By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
Northeast Democrats of Mercer County on Wednesday sued the Great Stoneboro Fair and two board members over a billboard that was removed just prior to this year’s fair.
The suit alleges one count of malicious interference with contractual relations by the fair board, its president, Ron Carkin, and its vice president, Donald Barbour.
Northeast Democrats said they entered a contract with billboard owner General Outdoor Advertising Inc. to put up an ad in support of Missa Eaton, the Democrat running against incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, a Butler County Republican, on U.S. Route 62 in Stoneboro.
“The sign was to occupy the billboard ... starting at the beginning of the 2012 Stoneboro Fair,” the complaint said.
The Democrats wanted the message to be seen by “thousands of fair attendees in a demographic (they) felt needed to be reached by this particular message,” the suit said.
The billboard was put up Aug. 30, but Barbour approached the group the next day saying it was on fair property and was going to be torn down, the suit said.
The Democrats said the billboard was covered with burlap, and Barbour threatened to have anyone who attempted to enter the area around the sign arrested for trespassing, the suit said.
The Dems said they approached Carkin, who, like Barbour, is a Republican, but he “would not respond to any of the Northeast Democrats’ inquiries relative to the billboard.”
The billboard was “maliciously” torn down and dumped into woods, the suit said.
Barbour and Carkin “did not want the thousands of members of the general public who were attending and/or passing by the fair to see the message,” the suit said.
As further proof of the “malicious motive” of Barbour and Carkin, the Dems said the billboard recently had advertised fireworks and last year a Republican candidate for county office.
The Dems are asking that the defendants be ordered to provide “in-kind advertising that will serve the same purpose and the same goal as the original advertising.”