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County threatened with suit over jury commissioners

July 9, 2013 News Extra

Butler County faces a lawsuit if the two part-time jury commissioner posts are not retained.

Larry Thompson, president of the Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners, said there would be a lawsuit filed unless the county commissioners reverse their May decision to cut the elected posts for 2014.

Thompson, the county deputy register of wills/clerk of orphans’ court, is a former county jury commissioner.

County Commissioner Bill McCarrier, board chairman, said state law was followed when the posts were placed on the chopping block May 23.

Thompson said the plaintiffs in the lawsuit would be the three people who ran for the posts in the May primary, Clinton Bonetti, Jon Galante and Pat Stirling.

Bonetti won the Democratic seat while Galante beat Stirling for the Republican seat. The jury commissioners have no opponents on the November ballot.

Thompson said the plaintiffs would cover the costs to file the lawsuit, which would be tried in county court.

He said there are constitutional issues related to the commissioners’ May vote because it violated the separation of powers between the executive and judiciary branches of government.

McCarrier and Commissioner Dale Pinkerton cited cost savings as the reason to eliminate the posts.

For 2013, the salaries and benefits of the jury commissioners is budgeted at roughly $71,000.

County court administration stated its office could absorb the duties, which entail forming jury pools.

Commissioner Jim Eckstein supports keeping the posts.