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WEDNESDAY, June 12 — Campaign flyers urging residents to vote for a Lansing City Council candidate appear to have violated state, federal and local laws after they were found in mailboxes across the city earlier this week.
Two-sided flyers recently delivered to homes in Lansing encouraged voters to elect Farhan Sheikh-Omar, a candidate running against Councilwoman Jody Washington in the city’s 1st Ward. They included list summaries of Sheikh-Omar’s platform and appear to have been hand-delivered with no visible postage marks.
Federal law prohibits the placement of any unstamped flyers into any mailbox. It also subjects anyone who “knowingly deposits mail-able matter” into those boxes to fines as high as $5,000 per occurrence for individuals and up to $10,000 per occurrence for organizations. It’s not clear who delivered these flyers, but it wasn’t USPS.
The laminated advertisements are missing a legally mandated paid-for disclaimer, according to Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum. Candidates are required to disclose those details on all printed materials. Byrum, the coordinator of the upcoming Aug. 6 primary election, said a formal complaint hasn’t been filed.
As for the mailbox deliveries? “That’s an issue that needs to be taken up with law enforcement,” Byrum added.
The recent mailers also feature Sheikh-Omar pictured in front of the seal for the City of Lansing. City Attorney Jim Smiertka said that logo is legally considered to be city property and cannot be used outside of city business. Its usage — especially for campaign purposes — clashes with city ordinances and copyright restrictions, he said.
“It looks like the city clerk is going to have to notify him about this one,” Smiertka said.
Sheik-Omar didn’t return calls from City Pulse earlier this afternoon. The 24-year old Kenyan refugee ran a failed primary campaign for Michigan’s 68th House District against Rep. Sarah Anthony last year. He studies political science at Lansing Community College and works as an assistant teacher for Ingham ISD.
He, Scott Hughes, Brandon Betz and James Pyle are running against Washington, who is seeking a third term this year. He previously said that it’s time for a “fresh perspective” on the City Council.
“I can do a better job because I will unite instead of divide,” Sheikh-Omar said. “Unlike Jody Washington, I will listen to all sides of an issue and be able to communicate with supporters, opponents and colleagues — We need to listen to residents and provide an opportunity for community dialogue.”
Washington, who recently assembled and distributed some campaign literature of her own, said she was sure that her mailing included proper paid-for disclaimers but otherwise declined to comment for this story.
Visit lansingcitypulse.com for previous and continued coverage on the Lansing City Council election.