Arlington mayor criticized for using city's, teams' logos in campaign mailer

Posted Thursday, May. 09, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Just days before the election, two Arlington City Council candidates filed complaints against longtime Mayor Robert Cluck and three other council incumbents over campaign mailers.

Joe McHaney, who is vying for the District 8 seat held by Michael Glaspie, filed a complaint with the city attorney’s office Thursday morning against Cluck for improperly using the city logo in a recent political mailer. He also filed a complaint against Glaspie for using the city logo in a campaign email last year.

Jerry Pikulinski, one of three candidates in the mayor’s race, filed complaints against all four council incumbents who face challengers — Cluck, Glaspie, District 5 Councilwoman Lana Wolff and District 4 Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon —- also over content in campaign mailers.

The Arlington City Council and school board election is Saturday.

Cluck, who is seeking his sixth, two-year term, acknowledged that a mistake was made and that he assumed his political consultant had obtained permission to use the logos.

“It taught me a lesson that when I get these mailers I need to study them for a day or two to make sure all the traps have been run,” said Cluck, who said he was contacted by both teams about getting permission to use the logos in the future.

“It’s not right to use a logo that you don’t have permission to use,” he said.

Logos

Cluck’s mailer, titled “Arlington has 3 professional teams,” touts the successes of the city, the Rangers and the Cowboys. It also features photos resembling sports trading cards of Cluck and the three incumbent members who are in contested races along with the city logo.

McHaney alleges that Cluck violated an ordinance that prohibits use of the city’s logo in an advertisement without the authorization of the Arlington City Council. Not complying with the ordinance is punishable by a fine of up to $200 a day per offense.

McHaney also raised concerns about Cluck’s use of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers logos, which he said gives voters the appearance that the teams endorsed the incumbent mayor.

“When I first saw it, it hit me. I said ‘They can’t use the city logo.’ Then I started looking more and saw the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers logos. They don’t have the trademark or copyright on either one of those,” he said.

Texas Rangers spokesman John Blake told the Star-Telegram, “While we were not aware of this mailing, the Rangers view it as a reflection of our strong longstanding partnership with the City of Arlington and not a political endorsement.”

The Dallas Cowboys could not be reached for comment.

Pikulinski’s also filed an ethics complaint against all four incumbents photographed on the campaign mailer, saying he believes they were all complicit in improper use of the logos because they use the same political consultants.

“Illegal use is made of football and baseball team logos to create an implied endorsement,” he wrote in his complaint. “These logos were not in public domain for general candidate use.”

Wolff, Wilemon and Glaspie could not be reached for comment.

Assistant City Attorney David Barber confirmed that a complaint had been filed but said he could not comment on the situation as it was under review.

“It will go through the normal course like any other complaint that is filed and will be reviewed,” he said.

Campaign contributions and expenditures

Pikulinski filed a second ethics complaint Thursday against the four incumbents related another campaign publication, the Arlington Police Association’s voter guide that was mailed to residents.

He said the glossy mailer gives voters the impression that all Arlington police officers, and not just union members, endorse the incumbents. Pikulinski and McHaney said it also appears council incumbents made financial contributions to the police association.

“I want the public to be aware of what a dirty ballgame this is,” Pikulinski said.

Arlington Police Association President Randle Meadows could not be reached for comment.

All Cluck would say about the voters guide was: “I know what season it is.”

Cluck said his $7,000 contribution to the police association was to reimburse members for, among other things, setting up signs around town. He was interviewed by the association for the guide and was not aware if his contribution was used directly or indirectly to produce it.

Cluck, who is being challenged by Chris Dobson and Pikulinski for the mayor’s seat, has raised and spent the most of any Arlington City Council candidate this election.

As of May 3, Cluck had raised $35,628 in political contributions to add to his $105,000 war chest and had spent more than $43,3000, mostly on signs, mailers, ads and printing costs, according to campaign finance reports.

Pikulinski had raised about $1,200 and had spent about $1,650 as of May 1.

Glaspie, who is being challenged by Richard Weber and McHaney for the at-large District 8 seat, had spent the second most at $20,318, according to campaign reports. Glaspie had raised more than $11,500 as of May 3, compared to McHaney’s $6,300 as of April 11. Weber had raised about $100 and spent just under $800 as of May 1.

Wilemon had raised about $14,300 and spent $11,405 as of May 1 while her challenger, Daniel Wood, had spent nearly all of the $1,030 he had raised in contributions.

Candidates who raised less than $500 were not required to file campaign finance reports.

Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639 Twitter: @susanschrock

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