Laney plans to remove name from squad cars at own expense; Jaeger says cars can't share Laney's name and ND state seal
UPDATED 3:42 p.m.
UPDATED 3:42 p.m.
FARGO - Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said this afternoon he will have his name removed from county cars at his own expense.
The decision came after Laney received a letter from North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger, who said new logos on county cars could not combine the sheriff's name with the Great Seal of the state of North Dakota.
The new graphics were applied this spring as part of a $9,000 makeover of 14 county vehicles.
Laney said the decision to incorporate an exact image of his badge on the cars was made by a committee and he gave up use of his badge for a couple of days to accommodate the plan.
Announcing this afternoon that a graphics firm has already been contacted to remove his name, Laney apologized for any confusion the matter has caused.
He said most of his staff urged him to resist Jaeger's request, but added, "the right thing to do is to get 'em off there and do it at my expense," Laney said.
In his letter to Laney, which was sent to Laney's office this morning, Jaeger said the display of the Great Seal is generally limited to the official use of state entities and state officials.
"The use of the Great Seal on any other object or thing is generally not permitted without the approval of the secretary of state," said Jaeger in the letter.
Jaeger, who under state law is the custodian of the seal, told Laney he had the option of removing the Great Seal from a badge painted on the cars, or removing his name from the design.
"State law specifically prohibits the use of the Great Seal associated with any political purpose. ... having your name inserted in the badge (along with the Great Seal) and having its image reproduced on vehicle doors, whether intended or not, would imply a political purpose," said Jaeger in his letter.
Laney said the new logos were intended to reflect "pride in our department, pride in our people, pride in our state."
He said removing his name from the cars will involve minimal effort and expense.
Contacted by phone at his office in Bismarck, Jaeger said he wanted the letter to speak for itself, but added his letter was not intended to embarrass the sheriff.
"It's not accusatory," Jaeger said.
Jaeger said it was decided some time ago that the state seal could be used on law enforcement badges.
He said if names are being incorporated into those badges as well, it might be something state officials will have to review.
For more details, see Saturday's Forum.