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Il Frateli v City of Coppell

From the copy and paste press release department:

Huge Fine for Holding a Sign? Coppell Official’s Harassment Causes Layoffs.

i Fratelli Pizza feels “chilling effect” through unprovoked vendetta

COPPELL, TX   Did a Coppell City official lean on a code enforcement officer to fine the manager of a locally owned i Fratelli Pizza $2,000.00 because there was a lone employee holding a sign in front of the store?

“Yes” says a disbelieving Mike Cole, owner, fifteen year Coppell resident and CEO of i Fratelli Pizza, a local family-owned business that has eleven locations in the Metroplex. “I have the citation here to prove it. I guess we have to spend time and money going to a criminal trial. It really is a shame…not just the hard costs, but the fact that a worthy young man had to be lain off due to a city official’s indiscretion. “

After numerous harassing phone calls and unannounced visits from the Deputy Chief Tim Oates, Officer Oates evidently summoned a code enforcement officer to levy the huge fine in order to, in Officer Oates’ words, “change the manager’s attitude”. The criminal trial is set for November 9, 2009.

George Cole, Mike Cole’s brother, an owner, and former Coppell resident declared “during twenty two years in business, eleven locations in eight cities, we have never been treated like this. While serving the citizens in Coppell for seventeen years, we have only had the utmost respect for the workings of the city. Something has changed, something seems out of line…it feels personal.”

Especially because the Cole Brothers contend that they cannot find anything on the City Website that declares “holding a sign” to be a crime.

Darrell Cole, another brother and owner, but a current Coppell resident is outraged. “This gentleman at the city works for taxpayer money (my taxes) but spends his time attacking a business that raises the taxes that employs him and employs many other citizens. Is it smart to pick on someone who supports the city causes, celebrations, charitable programs, and numerous school and church organizations? He says we are the criminals?”

David Cole of Irving, a brother and owner, questions “why would any city official of Coppell “slap down” a family-owned business that has fought through a severe economic downturn without laying anyone off (until now) by levying a huge fine for holding a sign. Did he get his training at the Kremlin?”

15 comments on “Il Frateli v City of Coppell

  1. What did the sign say? Was it possibly causing a distraction to drivers at a busy intersection? I need more info in order to understand the situation. I’ve never heard the term “lain off” either. This wasn’t well reported.

  2. I’m not sure about the situation in Coppell, but in Uptown, they have a guy holding a sign in front of their store and waving it around. Is it a distraction? Yes, but that’s what signs and advertising are, distractions to attract your attention.

    But this does sound personal!

  3. If your going to send out a press release that you want taken seriously, why would you keep quoting family members?

  4. Too bad they’re not a big company like Kroger, governments seem to be changing all kinds of rules for the largest of players. The smaller guys can turn around and kiss their own butts goodbye.

  5. I sure hope they win their case against the city of Coppell. Whose city fathers obviously have nothing better to do than harass well meaning taxpayers.

  6. Unbelieveable. Unless the sign was somehow clearly offensive, Coppell is living up to its nickname (Cop hell).

  7. No need to get defensive, Nancy. I thoroughly enjoy SideDish. I just wish the press release had presented some facts.

  8. @bw I think they quoted the brothers because they are the business. If you’ve been to one of their restaurants before, or had pizza delivered, then you would have seen their faces all over. “I fratelli” is literally translated, “the brothers”. Who else would they have quoted?

  9. The article never mentioned it’s illegal to hold the sign for commercial business advertising. This is not a free speech issue. The business will lose in court, because that’s the law. If you don’t like the laws, talk to your city counsel members. Keep in mind the hazard, that when this sign holder causes a traffic accident and someone dies, it’s too late to change the laws to save that life. Thankfully, code enforcement and laws try keep all community members safe. It’s nice to sell more pizzas, but please, not at my expense.

  10. In the city of Coppell it is illegal to have a portable sign. Does this cover hand held signs (Free Car Wash, Go Cowboys win State, Support our Troops)?
    Apparently it does as translated by city officials. My Brother was found guilty by jury with as reduced fine.
    There is precedent that this type of vague and unequal enforcement is unconstitutional, so The Cole Brothers and i Fratelli Pizza may appeal.
    Only the Cole Brothers were interviewed in this press release because no one else was at the dinner table at the time. The lack of facts in this press release is due to presence of wine at that dinner table. We hope to have Nancy as our guest at the next dinner table so she can get the facts on the record and can invite her own family to interview.
    Thanks for the support and or interest.
    We love Coppell…and we love the Coppell officials although very few of the city officials live in the city, The Cole brothers have spent 50 years combined living in Coppell.
    Go The Highlands Blazers

  11. The law does prohibit “portable signs” but it is not content-based; it does not specifically prohibit “commercial” messages.
    It is a “free speech” issue considering the real estate industry is exempted from these regulations, but the pizza business is not.It would be like a law that prohibited the posting of garage sale signs, but allowed “puppies for sale” signs. I know, because I am the criminal who was found guilty on Monday. Is this discrimination? Maybe the appellate court will tell us. I appreciate your mission Larry, and can assure you that my sign is no more a threat to motorists than the existing real estate signs and city signs that litter the roadway in Coppell. We held the sign everyday for 3 months and there was never an accident or complaint. respectfully, Mike