Liberty University Ramps Up Its Efforts to Control the Lynchburg City Council

As we noted last week, Liberty University has recently begun playing hardball and throwing its political weight around in anticipation of the upcoming Lynchburg City Council election.

Last month, Liberty was miffed when the City Council refused to designate Liberty’s campus as the local polling place, accusing the Council of trying to disenfranchise Liberty students. 

Shortly thereafter, Liberty rolled out a massive registration and get out the vote effort aimed at Liberty students and alumni, urging them to show up and vote in the City Council election in May in an effort to elect a Council more willing to do LU’s bidding.

Then, last week, LU started pressuring the City Council to change its zoning status, arguing that the current regulations its faces are onerous, unfair, and stifiling its growth and upped the pressure by asking the Council to fast-track the request so that the change can be implemented before the May election, ostensibly to remove it as a possible election issue, though LU fully admits that it is more or less sending councilmembers a message that if they don’t grant LU’s request, they’ll be voted out of office.

As LU is trying to publicly strong-arm the Lynchburg City Council, they are also secretly recording meetings between the University and city officials

A discussion about Liberty University’s zoning status heated up during a City Council meeting Tuesday when LU officials revealed they had secretly videotaped a recent meeting with the mayor and city manager.

“This is pretty shocking,“ Vice Mayor Bert Dodson said.

“I have a knot in my stomach that wasn’t there 10 minutes ago,“ Councilman Michael Gillette said, adding he was dismayed by the lack of trust this demonstrated.

Dodson and Gillette both criticized LU for recording Mayor Joan Foster and City Manager Kimball Payne without their knowledge. LU officials, in turn, said they made the recording in order to ensure there was an accurate transcript of the conversation and to guard against future misrepresentations.

LU Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. is the one who authorized the recording, saying he did so because city council candidates have been misrepresenting LU’s demands.