VIDEO: Election Day scuffle: Finlay accused of pushing Hirsch campaign volunteer

Naples City Council candidate Doug Finlay, left, talks with friend Alan Ryker, right, and Paul Lindabury, center, describing events earlier in the day while campaigning with his wife, Joyce Findlay, far left, outside a polling site at St. Ann's Catholic Parish in Old Naples Tuesday. Finlay was detained by Naples police after allegedly pushing a volunteer with Dorothy Hirsch's campaign. Michel Fortier/Staff

Photo by MICHEL FORTIER // Buy this photo

Naples City Council candidate Doug Finlay, left, talks with friend Alan Ryker, right, and Paul Lindabury, center, describing events earlier in the day while campaigning with his wife, Joyce Findlay, far left, outside a polling site at St. Ann's Catholic Parish in Old Naples Tuesday. Finlay was detained by Naples police after allegedly pushing a volunteer with Dorothy Hirsch's campaign. Michel Fortier/Staff

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Doug Finlay on Election Day scuffle

Naples City Council member Doug Finlay

Naples City Council member Doug Finlay

Michael Pollack campaigns for Dorothy Hirsch in front of a polling site on Riverside Circle.

Michael Pollack campaigns for Dorothy Hirsch in front of a polling site on Riverside Circle.

— It wasn’t how Doug Finlay planned to spend Election Day.

But shortly after the polls opened Tuesday morning, Finlay, 58, a candidate for Naples City Council, was handcuffed and charged with misdemeanor battery.

The charge stemmed from a ruckus over campaign signs that Finlay said were placed too close to the street.

Finlay said he went to remove a Dorothy Hirsch sign from city property, when a campaign volunteer — later identified as Hirsch’s treasurer, Michael Pollack — told him not to take the sign.

Campaign signs are not allowed to be placed on government property and must be 15 feet away from the paved roadway, said Roger Jacobsen, the city’s code and harbor manager.

Pollack then went to retrieve the signs Finlay had taken and approached Finlay “fast and close,” said Naples police spokesman Michael Herman.

“He stepped right in my face and I just pushed him back a little bit,” Finlay said.

That’s not how Councilman Bill Willkomm saw it, though.

Willkomm, who was parked across the street when the incident occurred, said he saw Finlay pull in front of the polling place, 380 Riverside Circle, run at Pollack and try to grab a sign out of his hand.

Someone holding a campaign sign on public property is not a code violation, Jacobsen said, because it is considered free speech.

Willkomm said he then saw Finlay push Pollack twice in an attempt to get the sign out of his hand, before he got back in his car and drove off.

“I have never heard of this before,” Willkomm said. “This is beyond belief.”

Finlay said he went to the police department to report a code violation, but shortly after was told he was going to be arrested, because Pollack claimed he had assaulted him.

A police report was not available Tuesday evening.

Pollack did not want to comment on the incident, but Hirsch said she was upset Pollack had this experience.

“It’s really upsetting that people are going after pollsters,” Hirsch said Tuesday morning. “It’s a matter of laying hands on someone. You can’t sugar coat that.”

Finlay received a notice to appear in court, and his hearing is scheduled for Feb. 24.

Posted earlier:

A Naples City Council candidate ended up at the police station this morning after a dispute over campaign signs at a downtown polling site.

Candidate Doug Finlay is accused of pushing a volunteer from Dorothy Hirsch's campaign at the polling site on Riverside Circle. Finlay received a notice to appear on a misdemeanor battery charge, according to Naples Police spokesman Mike Herman.

The incident happened just after 7 a.m. Herman said the altercation occurred after a campaign worker for candidate Dorothy Hirsch accused Finlay of pulling out signs.

Herman said the volunteer, Michael Pollack, went to retrieve the signs from Finlay, and came up on him “fast and close.”

Finlay, Herman said, “wasn't looking to batter the individual.”

But that's not how Councilman Bill Willkomm, who witnessed the incident, sees it.

Willkomm, who is seeking reelection, said he saw Finlay pull in front of the polling place, run at the volunteer and try to grab the sign out of his hand. Willkomm said he saw Finlay push Pollack twice, before getting back in his car and driving off.

“I have never heard of this before,” Willkomm said. “This is beyond belief.”

Sam Saad and Councilman Gary Price are also vying for three open spots on the City Council.

Getting handcuffed and taken to jail was not how Finlay expected to spend part of Tuesday morning.

Finlay told the Daily News that after voting at his precinct, he spotted several Willkomm and Hirsch campaign signs on the city’s right of way - which is against city code.

“Frankly, I would have thought that Dorothy Hirsch would have known the codes better than anyone in this town, because she is very, very, very for strict code enforcement,” said Finlay adding that he then saw several more similarly placed signs at a different polling site. “I realized then that there was an orchestrated campaign to place these signs on city property near polling places.”

So he grabbed the signs, Finlay said, and headed to the Naples’s code enforcement office.

However, before Finlay made it, he stopped and pulled another sign off the right of way in front of the city’s Police Department which is across the polling precinct at the Utility Department building.

That’s when things got dicey.

“A gentleman approached me very aggressively and told me, ‘Don’t take that sign,’” Finlay said, while campaigning in front of St. Ann’s Catholic Church. “I told him, ‘This sign is on city property, it is illegal and you can not do this on Election Day.’”

At that point, Finlay said Pollack got so close to him that he had to push him off.

“He stepped right in my face and I just pushed him back a little bit,” he said.

After that Finlay said he waited for the Police Department to open to report the sign code violations.

But awhile after the code violation was reported, Finlay said an officer then informed him that he was going to be arrested, handcuffed and taken to jail.

“I said, ‘What for?’” said Finlay.

That’s when Finlay learned that Pollock had claimed that he’d assaulted him.

Although Pollack, a volunteer with the Hirsch campaign would not comment on the incident, he did confirm that he was the one who was shoved by Finlay.

While campaigning with her husband, Joyce Finlay said the sad thing is that regardless of what really happen, the exaggerated gossip would already be making the rounds.

“The charge is totally bogus,” said Joyce Finlay, 57, who described her husband’s push as a reaction to having an unknown person literally less than six inches from his face. “

“People will believe what they want,”

As for the illegally posted campaign signs, both the Finlays agreed that Willkomm and Hirsch should have known better.

“It’s sad that people put up signs illegally in the first place,” Joyce Finlay said. “We are supposed to follow the law whether it’s a small campaign or a big campaign.”

Roger Jacobsen, the city's code and harbor manager, said campaign signs are not allowed to be placed on government property. But candidates do have a loop hole: Signs can be carried on government property.

"You can carry a sign," Jacobsen said this morning. "That's free speech. It's almost like a protestor."

These signs also have to be 15 feet back from the paved roadway, Jacobsen said.

The city has been collecting illegal signs all morning, and as of 11 a.m. code enforcement has collected about 100 signs that were placed either on government property or too close to the roadway.

Willkomm and Pollack told officers what had occurred, and Finlay is facing a misdemeanor battery charge. He is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 24.

"It's really upsetting that people are going after pollsters," Hirsch said this morning. "It's a matter of laying hands on someone. You can't sugar coat that."

Read Election Day Blog about other polling activities.

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