A “Take Back Sebastian” pamphlet is circulating in town that has many people asking questions. Sebastian Daily first heard about the brochure on Wednesday after receiving calls from residents.
A person going door to door with these pamphlets is allegedly telling residents that the Friends of St. Sebastian River and the Pelican Island Audubon Society are endorsing Damien Gilliams, Pam Parris, and Charles Mauti for City Council.
Buzz Herrmann, one of the board of directors for the Friends of St. Sebastian River, denies that the organization endorsed any candidate. However, Herrmann is endorsing the three candidates on his own.
Graham Cox, one of the board of directors for the Pelican Island Audubon Society, is also listed. We were unable to reach Cox, but a spokesperson for the Audobon Society denied that the organization is endorsing any candidate for City Council. According to sources, Cox is endorsing the three candidates on his own.
Residents are questioning why their names are in the brochure as an endorsement in the first place. Multiple people have been told, allegedly by people distributing the brochures, that the two nonprofits were endorsing the three candidates.
“This is classic misinformation again spread by Damien Gilliams and Pam Parris. They make it appear as if … the organizations they belong to are endorsing them,” a resident told Sebastian Daily.
“The candidates did this and are listing these names to get votes,” the resident said.
“The mission and vision statement was initiated by three concerned Sebastian residents: Buzz Herrmann, Bill Brennan, and Graham Cox – working to elect three new independent candidates,” the pamphlet says.
To keep its tax-exempt status, a charity is not allowed to engage in political activity or endorsements.
“In return for its favored tax-status, a charitable nonprofit promises the federal government that it will not engage in ‘political campaign activity’ and if it does, IRS regulations mandate that the charitable nonprofit will lose its tax-exempt status,” according to the Internal Revenue Service.
Public statements of position, whether verbal or written, made on behalf of the organization or its board members is also in violation with the tax-exempt status, the IRS said.
The Sebastian City Council incumbents are: Albert Iovino, Linda Kinchen, and Bob McPartlan.
Earlier in October, Damien Gilliams was accused of publishing false endorsements on his campaign website. The endorsements in question have been removed.