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Lots to be cast Monday to break school board tie

| Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A tie to determine the last candidate who will appear on the ballot for the Southmoreland School Board will be broken on Monday, three months after the primary election.

Westmoreland County elections officials will cast lots to decide between incumbent Catherine Fike and Lois Eberly, who tied for fourth place in the Republican primary with 358 votes. The top four vote-getters in the primary will compete for four open seats in the general election on Nov. 5.

Fike is seeking a second, four-year term on the school board.

Elections Bureau Director Jim Montini said the race results should be certified next week after the tie is broken by the drawing between the two candidates.

On Friday, Judge Anthony Marsili rejected a last-ditch bid by Fike to overturn the primary results.

Marsili ruled that Fike's effort was filed too late. Election challenges had to be filed within 20 days of the May 21 primary or immediately after they were discovered, the judge said.

“Unfortunately, you saw the irregularities on the day of the election,” Marsili told Fike.

The Southmoreland district includes precincts in both Westmoreland and Fayette counties. When all results were in, Fike and Eberly finished about 30 votes behind incumbent Gail Rhodes, who placed third.

Fike in court documents contended Rhodes, who spent Election Day employed as a poll worker at an East Huntingdon precinct, violated election code by entering the precinct where ballots were cast. Days after the primary, Fike raised the allegations to the county elections bureau.

The board in turn sent the allegations to District Attorney John Peck for review. Peck last week issued a report that concluded Rhodes had violated the election code, but his office would not prosecute the case because her transgressions were minor.

In court Friday, Fike said Rhodes' conduct warrants her nomination to be overturned.

“If this behavior is condoned, in the future election officials will be free to violate election code,” Fike said.

Fike said she did not know if she would appeal Marsili's ruling.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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