Staunton: State Police election-ad probe concludes with no charges

Staff Report

A State Police investigation into an ad that ran in the News Leader two days before the May 6 Staunton City Council elections that some said might have run afoul of Virginia campaign-finance laws has concluded with a finding that there was no evidence of wrongoing, the paper reported this morning.

The ad, organized by local Republican Party stalwart Libby Welsh, endorsed city-council candidates Rusty Ashby, Dickie Bell and Bob Campbell, and it was funded by a group of nine people whose identities came to light after Welsh filed a political action committee report after the election.

The ad acccused city manager Steve Owen of misleading city council and railed at his staff for making “costly mistakes.” It was authorized by a group that called itself the Citizens Committee for Common Sense Government in Staunton. The ad was written by Donnie Brown, the campaign manager for Bob Campbell, whose name was not disclosed in the ad as being a member of the Citizens Committee. Virginia campaign-finance law dictates that candidates have to disclose their affiliations with political committees that engage in these kinds of political activities.

The State Police filed a report on its investigation into the matter with the Attorney General’s Office, which sent the report to the local Commonwealth’s Attorney Office on Tuesday. Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Robertson declined to release the report, as has Staunton Mayor Lacy King on behalf of the city.

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