Wood County Democratic Party Chairman Walt Auvil says he learned recently that the commission authorized $1,000 to be spent on a banner related to the Bush campaign rally held in Parkersburg September 5.
The ad welcomed President Bush to the area, while also making mention of the area's tourist attractions. Auvil's contention is that the commission spent county money for what amounts to a partisan political ad. That's something the commission president denies.
"The people of Wood County don't spend their tax dollars so they can be used for political purposes, spent to elect or to re-elect anybody," Auvil says. "They should be used for public purposes, not political purposes."
Modesitt says that since the banner also mentioned area tourist attractions, it was paid by video lottery revenues available to the county.
"It was done purely as a way to welcome a sitting president and to showcase the Mid-Ohio Valley, Modesitt says. “It doesn't come from taxpayer dollars, it comes from revenue from video lottery machines."
Modesitt says the commission would have done the same for Democrat John Kerry, had he campaigned in the area.
Auvil says that still would have been partisan whether the ad was for a Democrat or a Republican, and Modesitt says the commission's use of the advertisement was ok'd by the West Virginia Ethics Commission.
Auvil responds to that by citing the recent Ethics Commission ruling, clearing lawmaker Jerry Mezzatesta of wrongdoing. In Auvil's words, the Ethics Commission "doesn't amount to a pile of warm spit."
Chairman Auvil, who also is a local attorney, says legal action against the commission is possible, but just wants the money spent for the banner returned to county coffers.