Wednesday, 22 November 2017 10:57

Continuing Coverage: City of Hamlet Files Formal Complaint with IRS Following Seaboard Festival Politicking

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Hamlet City Manager Jonathan Blanton filed a formal complaint with the IRS following this year's Seaboard Festival after possible violations occurred. Hamlet City Manager Jonathan Blanton filed a formal complaint with the IRS following this year's Seaboard Festival after possible violations occurred.

HAMLET – In following up with the RO’s initial story last week, the City of Hamlet has issued a formal complaint to the IRS in regards to political campaigning occurring at the Seaboard festival by volunteers and Seaboard Festival board members.


City Manager Jonathan Blanton released the following statement last week:

“This week, the City of Hamlet filed a Form 13909 with the IRS in regards to political activities which occurred at the annual Seaboard Festival amongst members and volunteers of the Seaboard Festival Committee. 

“The complaint was not filed in retaliation against any one member, nor was the complaint filed with any nature of animosity.  Instead, given the high level of recent media attention to the issue and to prevent any potential disgruntled whistleblowing, the City chose to intervene on the Seaboard Festival’s behalf in order to facilitate an honest, open conversation about what happened and to voice resounding support on the Seaboard Festival’s behalf. 

As stated in the letter to the IRS, there is no better partner to the City than the Seaboard Festival and the City is firmly committed to ensuring that the Seaboard Festival retains their tax-exempt status and continues to thrive with their civic work in our community.”

When talking with Jonathan Buie, Mayor Pro-Tem and Councilmember for the City of Hamlet, it was clear that this was a necessary action for the sake of the Seaboard Festival and the tax-exempt status it holds.

Within the letter to the IRS, Blanton stated that the purpose of the complaint, “is to engage in a discussion of open and candid frankness about the recent activities of the Seaboard Festival that the City is aware of.”

Blanton continued by saying due to the, “heightened level of publicity this issue has received in recent newspaper articles and considering the City has actual knowledge of the potential violation the City feels that in the best interest of honesty and open communication a formal complaint must be filed with your (IRS) agency.”

The issue that arose, which sparked such heightened attention,n is that many board members and volunteers at this year’s Seaboard Festival were seen wearing “Vote for the Girl” hats, shirts, and buttons in support of city council candidate Stephanie Corey Dixon. This was a direct violation of the 501(c)(3) status of the event, which allows the event to be tax exempt. Therefore, the people openly supporting Dixon were in violation of that status, and could not campaign for any party running in an election.

“The ones who are leading the (Seaboard Festival) Board should know better,” Buie stated when asked about the incident. “When confronted, they claimed they did not know [about the possible violation].”

Buie continued by explaining the reason he believed there has been heightened attention and why the formal complaint to the IRS was necessary.

“The campaigning was way beyond what it ever has been,” Buie noted. “The main thing that got me on board [for the complaint] was the fact that the city manager has been the one to introduce the Mayor (Bill Bayless) who then opens it up for business, but this year the city manager was bypassed. A city council member, who was wearing all of the “Vote for the Girl” support introduced the Mayor instead.”

According to Buie, it has been tradition for the city manager to introduce the Mayor, and this year was supposed to be no different, but for some reason the manager had been bypassed which was off script and unexpected.

The complaint to the IRS is the city’s way to ask that the Seaboard Festival board receive a warning while still maintaining its 501(c)(3) status so it remain tax-exempt. This stunt does not hurt the city directly, and is not a federal offense. Instead it could affect how the Seaboard Festival is run and conducted in the years to come.

In the letter to the IRS Blanton explained that, “volunteers for the Festival have publically shown remorse for the activity and made assurances that such activity will not happen again.”

Blanton ended the letter by testifying to the, “cooperative success between the City and the Seaboard Festival.”

“In a world of uncertainty and ulterior motives, the Seaboard Festival has always proven to be an excellent partner and devout supporter of the community,” Blanton cocluded. “The City firmly stands with the Seaboard Festival and is proud of the invaluable relationship that the two have intertwined over the years. In sum, there is no better partner to the City than the Seaboard Festival.”

The RO will continue to report on this issue as new details emerge.

Last modified on Wednesday, 22 November 2017 12:21