Referendum Invalid?

By: Meg Gatto Email
By: Meg Gatto Email

Three weeks ago, Waynesboro residents turned out to vote on special projects they hoped to see completed within the city. Now, it seems they may have voted for nothing.

The News Virginian, Waynesboro's local newspaper, didn’t publish information about the projects required by law, which puts the projects in jeopardy.

The News Virginian was supposed to run an ad with information for residents ten days before the election. Because that wasn't done, the city has two options to salvage the projects.

First, the city council can vote on the projects. Four out of the five council members must vote for an item to pass it.

Waynesboro vice-mayor Nancy Dowdy says, "If we do not have a super majority vote for those projects, it is the intent of this council to have this referendum validated and we feel that we have a good chance of doing so."

If that doesn't happen, the city could go to court to have the ballot validated. The court would decide if the city took the proper steps to inform the public about the referendum election.

Dowdy says, "If we do not have the super majority and we have to go through the validation process, I think it's important for this community to understand, it's going to be a costly process."

The costs not withstanding, Dowdy says the council will work together to get this situation fixed and to get the projects completed.

"It is our opinion that we did everything that we should have done in the right way to ensure that this referendum was legal and valid and therefore, we are going to move forward, as it was, going through the proper process to move forward with what we feel the citizens told us via the election that they wanted to proceed with," says Dowdy.

The issue for the council will be voting on the referendum items. While it seems like an easy fix, council members Frank Lucente and Tim Williams are both fiscally conservative. If they cannot be persuaded to vote for the items, then this issue will be taken to court.

The newspaper's advertising director Sherry Suggs says, "The News Virginian has searched through records from September, October and November and found no documentation of having received an order for a legal notice regarding the bond referendum."

The statement goes on to say no notice was published, but the advertising department normally contacts people who place ads to quote prices, and that didn't happen. The paper says it is continuing to investigate.


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