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County GOP committee challenges primary run of ex-committeeman

County Judge S. Michael Yeager on Thursday heard the Butler County Republican Committee’s case against Butler school board director William “Bill” Halle on his ability to be reelected as a GOP committeeman.

Leo Stepanian, attorney for the Republican committee, told the court that Halle was in violation of Republican committee bylaws when he endorsed a registered Democratic school board candidate in the 2021 election. Halle was a committeeman and central district chairman. The county GOP committee’s Central District consists of the City of Butler and Butler and Center townships.

A qualifications board within the Republican committee was formed and determined Halle to be in violation of its bylaws. His seats were declared vacant by the group’s executive committee. This disqualified Halle from being able to seek committee office in the future.

Halle, seeking placement on the ballot for the upcoming 2022 primary, collected signatures on an official petition for a committee position. The Republican committee is challenging Halle’s right to run for committeeman.

“The Republican committee violated bylaws and my right and had a hearing to vacate my position without me present,” Halle said.

After hearing a summary of the case, Yeager asked how the issue reached the Common Pleas court.

“(Halle) did nothing at the lower level, he didn’t appear for the hearing and did nothing to challenge or appeal the decision,” the judge said. “How’d we get here?”

According to Stepanian and Republican committee secretary Jamie Inferrera, Halle was informed of the bylaw hearing, but could not attend after contracting COVID-19. The hearing was held without Halle on Jan. 8 and, according to Inferrera, Halle wrote an email prior to the hearing stating his appearance there would not have made a difference.

“I do remember a communication prior to the hearing, you said you contracted COVID and you didn’t think, quote, ‘There was any logical reason for me to appear,’” Inferrera said to Halle in cross examination.

“To me, sir, that’s a waiver,” Yeager said to Halle. “I feel there’s been a waiver in the appeal process.”

Halle said he did desire an appeal from the Republican committee, asking for them to reschedule in later emails.

Yeager asked Halle those emails were available. According to Halle, the committee minutes where a continuance was asked for were not provided to him despite his requests and he didn’t have copies of the emails.

“I don’t have anything before me to allow me to hear what you want me to hear,” Yeager said.

“So, you don’t have the authority to show (the Republican committee) violated their own bylaws to approve vacating my position,” Halle said.

Halle further questioned Inferrera, asking how many of the 16 executive committee members were present at his hearing and how many voted to vacate him.

“There was a quorum, there were nine executive committee members there ... It was in the opinion of the executive committee that the meeting was held in accordance to the bylaws ... A majority of the nine voted to declare the seat vacant,” she said.

In closing statements, Halle said it was “amazing” that the Republican committee’s bylaws were interpreted in such a way to violate his rights.

“Right now, the Butler County Republican Committee is made up of 126 men and women. Only six of that 126 voted to vacate my position and keep me from running again,” he said. “They had to have a majority vote of that 16 person executive committee.”