West Chester resident makes accusations against township officials after Capitol attack

A West Chester Twp. resident has accused several township officials of promoting or at least condoning violence that happened around the certification of the Electoral College votes earlier this month in Washington, D.C.

Patrick Barnett took the podium during the trustees’ meeting Tuesday and asked the board to oust Board of Zoning Appeals member Evan Thomas for posts he allegedly made on social media recently.

“In recent posts among other things Mr. Thomas calls for the hanging of certain individuals like the (Georgia) Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, he also calls for violence more generally,” Barnett said.

“... I am not qualified to assess the seriousness of these apparent declarations of intent, but they certainly have disturbed me and other West Chester residents.”

Barnett also criticized trustees Ann Becker and Mark Welch for allegedly associating with people who “have been calling for violence.”

“Mrs. Becker, not too long ago you put up on YouTube a video where at a Tea Party meeting the person you were videoing talked about his readiness to raid federal buildings,” Barnett said. “He was quite serious. You giggled at some point during the video. My reaction at the time was it was an incredibly stupid thing to do, to put that on the internet because that’s the kind of talk that gets police officers killed.”

Becker told the Journal-News the video was taken five years ago and she can’t remember the context. When asked about the age of the video and the fact it had no relation to the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol, Barnett said, “Yeah that’s a problem isn’t it? That’s a mistake. If I gave that impression, it was a mistake.”

“I absolutely condemn violence in any form,” Becker said. “When it comes to political or any kind of argument, there’s enough suffering in the world that we don’t need to have violence on our doorstep over an election or a political discussion of any kind.”

The Journal-News obtained social media posts allegedly made by Thomas that say the election was stolen. One says that “he should be tried and hung for treason,” in reference to Georgia’s secretary of state. There is also a picture of a hat that reads “Make hanging traitors great again.”

Thomas told the Journal-News he doesn’t specifically recall posting anything like that.

“I really don’t have any idea what those posts are, if they are out there or not,” Thomas said. “Have I liked a lot of things, have I put out a bunch of things or reposted a bunch of things? I’m sure I have at some point.”

Thomas, who is also a Butler County Republican Party Central Committee member, said he does not believe people should be hung for their political actions and he shouldn’t lose his position on the zoning board.

“Yes, there are things going wrong with our country, and there need to be strict consequences, whatever the law deems those consequences be,” he said. “I’m not advocating vigilantism. Like what happened at the Capitol, no, I’m not condoning that at all.”

Butler County Republican Party Chairman Todd Hall said the accusations stem from Barnett’s support of David Corfman in his 2019 bid to unseat Becker. Becker beat Corfman by 57.9 percent to 42.2 percent, in her re-election bid and also bested him in the eight-candidate race in 2017 to fill State Sen. George Lang’s trustee position.

“This isn’t about something somebody posted on Facebook, this is about township Trustee Ann Becker beating David Corfman multiple times,” Hall said. “That’s a shame Mr. Barnett wants to take things that probably shouldn’t have been said, but turn them into something and try to make it look like something else. It’s just a political tact.”

Barnett denied the allegation.

“David Corfman is yesterday’s news, whether or not I support David Corfman or Joe Biden or anybody else has nothing to do with the fact that Evan Thomas is threatening to kill people on his Facebook page,” Barnett said.

The trustees took no action on Barnett’s request. Butler County Democratic Party Chair Brian Hester said they should.

“The township has an obligation that it will not associate itself with such divisive threats of violence and have any role in legitimizing members of the community spreading it,” Hester said. “We are adults. It’s time we recognize we have an obligation to set an example for our kids, even when the politicians refuse to.”

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