OPELOUSAS — A state House of Representatives candidate who testified Monday she filed last year for homestead exemption in Baton Rouge was ruled eligible to run in an election district that includes St. Landry Parish.
State District Judge Gerard Caswell said following a three-hour court hearing that although he has concerns that candidate Pamela Burleigh has claimed homestead exemption in another parish, he was “forced to rule” Burleigh can run for representative in District 40.
In a separate matter involving an election challenge that includes St. Landry, state District Judge Alonzo Harris ruled following a brief hearing Monday morning that Patrick Neil Richard should be disqualified as a candidate for mayor in the town of Grand Coteau.
The primary for both races is on Oct. 24.
Richard’s candidacy was challenged by the state Board of Ethics, which alleged in a lawsuit filed Thursday he was ineligible to run because he failed to file a financial disclosure statement in 2012, as required by state law.
Richard’s disqualification means that Shaterral Johnson, the only other candidate for mayor, will be elected.
According to the lawsuit, Richard indicated when he qualified on Sept. 8 for election that he did not have any outstanding late fines that needed to be paid to the Ethics Board.
The board, in the lawsuit, alleges Richard owes at least $2,600 in fines and late fees for failing to timely file a financial disclosure report.
Richard did not return a call to his cellphone on Monday afternoon for comment.
Linda Senegal, who lives in District 40 and whose daughter, Val, has also qualified to run for the House of Representatives in the 40th District, filed separate lawsuits Thursday in 27th Judicial District Court challenging the residency qualifications of Burleigh and candidate Dustin Miller.
Senegal lost her challenge against Miller on Friday when District Judge James A. Doherty Jr. ruled Miller has been domiciled in District 40 almost since birth.
Miller testified he shared with his wife a trailer that was formerly parked in Opelousas and then moved to District 40 in March.
In the Burleigh challenge, Caswell said Monday he could find no precedent from state law that would indicate a homestead exemption filing like hers in East Baton Rouge Parish should legally deter her from running in St. Landry Parish.
Burleigh testified she owns a house in Baton Rouge where an older son and two younger children live. The younger children also attend Baton Rouge schools and the 22-year-old son is a Southern University student, she said.
Burleigh also said she is working on a doctoral degree at Southern in addition to working as a contract engineer for businesses in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Jackson, Mississippi.
Burleigh testified she has always voted in St. Landry in addition to buying vehicles and obtaining her last two driver’s licenses in the parish.
Burleigh testified she often stays at her mother’s house, which is located on La. 749 north of Opelousas.
Gregory Aycock, a Baton Rouge attorney who represented Burleigh on Monday, filed 23 documents into the court record, which he said indicate Burleigh has used her mother’s home as a domicile since at least 2008.
Prior to his ruling, Caswell said that Senegal and her attorney, Harold Register, provided no evidence to show how frequently Burleigh is present at her Baton Rouge home.