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Nine petitions challenged in St. Thomas home rule tussle

September 07, 2006|by DON AINES

ST. THOMAS, Pa. - Nine people who filed papers to serve on a local government study commission in St. Thomas Township have had their petitions challenged by another candidate in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

Fred Walls, one of seven supporters of home rule running for the commission, filed a challenge Tuesday to have the petitions of the nine home rule opponents set aside by the court. The suit challenges the nominating documents of Supervisor James Faith Jr., former supervisors Edmund G. Herald and David C. Ramer, James E. Light, Mark A. Lynch, John S. Smith, Clara M. May, Thomas M. Hull Jr. and Wanda L. Walls.

Judge Richard Walsh signed an order Wednesday directing the sheriff's department to serve notice to the nine candidates named in the petition. He set a hearing for 10 a.m. Friday in Courtroom One.

Under state election law, the hearing must be held within 10 days of the filing deadline and a ruling must be made within five days of the hearing.

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Sheriff Robert Wollyung said a deputy had been sent to serve notices to the nine people named in the petition.

On Aug. 7, members of St. Thomas Alliance for a New Direction (STAND) submitted petitions to have a question placed on the Nov. 7 ballot asking whether a seven-member government study commission should be elected "to study the existing form of government of the municipality" and consider drafting a home rule charter.

STAND endorsed seven commission candidates - Walls, Cheryl Stearn, John Tiedemann, Michael Urban, Robert Pismeny, Audrey Tozer and Larry Tinberg - who filed nominating petitions with the Franklin County Election Board. Tiedemann is chairman of the township's municipal authority.

By the Aug. 29 deadline, the nine other candidates filed nominating petitions. Tuesday was the deadline to file challenges to the petitions, said Jean Byers, the county's deputy chief clerk.

"Home rule is a legal process and there are certain rules in the process to follow," Walls said Wednesday. "We looked at their petitions and believe they didn't follow all the rules they should have."

"It should be up to the community to decide," said Wanda Walls, who is not related to Fred Walls.

"It sounds like they want them (home rule supporters) on the ballot and no one else," she said.

Walls' petition states that all nine failed to identify the year of the election in which they are running. Seven of the nine failed to identify what office they are seeking in their candidates' affidavits, according to the suit.

The suit also states that eight of the nine petitions have the words "St. Thomas Township" inserted above the post office address of some of the signers. For example, some people living in the township have a post office address of Chambersburg while the street address is actually within the township.

The suit claims the insertion of the St. Thomas or St. Thomas Township in that space makes those signatures invalid.

The suit alleges a number of other "infirmities" in the candidates' affidavits, circulators' affidavits and statements of financial disclosure.

For there to be a commission, St. Thomas Township voters first have to approve the ballot question Nov. 7. If approved, the seven people with the most votes will form the commission.

If a commission recommends home rule and drafts a charter, it could be voted on in the November 2007 general election, Cheryl Stearn said last month.

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