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Judge orders Butler school board candidate removed from primary ballot

Bill Halle

A Butler County Common Pleas Court judge on Friday ordered that a Butler school board candidate be removed from the May 16 primary ballot because he didn’t file a required election document by the March 7 deadline.

President Judge S. Michael Yeager issued his decision to remove incumbent school board member Bill Halle of Butler from the Republican and Democratic ballots a day after he presided over a hearing in which another candidate challenged Halle’s nomination petition.

Yeager sided with candidate Phil C. Heasley of Center Township, who argued that Halle failed to file a statement of financial interests with the Butler Area School District by the deadline.

Halle filed the document on March 15, the day before the hearing, but Yeager ruled that the late filing did not cure the fatal defect of not filing the document in a timely manner.

According to testimony from the hearing and Heasley’s lawsuit, Halle filed the financial interests statement with the county election bureau on time, but did not file the form with the district. Halle did file his nominating petition on time with the district and election bureau.

The Pennsylvania Public Official and Employee Ethics Act requires school director candidates to file a statement of financial interests for the preceding calendar year with the school district, and a copy must be attached to the nominating petition filed with the bureau of elections, according to Heasley's challenge.

Candidates are required to file financial interest statements to reveal their sources of income. One copy has to be filed with the election bureau, and another copy has to be filed with the governing authority of the office the candidate is seeking.

In his decision, Yeager cited a state Supreme Court case saying defects in financial disclosure statements can be cured if the defect was not made in bad faith, but a failure to file or an untimely filing “is fatal to a respondent’s right to remain on the ballot.”

Halle was first elected a school board member in 2011.

Without Halle, there now are six candidates running for five positions on the Butler school board.

Jennifer Cummings and Jennifer Daniels-Wells are running for reelection. They cross-filed on the Republican and Democratic Party ballots, along with challengers Terry Stivason and Heasley.

Challengers Cecilia Tomko and Tess Walko are running only for Republican Party nominations.

School board members Regenold Griffin and Mary Waggoner did not enter the primary. The four-year terms of Halle, Cummings, Daniels-Wells, Griffin and Waggoner expire at the end of this year.

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