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Columbus Dispatch 2004: Lawyer in hot water over removal of Kerry sign


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After having two other John Kerry signs stolen from her yard - the first thanks to lawyer Mitchell H. Banchefsky - Ann Boucher of Columbus made her own.

Mitchell H. Banchefsky doesn't seem like someone who would lead a young person astray.

Besides being a partner in the Downtown law firm of Schottenstein Zox & Dunn, Banchefsky, 51, is a part-time law director for New Albany and Marble Cliff, and a member of the Ohio Crime Victims Compensation Fund board.

But then, it is an election year.

Yesterday, Banchefsky acknowledged to The Dispatch that he told his 13-year-old daughter last month to filch a John Kerry campaign sign from the yard of Ann Boucher, of Clearview Avenue, on the Northwest Side.

Two people witnessed the theft and gave Boucher the license plate number of the suspect's vehicle, which Columbus police traced to Banchefsky.

He said he was driving with his daughter when he spotted the Kerry sign at the corner of Clearview and W North Broadway. He stopped and asked her to grab it, which she did, Banchefsky said.

He was more irritated that the sign was too close to W North Broadway - in the public right of way - Banchefsky said, than he was that it supported the Democratic presidential candidate. A registered. Republican, he is an avid supporter of President Bush.

"Most people don't realize you can't put signs in the right of way," Banchefsky said.

"I'm not using that as an excuse. It was an exercise in bad judgment on my part. I should have called the Columbus code-enforcement people and had them remove it."

Boucher, who spoke twice with Banchefsky after the incident, was skeptical of his right-of-way argument. The sign was at least 12-feet from North Broadway, she said, and well within her property.

"And even if it was in the right of way, what right does he have to take it down?" she said. "It sounds like vigilantism. This is about my First Amendment right of freedom of speech.

"This was a Bush-Kerry thing, not a right-of-way thing."

Banchefsky said he is sensitive to the right-of-way issue because a Bush sign had been removed from his yard, possibly because of right-of-way concerns.

Banchefsky, who sent Boucher a $10 check for the sign, said, "This is being blown out of proportion. I did it on impulse."
Columbus City Prosecutor Steve McIntosh said he would not pursue the case unless Boucher files a complaint.

Boucher said she will not do that because she also would have to file a complaint against Banchefsky's daughter.

Instead, she plans to file an administrative complaint against Banchefsky with the Ohio Supreme Court's disciplinary councel, which investigates allegations against lawyers.

Since the July 17 incident, a second Kerry sign has been stolen from Boucher's yard.

The determined Kerry supporter has installed a third sign that she made herself. "I'll keep replacing them," she said.

The whole situation is unfortunate, said the mayor of Dublin, where Banchefsky handled zoning and development issues until about a year ago.

"The political process is to allow everyone to run for office and to allow them to tell people about that," Mayor Marilee Chinnici-Zuercher said.

Banchefsky showed bad judgement, but his part-time job is secure in New Albany, Mayor Nancy Ferguson said last night.

Ferguson, an attorney, couldn't say if Banchefsky had taken the law into his own hands by having his daughter remove the sign. "I would have to think about that," she said.

There are better way to get young people involved in politics, New Albany Council Member Colleen Briscoe said.

"I would not pull out yard signs, and I wouldn't be having my daughter do it," Briscoe said. "What was he thinking?"

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