An anti-Western Bypass organization has been forced into the spotlight, called out by an Albemarle County supervisor for running illegal ads.
The Charlottesville Bypass Truth Coalition is now coming under fire by several supervisors. Their ads spotlight candidate stances on the Route 29 Western Bypass. Current supervisors say the group isn't following the rules, but the group's organizers say they have followed the necessary protocol.
“I think it is an effort to divert the public's attention away from the truths that we're telling people. It's kind of just interference,” said Nora Seilheimer, organizer of the coalition.
Seilheimer says Albemarle County supervisors are skirting the real issue.
“We have not endorsed any candidate. We are following the rules of a 501(c)(4) to the letter, and I just think that these claims are designed to get attention,” Seilheimer said.
An NBC29 agreement form for non-candidate and issue advertisements shows that the coalition - under President and Treasurer George Larie - purchased spots to air last week. The 501 organization listed itself as a corporation and wrote payment for the broadcast was provided by the Charlottesville-Albemarle Transportation Corporation (CATCO).
Supervisor Ken Boyd, who filed the formal complaint against the coalition Wednesday, says the group is not being transparent.
“They filed under a fictitious name, they established a website offshore in Panama and they did it such that it's not easy to find out who's behind the website,” Boyd said.
Supervisors Duane Snow and Rodney Thomas are now echoing Boyd's concerns, saying the group is misleading the public.
“We're not here to try and stop what they're doing. We're just here to shine a light on illegality of their organization and put some truth into the discussion,” Snow said.
Friday, the coalition released a statement citing a June 2011 vote on the bypass as an example of the board's attempts to cut the conversation short.
“I didn't have to have but one public hearing on MPO but I had two because I felt like the people needed to talk more,” Thomas said.
The coalition and group of supervisors still stand firmly at opposite ends of this legal debate.
“I think a call to action to support alternatives is not an endorsement, and that's all we're doing,” Seilheimer said.
Boyd said, “All of these arguments that they're making are just opinions. They're not facts.”
The Virginia State Board of Elections told NBC29 that they have no information on the coalition other than it paid for advertisement. They say the agency is not an investigative body and they are waiting for the coalition's statement of organization to arrive.
Organization Requirement Information from the State Board of Elections