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Judge ousts Butler’s jury commission

A Butler County judge removed the county’s two jury commissioners from office, saying they could face criminal charges from the state Attorney General’s Office, according to the judge’s order.

Butler County President Judge Thomas J. Doerr did not comment on Friday on the order removing Clinton Bonetti and Jon Galante from office.

Neither Democrat Bonetti, who is the head of the Pennsylvania State Association of Jury Commissioners, nor Republican Galante returned messages.

Doerr will appoint two people to fill out the remainder of their terms.

The position of jury commissioner is being phased out in Butler County, and Bonetti and Galante were to leave office at the end of the year. County commissioners Bill McCarrier and Dale Pinkerton voted on May 23 to eliminate the elected posts, and there was no contest for jury commissioner on the November ballot.

Doerr’s order, dated Nov. 22, said he removed Bonetti and Galante after “having been advised by the Attorney General’s Office that criminal charges may be filed against the elected Butler County Jury Commissioners.”

An attorney general spokesman did not return a message.

Doerr ordered the county court administrator to bar the two men from the commissions’ office; change the password on the voice and mail system; delete Galante’s and Bonetti’s logins to the county’s computer systems; and disable their key card access to the courthouse and government judicial center.

Both men could appeal Doerr’s decision, according to the order.

In September, the state Supreme Court ruled that county commissioners could abolish the jury commissioner posts.

McCarrier and Pinkerton said it would be cheaper to have the court administrator’s office oversee jury selection. The county budgeted about $84,000 for salaries and benefits for 2013 for the office. Each jury commissioner is paid $18,000 a year.

Deputy Court Administrator Tom Holman said on Friday that the court administrator’s office was preparing to take over jury commissioner duties and will start a couple of weeks early.

Though prospective jurors are picked randomly by computer, using election rosters and other sources, jury commissioners are responsible for handling questionnaires that prospective jurors complete, deciding from that questionnaire if they are eligible to serve on juries.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.


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