You've probably seen the signs all around Whitefish Bay. "Help the Kids!" they say. "Dominican HS and the House of Peace. Mattress Fundraiser Sale."
In fact, they're impossible to miss, as more than 100 of them are — or make that, were — scattered throughout the village.
But now the village building inspector has ordered that all of the mattress sale signs on public property or right of ways must come down. And that's most of them.
"We're going out and pulling ones off the right of way," said Paul Launer, village building inspector. Of the fundraiser's organizer, Launer said, "he's been ordered to remove all the signs located in public right of way or in front of businesses. He can't have any off premise; it's not allowed by the village code. If it’s a Dominican fundraiser, it needs to be on Dominican property."
The village is also controlling how many of the signs Dominican can have on its own property, he said, limiting the school to seven.
"This was supposed to help the community," said a frustrated John Geittmann, who organized the fundraiser.
The mattress sale at Dominican will be Wednesday in the cafeteria, from noon to 7 p.m. In addition to mattresses, box springs, frames and other items associated with mattresses are being sold. In response to the spa shooting in Brookfield, $50 will be donated to Milwaukee and Waukesha County women’s shelters for each mattress sold to help efforts to combat domestic violence. Also, the school is urging people to purchase mattresses to donate to the women's groups.
The sale is a fundraiser for Dominican’s Athletic Boosters, which supports student and alumni athletic activities facilities and events
Geittmann’s company buys the mattresses wholesale and sells them at steeply discounted rates — 30 to 60 percent — at the fundraisers. About 60 percent of the money then goes back to the participating high school. He said the sales occur at schools all across the country and 35 in Wisconsin, and only one other community — in Louisiana — refused to allow the signs to stay up.
Geittmann’s fundraising company is based in Waukesha. However, Geittmann has local ties. His brother is the dean of students for Dominican High School and he was previously coach for the North Shore Catholic Basketball League. Brian Geittman, the school's dean of students and athletic director, said he couldn't comment Tuesday.
John Geittmann answered his cell phone out of breath Tuesday afternoon because he was rushing around the village trying to pull signs down.
He said the building inspector told him that if the signs weren't down by 4 p.m., he would start fining Geittmann $200 for each remaining sign that was up. But Launer denied that. "I said he could be fined," he said.
Geittmann said he was ordered even to pull signs off the property of St. Monica Catholic Church, 160 E. Silver Spring Dr. "We had their permission, and it's private property," he said. Geittmann maintained that he was told the signs also couldn't be on private property, but Launer said the signs there are also in public right of ways and, thus, are not allowed. He said rules for signs on private property — such as in someone's home front yard — would be different.
The men also disagreed on what provoked the village response. Geittmann said he was told that a woman had complained because she is not Catholic. "Some lady said she is Jewish and she found it offensive that Catholic schools were putting signs up. That's how the village works. If one person complains about something..." he said.
Launer said he didn't know of any complaints and said the village monitors Silver Spring Drive for sign compliance on an ongoing basis. He said the signs are prohibited by the village's sign ordinance, which is multiple pages long and regulates signage.