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Ligonier Township man denied bid for township supervisor

| Saturday, March 29, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

A Westmoreland County Judge on Friday quashed a Ligonier Township man's campaign to seek the Republican nomination for township supervisor in the May primary, finding that he did not meet a deadline to file necessary paperwork.

Judge Anthony G. Marsili told John Beaufort that he had done research into the case before Friday's evidentiary hearing.

“I just feel that my hands are tied. ... You won't be on the ballot,” Marsili said.

Township residents Ronald G. Matson and Gary Thistlethwaite claimed in a challenge filed with Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court that Beaufort's petitions did not meet state Ethics Act requirements.

They claimed the petitions were defective as he did not file his statement of financial interests with the township “on or before the last day for filing a petition to appear on the ‘ballot for election,'” which was March 11.

Beaufort said that he learned when filing his petition for a five-year term on March 10 that he could file for a three-year term.

He said he collected signatures for the three-year term and planned to submit both statements to the township office on March 11.

By the time he got to the municipal building, the office was closed, and he submitted the statement the next morning.

On Friday, Beaufort said he had withdrawn his petition for a three-year term.

Beaufort said he knew that the township office closed at 3:30 p.m. on March 11, and he was aware a supervisors' meeting was scheduled that evening. He said he didn't think the meeting was the appropriate time to submit his paperwork.

Korns said his interpretation of the statute was that a copy of the statement of financial interests must be filed at the county level and with the local governing body by the deadline.

He cited court cases in which petitioners with health issues or who had “completely frustrated” every effort to file on time were excused.

Korns said Beaufort's attempts to file on March 11 did not “rise to the level of extreme desperation.”

“I have to admit I made a mistake, no doubt about it. There is no denying it. Facts are facts. I think it's too bad that maybe the voters can't decide, instead of taking it to court,” Beaufort said.

“You did file it in the county. To me, that does hold some weight,” Marsili said.

But he said his research did not uncover any legal exception “regarding an honest mistake.”

“The events that transpired here at the courthouse today are not what's important, but rather the concerns that I have for the residents of Ligonier Township,” Beaufort said in a written statement provided after the hearing.

In November, voters approved a ballot referendum in favor of expanding the three-member board of supervisors to five members.

Beaufort's removal from the ballot would leave only Wade E. Thomas running for the five-year seat on the Republican ballot and Bruce A. Robinson seeking nomination for the three-year seat.

Albert “Mike” Shadron is the sole candidate on the Democratic ballot for both seats.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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