Billboard mocks Milford mayor, council as wanted for theft

Katie KazimirGovernment, Headlines


A move by the Milford City Council to condemn and take land outside its border is getting huge backlash, including this billboard that went up Friday. Photo by Katie Kazimir.

“WANTED – MILFORD CITY COUNCIL – ATTEMPTED THEFT” says a billboard featuring photos of Milford’s mayor and seven council members that went up Friday on Del. 113 at the south end of town.

It’s the most recent reaction to the council condemning eight acres belonging to Annette Billings and then using eminent domain to take her property for $20,000. 

That’s the “theft” referred to by the billboard.

The city wants to use it to complete a park so it can put in a bike and walking trail to connect its four wards.

Billings previously had the property, appraised and valued at about $50,000 an acre.

“Sounds like a steal,” wrote James Weller on a Facebook post picturing the billboard.

Weller said Billings was an easy target because she is a widow and cancer survivor of a certain age and limited income. She raises chickens for a poultry company.

The billboard directs those wishing to share thoughts on the matter to call City Manager Mark Whitfield at (302) 422-6166, Ext. 1304.

“I think the people are exercising their first amendment rate of free speech regarding government overreach,” said Billings’ lawyer, Ronald Poliquin.

Poliquin said he is amazed at how far interest in the eminent domain case has spread, and he doesn’t foresee a stop to the public taking issue with Milford council’s actions any time soon.

“There’s going to be consequences for their actions,” he said. 

The court order sent to Billings by the city demanded she be in court Feb. 13. 

Poliquin said he filed for a continuance asking for time to give the case due diligence, but he expects that request to be denied.

One reason for that, he said, is because city officials are upset about the public outcry against them.


This Masten Realty sign sits near the new billboard on Del. 113. Photo by Katie Kazimir

The action comes as the city is getting ready for an April 27 election.

“People, remember these faces on election day,” said Weller on his Facebook post. “They are the ones responsible for the taking of Annette Billings land by eminent domain.”

Not featured on the billboard was Todd Culotta, the only council member to vote against taking Billings property.

The council discussed the move in executive session and then came back into public session to vote.

Culotta, who is running for mayor against incumbent Archie Campbell, said the other council members are starting to feel the heat and they have no one to blame but themselves.

“This is a big mistake on their part,” he said.

Two of the four council seats up for elections are known to have candidates running against current council members.

Phillip Ruiz has filed for 4th ward and will run against Katrina Wilson, who has been on council for 30 years.

Diamanto Madula Kalesis filed against 1st ward Councilman Michael Boyle.

So far running uncontested are Andrew P. Fulton of the 2nd ward and Brian C. Baer of the 3rd ward.

The deadline for nominees to file for candidacy is Feb. 27. 

“Wow. There seems to be a large interest in this situation, said Dave Bell on The Lincoln City, Delaware Page he runs on Facebook. “The people are speaking out.”

Facebook user Linda Webb said she has been following the case and it’s made her angry.

“A bunch of thieving scoundrels in my book,”  she commented under Bell’s post.

RELATED STORY: Milford moves to condemn widow’s property for bike path

Both Webb and Bell raised questions as to the location of Billings’ property.

“Her property isn’t even within town limits,” Webb said.

That’s what State Sen. Dave Wilson told the council in a hearing this week.

Under the city charter, land close to Milford but not within its border can still be subject to eminent domain.

Billings’ property is close enough for the town to condemn and take under eminent domain.

“Annette can’t run for council nor can she vote since she doesn’t reside in town limits,” Weller said. “Yet they can take her land.”

Poliquin thinks a policy change is needed to remove that allowance from the charter.

“I do think it’s an issue that people see – a government entity trying to take property outside its border,” Poliquin said.


Billboard appearance

According to Weller, the billboard is the work of Jamie Masten of Masten Realty, who could not be reached for comment.

A red Masten Realty logo is affixed to the bottom right corner of the billboard structure, and appears on a large “For Sale” sign on the property.

The billboard, which can be seen by traffic driving north on Del. 113, is located on the southbound side of the highway, just south of the Milford Redner’s. 

Poliquin said that it is “perfectly appropriate” for the people of Milford to exercise their first amendment right in such a big way.

Culotta agreed, adding that at Monday’s council meeting he requested more time for public comments on the matter to be heard.

Council denied his request, leaving only 15 minutes total for the more than 100 people attending to comment.

Poliquin’s advice to the mayor and council is simple.

“Take the heat,” he said. “You’re elected officials. If you make a decision, stand by it.”

Campbell said he can’t comment on the billboard due to Milford being in litigation with Billings.

Council members Mike Boyle and Dan Marabello were not aware of the billboard until Milford Live approached them for comment.

Both declined to comment and Marabello said council was advised by counsel to not to speak on the matter.

“How can you make this feel good?” Weller asked on his Facebook post. “What a sad day.”

He suggested Milford adopt a code of conduct similar to that of rotary clubs, which makes decisions based on truth, goodwill, friendship and the well-being of all involved.

“Let’s just wait a minute. Let’s sit back and look,” Weller said.


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