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Lancaster wet-dry vote stirs complaint

A complaint delivered Thursday to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance questions who paid for campaign literature, a telephone survey, free voter transportation and exit polling in last month's Lancaster wet-dry vote.

"All these elements appear to be part of systematic and well-financed campaign," says the complaint submitted by Lancaster resident David Wilson and Garrard County resident James R. "Dick" Brunson. But the identity of who paid for those serv ices is unknown, and that is what Wilson and Brunson hope to learn.

"Nobody should be able to conduct an election with anonymity," Brunson said Thursday. "We've lost any ability to trace anything."

Nathan Mick, Garrard County's economic development director who helped supporters circulate a petition to put the wet-dry issue on the ballot, had no comment on the complaint.

In the Aug. 19 local-option election, voters approved the sale of alcohol in Lancaster by a vote of 656 to 550. Brunson, a county resident who was not eligible to vote in the city election, said it is not his intent to overturn the outcome.

Under state law, a political issues committee of three or more people that advocates or opposes a public question must file reports with the Registry of Election Finance, said former registry chairman John Rogers of Glasgow.

However, a corporation is viewed by the registry as one person under the law, Rogers said. "There may be six people on the board but it is one entity, one person, under the law," Rogers said.

And that might be a loophole that would allow Garrard Development Group not to submit information about its spending. There have been proposals to close that loophole but the state legislature has not approved them, Rogers said.

"Based on what you're saying, I don't know that they have a case," Rogers said of the complaint.

Nor is Brunson alleging that votes were bought, but he said, "If somebody bought votes, who would you accuse? You're required to keep election records for six years in case of audit. Who would you audit?"

Red-and-blue door hangers urged voters to vote "yes" for alcohol sales, stated the hours when voters could go to the polls, and gave a phone number to call if a voter needed a ride. The door hangers also included this phrase in small print: "Paid for by Garrard Development Group." The return address on the mailer said "Garrard Development Group" and gave a Lancaster post office box as an address.

But who the members of Garrard Development Group are is a mystery, Brunson said.

Its articles of incorporation were filed with the Kentucky Secretary of State's office on July 1, two weeks after the date for the special election was scheduled. The signature of the incorporator and registered agent on the incorporation papers is Roy Watterson of 1754 Galbraith Road in Frankfort.

Justin Roy Watterson, a state employee, confirmed Thursday that he lives at that address. But he said he doesn't know anything about Garrard Development Group.

"Doesn't ring any bells for me," Watterson said. Asked whether he is the person who filed the articles of incorporation, Watterson said "No."

A Roy Watterson also filed articles of dissolution of Garrard Development Group on Aug. 25, six days after the election.

Asked why someone would use his name on incorporation and dissolution papers, Watterson said, "I don't know. ... I don't have any comment."

Wilson and Brunson's complaint says no "demonstrated links" have been found between Garrard Development Group and the pre-election telephone survey, exit polling and free voter transportation.

But the complaint says that "considerable funds were apparently used for a pre-election telephone canvass under the guise of a survey and an exit poll on the day of the election."

The complaint says David Wilson encountered a man conducting an exit poll at a voting precinct at the Garrard Middle School gym. The man told Wilson that he was a University of Kentucky graduate student employed by ABC Services.

That is a company operated by Dale Emmons, a political consultant. Emmons had no comment Thursday.

The Registry of Election Finance is responsible for policing campaign donations. If it finds possible criminal violations, it can refer those to the state attorney general.

Emily Dennis, general counsel for the registry, said the registry cannot acknowledge receipt of complaints until a 15-day response period has passed.

Brunson, who hand-delivered the complaint to Frankfort, said the registry informed him late Thursday afternoon that he and Wilson must "swear and affirm under penalty of perjury" that the allegations in the complaint are true. Brunson said they will include that statement.

Brunson is now running as an independent candidate against incumbent 36th District State Rep. Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster.

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