Dial’s use of town seal questioned

First Posted: 2/25/2014

PEMBROKE — An incumbent councilman seeking re-election in Pembroke says he made a mistake by using the town seal on campaign material without including a disclaimer.

Although Allen Dial’s calendar card does not seem to violate state elections law, the town’s attorney said they are misleading.

“It was an oversight by me,” Dial said. “I thought that any campaign literature smaller than poster-size signs didn’t have to have a disclaimer … I had no complaints from anyone. The only complaint I had from anyone is that the cards look nice.”

Although the calendar cards bearing Dial’s photo, the Pembroke town seal and the statement “Re-elect Allen G. Dial” don’t violate state election laws, state law does require that a disclaimer be put on the cards informing people that the candidate paid for the cards and not taxpayers.

Town Attorney Gary Locklear, a retired Superior Court judge, ordered the cards removed Tuesday from Town Hall. According to Locklear, using the town seal on the cards made it appear that the town was supporting Dial in his re-election bid in a special election being held on March 11.

“They are not on display now. I told the staff to put the cards in an envelope and return them (to Dial),” Locklear said. “I just don’t think the cards in the Town Hall are appropriate. It just doesn’t create a fair appearance.”

Dial said he is not upset by the decision to have the cards removed from Town Hall, and said he will place a stamp on his remaining cards with the appropriate disclaimer.

Questions about the legality of using the town seal on campaign cards were brought to the Robeson County Board of Elections on Monday. G.L. Pridgen, Robeson County’s newly appointed Board of Elections director, said that he forwarded the state Board of Elections a copy of the calendar for its review.

“This is the first time I have ever seen anything like that,” said Pridgen, a former state legislator. “I thought it was better to let the state board make a decision on how the seal was used.”

Pridgen said that he received word Tuesday from the state that Dial did not violate any laws by using the town seal.

“A town seal is part of the public domain,” Pridgen said. “There is no rule against using it.”

Dial told The Robesonian that he had talked with Don Wright, the general counsel for the state Board of Elections, two months ago about the legality of using the town seal on campaign cards and placing them on town property.

“I was told that it was something I could do, but it was up to the individual public institution whether or not I could place the cards on its property,” Dial said. “I checked before I put the cards in the Town Hall … Use of the seal is legal. The town seal is for everybody.”

Pridgen said that the state did inform him that Dial must put “paid for by” on all of his cards. He said that he is not sure if the state will take any action against Dial for failure to properly identify the funding source of the cards.