Youth soccer league feels they're unjustly being targeted by Pinal County officials

Posted at 10:54 PM, Jul 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-14 01:54:14-04

A fight is raging between a youth soccer coach and Pinal County officials who said the club's recruiting efforts are a literally a sign of trouble.

The problem is with a roadside banner Robert Jones put up beside the Hunt Highway several weeks ago.  It invites kids to join the soccer league that's been running every year since 2009. 

"I’m just trying to figure out different ways to get kids into the program," Jones said.

The banner is professionally printed and displayed in a wooden frame secured to metal steaks about 25 feet off the side of the road.  Right after he put up the sign, Jones said it disappeared.  He replaced the sign twice and each time it vanished.

"I was sure it was vandals until yesterday morning," Jones said.

Frustrated, Jones put up cameras to catch the thief.  He was baffled to find it was a Pinal County worker who was haphazardly hacking the banner out of the wooden frame with a knife.

"It blew my mind," he said.

Pinal County Code Enforcement Manger Paula Mullenix told ABC15 that Jones' sign is in the right of way and isn't permitted. 

"The penalty for not having a permit shouldn't be legalized vandalism.  It should be what they gave [the next sign over] — a notice, a phone call, a fine," Jones explained.

Indeed, Jones' sign has a note asking for a heads up if there's a problem. He ever provided a phone number.  And the next sign down from his has a warning notice from Pinal County, letting the owner know that the sign is out of zoning compliance, but the sign is left standing unharmed.

In a phone call on Thursday afternoon, Mullenix told ABC15 that the county removes 100s of illegal signs and doesn't have time to notify everybody.  Mullenix also said she offered Jones another spot along the road if he would simply come apply for a permit. 

Jones said he did finally talk with Mullenix this week, but not about that.

"I was never offered a spot.  If I was offered a spot I would have no problem taking it,” Jones said.

ABC15 offered Pinal County officials, including Mullenix, the chance for a formal interview but the offer was turned down.