By the end of the day, Hyatt, who is also editor of www.carypolitics.org, had stepped down from the board of the center. The group creates voter guides and encourages "good government" practices such as responsible public financing.
Damon Circosta, the group’s executive director, said late Tuesday that he did not have enough information on the state investigation to comment.
State elections officials were reluctant to divulge Hyatt’s name because the investigation, though finished, is still under review.
No laws for the web
Adam Ragan, a compliance specialist with the elections board, confirmed that Hyatt is the subject of the investigation but said it was still unclear whether any election laws were broken.
The legislature has made no laws regulating campaign Web sites, Ragan said, so the elections board would have no jurisdiction over the content of any site. "There’s probably not a lot we will do," Ragan said.
Maxwell, who filed the complaint, hopes this case will shed light on this electronic form of political gamesmanship.
"It hurt Lori Bush a lot," she said Tuesday. "And is this going to be the future of campaigns? That you can hide and do dirty campaigning? It definitely needs to be changed."
The cyber scuffle showed how scrappy Cary’s election season became. Robinson came just shy of beating Bush outright in the Oct. 6 general election, claiming 49.97 percent of the vote.
Maxwell’s group was formed to protest development at Davis Drive and High House Road and takes a slow-growth stance. It started backing candidates and is credited with organizing voters to help Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht unseat former Mayor Ernie McAlister in 2007.
Every vote important
Hyatt’s fake Web site closely resembles the home page of the DavisandHighhouse.org site but claimed its mission was to "preserve Cary as one of the best places to live, with the lowest tax rate of any town in the Southeast – by exposing the NIMBYs for what they are." NIMBY is an acronym for "not in my backyard."
He said he created DavisandHighHouse.com because he didn’t want a small group of people to swing an election.
"They were getting a lot of press as a big grassroots organization that was driving politics in western Cary, and that was simply not true," he said. "A couple dozen people … basically just didn’t want this development in their neck of the woods.
"The Web site itself, I don’t consider unethical," he said. "Sending out the e-mail was probably a little unethical. … But I did it anyway. …
"I’m not happy that I got caught. On the other hand, I think it does serve to point out some interesting holes in the system. There’s really no control at all over social networking, viral e-mails, there’s little that can be done, and I think they are changing the face of politics."
Bush said she was surprised to learn Hyatt was behind the site.
"He is the public face of carypolitics.org, which has a reputation of being a great place to have meaningful conversation about the town," she said. "I’m disappointed."
Robinson, the winner, said she didn’t visit Hyatt’s site until several weeks after the election.
"I thought it was humorous, and I didn’t think it influenced the election," Robinson said.
Robinson is a critic of DavisandHighHouse.org, which she says often misleads voters with inaccurate information on its Web site.
"There are people at Davis and High House who are upset they got one-upped," she said.
"This kind of thing happens in politics. If you dish it out, you better be able to take it," Robinson said.
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