3 Butler officials questioned over trial procedures

| Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Two Butler County commissioners who received jury questionnaires on the same day, along with the county solicitor, said on Thursday that the state attorney general's office questioned them.

Commissioner A. Dale Pinkerton said he believes the questionnaires are tied to a state probe of jury commissioners Clint Bonetti and Jon Galante. Bonetti, Galante and officials at the attorney general's office did not return messages on Thursday.

County President Judge Thomas Doerr declared the men unable to perform their duties, banned them from their office, removed access to county computers and voicemail and took away their key cards.

Doerr, in a Nov. 22 court order, said he took action because the attorney general's office advised him criminal charges might be filed.

Pinkerton and fellow Commissioner Bill McCarrier voted on May 23, two days after the primary, to eliminate the jury commission positions, citing cost savings.

McCarrier said he, Pinkerton and solicitor Mike English received questionnaires the first week of October.

“We thought it was a little suspicious,” McCarrier said.

English declined to comment.

The men notified the court administrator's office. McCarrier said the attorney general's office “went through the sequence of events” with him.

McCarrier completed his questionnaire and returned it. He received a summons to report for jury duty on Friday. A court order canceled the summonses.

Deputy Court Administrator Tom Holman said on Thursday that jury trials set for Thursday and Friday were canceled because defendants pleaded to charges.

He expects the court to appoint two people next week to oversee selection of a jury pool for January.

The positions were not on the November ballot, though Bonetti, a Democrat, and Galante, a Republican, won nominations in the primary.

Galante and Bonetti, who is head of the State Association of Jury Commissioners, will be paid through the end of the year, Holman said. Doerr's order allows the men to appeal, but they have not.

Prospective jurors are picked randomly by computer. Jury commissioners decide whether people are eligible for jury pools.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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