and blue rectangles had replaced the “Impeach Obama” caption.

“I just sat and watched it happen,” Kovac said. “I talked to a legal person who said, ‘You should call the ACLU.'”

The Mon Valley Republican Committee chairman said he wanted to tell friends to call his landlord in support of the sign, which went up as an endorsement of the “Overpasses for Obama's Impeachment” campaign.

“We were trying to get this together for a national event,” Kovac said.

The “Overpasses” campaign website shows efforts in 14 states. Pennsylvania is not one of them.

Siudyla-Totty did not return calls requesting comment by presstime.

Kovac's committee promotes Republican candidates in Port Vue and surrounding communities but is not listed among local affiliates of the Republican Committee of Allegheny County.

“I was appointed Port Vue chairman since 1999,” Kovac said. “(Then-)county chair Rich Stampahar appointed me.”

“It doesn't sound like this incident would be anything that we would get involved with in any way,” current county Republican committee chairman James Roddey said.

Roddey said he was not aware of the controversy until he was contacted by The Daily News and added, “I think the whole episode ranks along with static cling as important to the political landscape.”

As the shopping center is private property, Roddey said he does not believe Kovac has legal protection for his sign.

“If they want to put up the sign, they need to put it up on their own property where they are protected by the First Amendment,” the county Republican chairman said.

“I think we have some legal standing here,” Kovac retorted.

However, the Mon Valley committee chairman said he is thinking about a move, after nine years as a tenant in the shopping center.

“Our plan is to vacate there,” he said. He provided no timetable for such a move.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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