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June 6, 2012

Outside judge to hear GOP case

NEW CASTLE — A hearing to consider a complaint against the Lawrence County Republican Committee and its chairman has been postponed.

Lawrence County President Judge Dominick Motto said the hearing, scheduled for Friday, has been delayed because all four county judges have recused themselves.

The hearing has been rescheduled to 9 a.m. June 21 before Senior Judge Eugene Fike of Somerset County.

Motto said Judges Craig Cox, John Hodge and Thomas Piccione “have indicated they feel uncomfortable in hearing” the case.

He said the discomfort deals with the fact that the judges know some of the people involved and have heard “some things” they believe “may affect their impartiality.”

As for himself, Motto said, he supervises one of the people who may be involved and wants to avoid the appearance of a conflict.

So Motto assigned the case to Fike, who has presided over other cases in the county.

Piccione issued an order Monday granting a preliminary injunction upon the GOP committee and its chairman, William Schafer, from conducting a reorganization meeting until a further court order is issued.

The reorganization meeting had been scheduled for Monday night.

Piccione granted the injunction in response to a complaint filed on behalf of seven residents who are challenging their removal as members of the county committee.

They received letters Friday from Schafer informing them they had been removed based on the findings of a three-member panel that had conducted hearings for the seven people on May 21.

The hearings were conducted to consider complaints, which Schafer said Republican committee members had filed against the seven.

(Email: jmanna@ncnewsonline.com)

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