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Judge dismisses county Republican committee suit against state party

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A county judge ruled the court does not have the jurisdiction to resolve a suit filed by the Butler County Republican Committee against the Republican Party of Pennsylvania, and dismissed the suit.

Senior Common Pleas Court Judge William Shaffer issued the ruling last week after hearing arguments in March on preliminary objections filed by the party.

Attorney Greg Teufel, who argued on behalf of committee members Erik Edwards, Joy Snyder and Carol Christner, who filed the suit, said he is disappointed the judge refused to exercise jurisdiction. He said a decision on next steps hasn’t been made.

Butler attorney Tom King, who represents the party, said he agreed with the ruling, and wants the committee to reunite.

“I think Judge Shaffer was absolutely correct,” King said. “We look forward to the upcoming reorganization of the Butler County Republican Committee and look forward to beginning anew so that we can all work together to support the election of President (Donald) Trump and our Republican candidates.”

He said the reorganization will be held after the results of the April 23 primary are certified.

In the suit filed in October 2023, the committee asked the court to determine who is in charge of the committee, who remains as committee members, and whether committee bylaws from 2019 or 2022 are currently in effect.

At a July 14, 2022, reorganization meeting, the committee alleges new bylaws were adopted to replace bylaws enacted in 2019, new leadership was elected, and the committee voted to incorporate as a nonprofit corporation.

The committee submitted the 2022 bylaws and a letter from attorney Gary Vanasdale as co-chairman to the county Bureau of Elections and the party. The party responded by providing changes that had to be made for the bylaws to comply with party rules.

The committee adopted the changes in September 2022, but argued the bylaws took effect when they were submitted except for the parts that conflicted with the party rules. The party argued the bylaws don’t take effect until the party approves the entire set of new bylaws.

At a November 2022 meeting, the committee removed members who missed the previous three meetings, elected new members and resubmitted the bylaws to the bureau and the party.

The committee claimed the party didn’t acknowledge submission of the bylaws, and the party claimed it notified the committee it didn’t recognize the nonprofit corporation.

In September 2023, the party instructed the committee to hold a reorganization meeting; the committee said the meeting wasn’t necessary. The committee chairmanship was also in dispute.

Shaffer’s order grants the party’s first preliminary objection that argues the court does not have jurisdiction over the issues in dispute. That decision renders the other objections moot, according to the order. He dismissed the committee’s complaint with prejudice, which means it can’t be refiled.

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