Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman John F. Herrity charged Monday that the Clean Water Action Project violated Virginia's election laws during its efforts on behalf of Leslie Byrne of Annandale, who captured the 38th District seat from Republican state Del. Gwendalyn F. Cody last month.
During yesterday's board meeting, Herrity, a Republican, accused the organization of raising money for Byrne, as well as printing and distributing literature on her behalf, without registering as a political committee.
Herrity also charged that the group gave its volunteers a percentage of the money they raised from Fairfax County residents "in the name of clean water," while at the same time campaigning for Byrne.
An official of the Clean Water Action Project disputed Herrity's charge, contending that the organization has complied with both the letter and intent of the law.
Herrity, who said that he was acting upon a complaint by a county resident, sponsored a resolution, passed unanimously by the board, requesting that the project's activities be investigated by the Virginia attorney general's office, the Fairfax County commonwealth's attorney, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Justice Department.
"It looks to me like the fact that we were effective has stirred up a little dust," said John V. Kabler, Chesapeake regional director of the project, which was established in 1971. "I am 100 percent sure we were on firm ground."
Kabler acknowledged that members of the clean water organization actively campaigned for Byrne, whose support of environmental issues attracted its support.
He said, however, that the group has been involved in many other campaigns in Virginia and Maryland and that its political activities do not conflict with its primary goals of promoting the adoption and enforcement of strict environmental regulations.
A key point of dispute between Herrity and Kabler is the question of whether the environmental organization was required to file a campaign report with Virginia authorities.
Herrity said he had obtained a legal opinion from a private lawyer showing that any person, group of people or organization must register with the state if the value of its political activities exceeds $100.
Kabler said, however, that filing was not required because the group was working to promote its own goals and was not working directly for Byrne. Kabler added that it would be "despicable" if Herrity, who supported Cody in the election, was acting out of "sour grapes."
Herrity said that his political preferences played no part in his call for a probe.