Did Murphy Use The Town Logo Illegally?


Incumbent politicians are hard to defeat. They are out in the public, cutting ribbons, riding in parades and attending meetings. When they are given an unfair advantage it becomes even harder to challenge them. Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy took it upon himself to use the Town of Fort Myers Beach logo in his campaign materials, something no other candidate was allowed to do.

It all started early last week when we noticed that Murphy was using the town logo on his newly launched re-elect Facebook page. The Fort Myers Beach government logo is trademarked and copyrighted. It cannot simply be lifted by anyone to use as they wish.

For example, three weeks ago, a business in Times Square was ordered to remove a painting of the logo from its building. Code enforcement told the restaurant owner that the logo was trademarked and copyrighted and could not be painted on the building without the town’s permission. And, the town did not want to be seen as endorsing one business over another. The same rule should apply to Murphy’s campaign. Why should the town government be seen as endorsing one candidate over the others?

When Patrick Romcoe, also a candidate for town council, asked if he could use the logo in his campaign materials, he was told by the town he needed to get town council approval. How did Murphy get approval? The council hasn’t met for over a month.

We reached out to local political consultant Tim Miller who says if the logo was created with public funds, it should not have been used. Miller says when he helps incumbents in their re-election bids, the seal of the office they are occupying are never used.

Here’s what the state election rulebook says about using your office in an election: “No officer or employee of the state, or of any county or municipality thereof, shall: Use his or her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or a nomination of office or coercing or influencing another person’s vote or affecting the result thereof.

On Friday of last week, we asked town attorney John Herin if what Murphy used was an authorized use of the Fort Myers Beach logo, whether it was an endorsement for the candidate by the town, and if all candidates were allowed to use the town logo in their campaigns. Herin ignored our request for a comment at first. After a second e-mail asking for a response, here’s what he said: “Mr. Ryan – the Town is in communications with the Florida Commission on Ethics and the Florida Division of Elections, as under Florida law they are the agencies responsible for interpreting and enforcing the state’s election and ethics laws, rules, and regulations at the local government law level.

We continued to investigate and ask questions.

When we followed up Monday looking for answers, here’s what Herin said: “Based upon guidance received from the Florida Commission on Ethics, which I relayed to Mayor Murphy, it is my understanding that he has removed the town logo from wherever it was posted online and was assured it would not be re-posted. Accordingly the matter is deemed closed.”

Only it wasn’t closed. For at least 12 more hours after Herin sent his e-mail to us that the matter was “deemed closed,” the town logo remained up on Murphy’s re-elect page. It was changed shortly before our newsletter when out this morning.

Herin’s response also leads to another question: Why is the taxpayer funded town attorney giving free legal advice to a political candidate for office? And, does that have to be listed on Murphy’s July financial report as an in-kind contribution from the town?


  1. I’ve already wasted too much time contemplating the worth of this article. And I was right: it’s a “nothing-burger.” Did Ray use the logo illegally? By definition, likely. But is it worth making a big deal about? No. Ed’s and Ray’s ongoing personal feud is well-documented, so this kind of article does nothing but distract from the important issues facing this town.

    But it does raise the larger question “why was nothing said until Romcoe asked to use the logo? Or why was Mango Rita’s advised to take down the logo off their building while the logo was still up on Murphy’s Facebook page?” Could it be a raging case of cronyism in the Town Hall office? Probably. It’s been that way for a while. And it certainly predates Murphy and this current Council.

    First things first: the Town logo. Yes, it’s trademarked. So yes, one needs the permission of the Town to use it for any purpose. But it appears this logo was designed and trademarked without a plan for its use. It’s on the sign in front of Town Hall. I think it’s on a sign on the south end of the island. But I couldn’t tell you if it’s on the north end at the base of the bridge. Is it? Here’s an idea: instead of $5/hour public parking to raise revenue, thus alienating the very people we want to spend money on this island, why not LICENSE the logo to local businesses to use on their building, their logo merchandise at the various shops on the island, at the bottom of their webpages, the list goes on. Derive the revenue that way instead of gouging the tourists at the parking meters. Imagine that logo on one of the parasails on the beach! You’re welcome.

    Second, cronyism. Another poorly kept secret: Town manager Hernstadt and Town attorney Herrin are a package deal. Herrin followed Hernstadt up here from Marco Island. That much is known. But here’s the rub: both Hernstadt and Herrin answer to the Council and its members. The Council is responsible for their employment contracts and therefore it behooves both Hernstadt and Herrin to do whatever they can to appease the Council members. So how do we alleviate the appearance of impropriety or favoritism (cronyism?) How about the creation of a “Personnel Committee?” This committee could conceivably be comprised of as few as 3 people, responsible strictly for the evaluation of the Town Manager. That’s it. Not the attorney, though since the manager is responsible for bringing on the attorney, his performance would be tied to the manager’s evaluation. This committee could seek input from the Town Council, the Town staff, anyone and everyone in contact with the Town Manager. The Personnel Committee could then make their recommendation to the Town Council, which could effectively be binding. Those kinds of intricacies can be left to people more qualified than me.

    Food for thought.

  2. Because the town makes up the rules as they see fit. Regardless if the rules follow the state or federal laws. Town Manager, Town Attorney, Special Magistrate and Community Services Administrator all need to exit. Ask yourself how this group of staff came about? The Mayor is not going to rock the boat. How much does the Town Attorney bill out to the city for his services? All smoke and mirrors. Just a bunch of bullies ask anyone who owns a business off the island that needs to do work on the island they will say the same. Shame we got into this situation with letting this group decide what is best for our little island. Make sure you vote this year. We need change and it starts with the Mayor. It’s a kangaroo court when you enter Special Magistrate hearings. Ask a Lee County Official about FMB Leadership or about building anything on the island to businesses in Ft Myers it’s crazy and some just say no. $670k in fines for something that has been going on for years. Nuts and allover the news. Window darkness on beach side for turtles did anyone think to do some research before demanding this change and what other beach towns were doing in Florida? How much money did we spend enforcing code to only change the code yet again. How much did homeowners spend to defend themselves or change windows due to code violations handed out. Check the records of this group where they have worked before, who appointed them and how did they leave the last position? As a homeowner on the island you owe it to your family to do your own research, make a decision and vote. We all want the same thing but simple management skills in communication or leadership are needed. We need to get along with the Lee County offices and get on the teamwork makes the dream work plan.

  3. The town make are constantly changing the rules to get you ! And as Jason states we as business owner get penalize when we promote time square .
    Mr Murphy comment on another issue was “ Every one need to Follow the rules !”
    Seem to me that Mr Mayor has his own set of rules !

  4. You’d have to ask them that.
    My argument may not stand the test here but it sure seems reasonable to me.
    I would also argue a government should not be able to trademark a public document.
    I’d ask if the town attorney got an official ruling from the ethics commision or a quickie, off the cuff opinion over the phone.
    Either way it was surely his job to seek an opinion from the committee after the question was raised.

  5. I am that business. I paid to have a sign made that said welcome to fort myers beach. I had my mango Rita’s logo as the smallest part of this sign. I used the towns logo as I thought what a great way to promote this great logo. I wasn’t aware it was trademarked. I paid to have the sign made which we got wonderful feedback from guests. The man the town said I had to remove it. Now the town can’t afford a sign as there is absolutely zero sign anywhere saying welcome to fort myers beach. I thought I’d do the entire downtown a good deed I didn’t do it to gain money or anything I did it in good faith for our fellow businesses and guests. I removed said sign and paid thousand to have a muralist paint a new aquatic scene that still welcomes our guests to this wonderful island. Mayor Murphy hates me and I’m ok with that. At least he knows who I am. I don’t dislike the mayor. I dislike his tactics. I don’t personally know the man nor do I care to. But he really need to go to a Dale Carnegie course. As he lacks any kind of people skills. Enjoy the towns logo at your own risk. Btw kudos to whomever designed it. It looks wonderful. To bad we can’t share it with more people.

  6. Objection your honor,
    the defense would argue that because the logo was created with public funds it is a public document available to anyone in the public and for any reason under Florida’s Public Records Act of 1968 unless specifically exempted by legislative action.

    • Lee: Then why did the town clerk tell Romcoe he was not permitted to use the logo without concil approval and why was the business told to take the logo down by code enforcement?


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