Homeowners claim Des Moines suburb officials violated their free speech rights

WINDSOR HEIGHTS, Iowa -- A pair of homeowners in this Des Moines suburb say the city government has violated their constitutional rights by removing signs critical of the city from their property without permission and ordering them to remove other protest signs.

According to the ACLU of Iowa, which is representing the homeowners, signs critical of the city's sidewalk policy were removed from a front porch by city officials. The sign, reading "No Concrete! 96 Percent Said No. Save the Green Space!" was tied securely to the porch. While the couple was on vacation, however, the city sent them a “notice to abate” letter, claiming that the sign was a “nuisance,” and stating that the Orrs were required to remove the sign “immediately.” Mere hours later, that same day,
city officials came and took down the banner from the porch without the Orrs’ permission.

In the second case, the Orrs’ neighbors, Mike Miller and Diane Foss, were upset withthe city’s actions against the Orrs. In response, Miller and Foss put up in their front yard a small sign, which read “City Hall Run Amok.”  Soon after, they received their own
letter, demanding they remove the sign or be fined up to $1,000 a day. The pair of homeowners has filed appeals of those orders to remove the signs tothe Windsor Heights City Council, which next meets on Monday, August 21.

In a demand letter sent by the Iowa ACLU to the mayor of Windsor Heights, accused officials of violating both parties' First Amendment rights in two ways. First, by treating the signs differently based on content and secondly by ordering removal only after an anonymous complaint was filed.

Specifically, the ACLU of Iowa demand letter seeks:
1) Successful appeal of the requirement that Miller and Foss and the Orrs remove their signs
2) Reassurance from the city that neither those homeowners nor any other residents in Windsor Heights will be subject to similar unconstitutional action in the future.

“My wife and I feel it is our right to express our opinion," said homeowner Mike Miller. "The First Amendment defends our right to do that and the City of Windsor Heights cannot take that away.”

Miller said it was important to them to appeal the city’s decision and let the public know how the city is abusing its power.

“We want to try to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Miller said.