Arts council VP accused of allowing political activity at event - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Arts council VP accused of allowing political activity at event

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Gayla Wynn is calling for the resignation of the MVAC leader over an event held alongside a political rally. (Source: WAFF) Gayla Wynn is calling for the resignation of the MVAC leader over an event held alongside a political rally. (Source: WAFF)

A woman in Marshall County is calling for the resignation of the leader of a not-for-profit organization after a political rally was held alongside one of their events last week. If the resignation does not happen, she threatened to file a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service.

Gayla Wynn's concerns involve politics with organizations that receive tax-exempt status. She feels that it not only promotes divisiveness, but it's against the law.

"They have certain tax exemptions based on that status, and they expressly forbid political activities," Wynn said.

The Mountain Valley Arts Council in Guntersville is under fire after their weekly concert at Civitan Park June 18, alongside a political rally by Republican State Representative candidate Will Ainsworth.

In a statement, officials with the MVAC said they were made aware of the rally, but did not promote the rally in any way. Their statement, in full:

The Mountain Valley Arts Council is a 44-year-old non-profit organization whose mission is to promote the arts in Marshall County. Our current Lakeside concert series is sponsored by various individuals, a non-profit foundation, and local businesses. The eight free concerts are held in the Civitan Park Amphitheater on Tuesday evenings 6:30 – 8 PM May through June.   

Being a non-profit, MVAC does not endorse any political candidate. We were made aware that a political picnic rally would be in the Civitan Park Pavilion just prior to and next door to the MVAC concert Jun 17th.  MVAC did not promote the political picnic rally in any way, and we cannot dictate who rents other facilities in Civitan Park.   

The MVAC board plans to discuss Mrs. Wynn's concerns, but we disagree with her allegation that we have broken any non-profit rules regarding political activity.

The Guntersville parks director said they specifically sought for and received Arts Council approval for Ainsworth to rent the pavilion because they do not double-book other facilities inside the park without the written permission of the original renter – the MVAC.

"You bring politics into something like this and all you do is create divisiveness, and we've got enough of that already," said Wynn.

Wynn is calling for the resignation of the council's head, Dianne Ratliff. Wynn said if she doesn't resign, the council could lose faith with the public in the form of lost donations or worse.

"If I proceed with the complaint, or if someone else proceeds with the complaint, who knows what might happen?" said Wynn.

Candidate Ainsworth feels this is nothing more than a political attack. Ainsworth admitted $1,000 was paid for the campaign to sponsor the concert, but no campaigning was done after the rally. He added the two events were completely separate, and the rally was cut off 15 minutes before the concert and the signs taken down.

Attempts to reach Ratliff for comment were unsuccessful. Wynn said she hopes to hear something when the board meets July 14.

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