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State GOP removes Hamilton County Republican chairman

March 17, 2016

The Indiana Republican Party has removed Hamilton County GOP Chairman Pete Peterson from his executive role after determining more than 50 of the votes cast for him early this year were invalid.

Former vice chairwoman and Carmel City Council member Laura Campbell has been appointed chair by the state GOP. Campbell ran against Peterson, a Fishers City Council member, in the Jan. 30 caucus.

The hearing board for the Indiana Republican State Central Committee issued the decision Wednesday, saying 52 of the precinct committeemen who participated in the caucus were ineligible to do so because they were not on the list maintained by the secretary for the state party 30 days prior to the office vacancy.

Former Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Pete Emigh resigned Dec. 31 after filling 71 new precinct positions on Nov. 23, which included allies of Peterson, including Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness and other city of Fishers employees.

Campbell, who became acting chair after Emigh resigned, removed those precinct appointments, but Fadness appealed that action to the state party and state GOP Chairman Jeff Cardwell allowed the new appointments to remain and participate in the caucus. But their votes were counted separately.

At Hamilton County’s caucus on Jan. 30, Campbell received 115 votes and Peterson received 151, which included votes from 52 new members who were present.

Campbell appealed the vote to the state, and the state party appointed a three-person hearing board to resolve the issue.

The hearing board issued its ruling Wednesday in favor of Campbell, effectively making her chair of the county GOP. But Peterson has requested the state to throw out the decision, arguing he was not notified about the Wednesday hearing.

In the written decision, the hearing board says Peterson and Campbell advised the board chairman that they waived their rights to appear to the hearing. Peterson adamantly denies he ever did so.

“I have been denied my right to due process and the precinct committeemen of Hamilton County have been denied their right to elect their chairman,” Peterson wrote in an email to Caldwell and other state party members. “It is unprecedented and incredibly unfair to the dedicated Republican volunteers who serve our party.”

Peterson said he knew about a hearing initially scheduled for March 4 that had been postponed but never received communication regarding a hearing scheduled for March 14.

“The last written communication I received from anyone representing the state party in the process was the email I received on March 2 indicating that I did not need to submit anything yet and that the state party is ‘still processing the request(s)’ for the independent IT investigation,” Peterson wrote.

Peterson had earlier requested permission for an independent IT expert to examine the state party secretary’s email account, because there is a dispute over when she received an updated precinct committeemen list.

Barb McClellan, secretary for the state GOP, testified that she did not receive notice of the new appointments until Dec. 2 and received the list of names Dec. 3, even though Hamilton County GOP Executive Director Andrew Greider says he sent an updated list on Nov. 30.

McClellan says she never received the Nov. 30 email, and the state committee’s IT director found no evidence of the email.

The dates are significant because anyone holding a precinct appointment is not eligible to vote in a caucus unless his or her name was on the state party secretary’s list 30 days prior to the office vacancy. Emigh resigned Dec. 31, so the deadline would be Dec. 1.

Given that McClellan did not receive the notice until Dec. 3, the 71 new committeemen were deemed ineligible to vote for a new chairperson at the Jan. 30 caucus.

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