Candidate Legal Issues

Controversy at the Fayette County Fair

The state Republican party has asked the Fayette County Elections Bureau and possibly the county district attorney to investigate alleged tactics used to register Democrats during the county fair last week.

In a statement, the party claimed that “Democrats are promising prizes such as Steelers gear and a trip to the Nemacolin resort as inducements to register to vote … or change party affiliation to Democrat.”

The state GOP party maintains such enticements could violate the law by intentionally giving or promising “money or goods to an individual as an inducement” to register or change affiliation.

The political war began.

About a week later, the county Democratic Committee is asking, via a letter, for an investigation involving the county Republican party and others.

“It is our understanding that the former chairman and current committee member of the Fayette County Republican Party, David Show, was selling illegal raffle tickets in violation of the local option small game of chance act and, perhaps, the election code,” states the Democrat letter, signed by county Democrat Party Chairman George Rattay.

“Based on the information available to us, those tickets were sold at various times and places, including the Fayette County Republican Party and its affiliated booths during our local Fayette County Fair,” it added.

Rattay said Thursday that copies of the letters were sent to the county bureau of elections, the county district attorney, the media and others.

An organization selling tickets must obtain a valid small games of chance license and must meet other requirements, according to the Democrat letter.

Neither the Mountain View Rod & Gun Club nor Fayette Friends of Second –– the two groups apparently conducting the raffle –– has a license, the Democrats charged.

“Political parties are not eligible organizations for small games of chance licenses, and all funds raised from small games of chance must generally be used for recognized public purposes,” the letter added.

The letter makes other allegations and claims.

“We are also concerned that any violations committed for the benefit of the Fayette County Republican Party or the candidates it supports may constitute fraudulent conduct or a violation of the campaign finance requirements of the election code,” the Democrat letter stated.

Show denied the tickets had anything to do with the Republican Party.

“It had nothing to do with the election part at all,” he said.

He explained the tickets were sold in a booth separate from the GOP booth and did not involve his party. The tickets further did not display the GOP name, Show said.

“It’s just an attempt to divert from the fact they violated the election rules,” Show said, referring to the Democrat sign at the fair.

Recently, Two members of Fayette County’s elections board bowed out on Monday from hearing complaints filed by Republicans and Democrats over matters at the county fair, citing potential conflicts of interest.

Vince Vicites, a member of the county Democrat executive committee, and Dave Lohr, a member of local and state Republican groups, recused themselves.

Solicitor Sheryl Heid will file a petition asking county President Judge John F. Wagner Jr. to name replacements for Vicites and Lohr, both also county commissioners. A hearing on the allegations will be held later.

The third member of the elections board, Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink, said she planned to stay on and hear the complaints at a later time.

“I do not believe I can appropriately participate in any decision on the merits of the complaints filed by the Republican and Democratic parties because of my position as an executive committee member of the Fayette County Democratic Party,” Vicites said, reading from a prepared statement.

“As a member of the executive committee, my impartiality could be questioned,” he added.

Lohr said he “believed it would be a conflict of interest” if he heard the complaints.

Last week, Show denied the party was involved and said Democrats were retaliating for the earlier GOP claims.

Ronald Hicks, an attorney representing the state Republican party, said he had photos showing Vicites and former state Rep. Tim Mahoney standing near the Democrat sign and booth on July 29.

He further asked county officials to determine how many people registered to vote as Democrats in the booth during the fair.

In his statement, Vicites said he had nothing to do with the Democrat sign. When the executive committee decided to erect the sign, Vicites said, he was attending a county commissioners’ meeting.

“At the fair, I did not participate in promoting or handling the raffle,” he added.

Of the photos of him near the booth, Vicites said later, “I took a multitude of pictures that night, and it was outside the booth, not inside the booth.”

At the start of the session, before Vicites and Lohr recused themselves, Rattay said the Democrat party’s attorney could not be present at the session. As a result, Rattay said, he would not be answering questions.

Candidate Legal Issues

Halvorson cited for harassment in alleged Fayette Fair incident

BY KAYLIE MOORE, Connellsville Daily Courier 

Art Halvorson, the Democratic candidate for the 9th Congressional District, was cited for allegedly harassing an opposing campaign staffer during the 2016 Fayette County Fair.

According to the citation, Halvorson “with the intent to annoy or alarm another person, did subject such other person to physical contact,” and “did grab the victim by the wrist and held her wrist for approximately 20 seconds, which was unwanted by the victim.”

The harassment charge was filed Oct. 11 with District Judge Richard Kasunic II.

According to Halvorson’s Campaign Manager, Joe Sterns, Halvorson, 61, of 462 Indian Greens Lane, Manns Choice, entered a not guilty plea Tuesday. There will be a hearing – the date and time of which are to be determined.

“He entered a not guilty plea, because it’s a completely trumped up charge from a month-old encounter that was fabricated into a false police report with the sole purpose of smearing Art Halvorson in the remaining few weeks before the election,” Sterns said.

Meghan Marie Boocks worked for Congressman Bill Shuster (R-Hollidaysburg), who is seeking re-election.

According to a previous report by Keith Weimer, president of Bull’s Eye Security, Boocks, 23, and her fiancé, James Keenan, 27, both of McDonald, were working around 4 p.m. Aug. 6, at Shuster’s campaign booth in the Fayette County Fair’s Commercial Building #3.

Shuster’s Campaign Manager Casey Contres previously said the pair was “there all week distributing campaign literature.”

Boocks told security Halvorson “approached her and grabbed her tightly by the wrist.”

According to the report, Halvorson allegedly questioned her about her involvement with Shuster’s campaign and other related issues.

The report alleges Boocks complained of wrist pain after the incident but did not seek medical attention. It also states security was not contacted at the time of the incident, so no information could be gathered from Halvorson.

Halvorson unsuccessfully attempted to unseat Shuster in May 2014 and April 2016, while running as a Republican. He will oppose Shuster for the third time this November, as he seeks a ninth term as 9th Congressional District representative.

However, Halvorson successfully won a write-in campaign earlier this year, and will appear on the Democratic ballot.

In light of the formal citation, Sterns maintains the claims are false.

“Any report that was filed with the state police had to be false and only made for the purpose of character assassination, right out of the Clinton playbook,” said Sterns.

Kaylie Moore is a Daily Courier staff writer. Reach her at 724-628-2000