OCEAN CITY – Nearly four years since their signs were confiscated by authorities and allegedly destroyed, the Defend Life organization is asking for their money back.
Jack Ames, director of the Baltimore-based pro-life organization that was removed from the Ocean City Boardwalk in 2005 for displaying graphic images of dismembered and mutilated fetuses alleged to be results of abortions, said that the town owes the group $660 so it can replace the three double-sided signs that were seized by the Ocean City Police Department.
“The signs were stored outside, and water got inside the lamination and totally destroyed our signs,” said Ames via phone interview. “The [Ocean City Police] chief [Bernadette DiPino] told me back then that we would get our money back.”
Ames said the reason that it has taken this long to make the request for reimbursement from the town is because the manufacturer of the signs went out of business and he has only recently found a new company to redo the signs.
“It’s irrelevant how long it’s been since it happened,” said Ames. “The bottom line is that they took them, destroyed them, and now they owe us.”
Ames sent a letter to DiPino in January making his request for a total of six signs, sized 36” x 60”, for a total of $570, adding $30 for shipping, and an additional $60 for mounting boards and tape, but only received a letter from DiPino saying that his query was being forwarded to the town’s risk manager, Eric Lagstrom.
Ames said that he was told by Lagstrom that he would get a final answer concerning his request by the end of February, but received no such notice to date.
“If we hadn’t done anything, they would have probably just forgotten about it,” said Ames, “but we are going to sue them if they try to weasel their way out of it.”
Lagstrom said that the issue, since it was a legal matter that went to court in 2005, was still considered a closed issue that he was unable to comment on. However, he did concede that Ames’ request came “out of the blue” and to his knowledge, the signs were not destroyed the OCPD.
Ames contested that Lagstrom and the town of Ocean City just wanted the matter to “simply go away,” and when he didn’t hear back from the town at the end of February, decided this week to send copies of his correspondence with DiPino and his request for reimbursement to the mayor, the city manager and the local press.
“Now they are going to have to deal with it, because the cat is out of the bag, and everyone knows about what they did,” said Ames.
City Solicitor Guy Ayres, however, was surprised to hear that the issue was being revisited and noted that in his opinion, the $660 request for the signs was a bit exaggerated.
“As far as the town is concerned, their claim has been denied,” said Ayres.
When asked why he thought that Ames was not notified about the decision, Ayres simply stated, “sometimes silence speaks very loudly.”
Back in 2005, OCPD spokesman Barry Neeb said that the group’s signs were confiscated because members were not acting within city law, citing that the group did not adhere to the rule saying that the group must be walking with the signs at all times.
Some have argued that the signs are too graphic and inappropriate to be seen by young children on the Boardwalk, but Ames contests that they were always proceeded by warning signs that would enable parents to be “human shields” or avoid the content altogether, according to Ames.
“What’s the bigger tragedy in this sense?,” queried Ames. “Having a few young kids see these images or the mass slaughter of thousands of fetuses every single day?”