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Candidates challenged in Pa.

March 16, 2001

Candidates challenged in Pa.



By DON AINES / Staff Writer


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Two candidates for Chambersburg Borough Council, one an incumbent, may not be on the ballot for the May 15 primary after opponents filed challenges to their nominating petitions, records show.

The challenges surround the filing of financial interest forms with the borough, according to records at the Franklin County Prothonotary's Office.

The nominating petitions for Third Ward Republican Councilman Carl W. Helman and Jason M. Bitner, who is running for the GOP nomination in the Fourth Ward, both claim that they failed to file a Statement of Financial Interests on or before the March 6 deadline, according to the documents. A hearing on both the challenges is scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, at 1 p.m. in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Helman and Bitner both filed a Statement of Financial Interest when they filed their nominating petitions with the Franklin County Commissioners Office. The instruction packet given to all candidates, however, says that "all candidates for county and public office must file the form with the political subdivision in which they are seeking office...on or before the last day for filing a petition to appear on the ballot for election."

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The challenges filed against Helman and Bitner cite that requirement in Pennsylvania's Public Official Employee Ethics Act, according to court records.

"That is the technicality they're jumping on," Helman, 39, said Thursday. A member of the council since 1996, Helman said he filed the form with the county on March 6, but did not hand over a copy to the borough until March 7.

The challenge to Helman's nominating petition was filed Tuesday by Theresa Johnson, 58, who is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination to the Third Ward seat held by Helman.

If the court rules against him, Helman said he will run a write-in campaign for the nomination.

"I'm fighting it," Bitner said Thursday. A 24-year-old deputy sheriff with the county, he said he would mount a write-in campaign if a judge rules that his name can not appear on the ballot.

The challenge to Bitner's petition was filed Tuesday by the incumbent Fourth Ward councilman, Republican John A. Redding Jr. He said the problem with Bitner's petition was pointed out to him by a friend.

"The law is the law and a rule is a rule. That's a requirement and we should all have to meet the requirements," Redding, 70, said. Redding is running for the GOP nomination to a third, four-year term on the council.

"I just didn't realize I had to do that. I thought it was all taken care of at the Commissioners Office," Bitner said.

Helman said the effort to keep him off the ballot may backfire. "This will motivate voters. They'll see it for what it is. This is the kind of small town petty politics that turns people off," he said.

"I'm psyched. I'm pumped. I'm ready to go," Helman said.

For more than a year, there has been a schism on the 10-member council with some votes on issues such as the proposed King's Grant senior citizen apartment complex coming down to ties that have had to be broken by Mayor Robert Morris.

In another challenge heard in Common Pleas Court Thursday, Judge Douglas W. Herman ruled that Cora Lee Leab will not appear on the ballot for the Republican nomination for Montgomery Township tax collector.

The incumbent tax collector, Republican Debra Daughtery, filed a challenge to the signatures on Leab's petition. Ten signatures are required for the petition and Leab's was signed by 12 township residents.

According to Franklin County Voter Registration Office records produced at the hearing, however, one of the signers was a member of the Libertarian Party and two were not registered to vote. That left her one signature short of the required number of signatures.

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