OPELOUSAS — A member of the Opelousas Board of Aldermen has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn his ouster this month as mayor pro tem.
Alderman Reginald Tatum is seeking reinstatement to the position, unspecified damages and attorney fees in a lawsuit filed Friday in state court in St. Landry Parish.
The lawsuit alleges that the vote to remove Tatum from the pro tem position was not legal and that Opelousas Mayor Donald Cravins Sr. had improperly met with three aldermen to discuss Tatum’s removal.
Tatum said in the lawsuit that he was “embarrassed and humiliated” by the removal, which came after Tatum joined an informal group that is looking into alleged irregularities at the Opelousas Housing Authority and the Mayor’s Office.
Cravins said Monday that he did not push for Tatum’s removal but that he had been approached by other aldermen about Tatum because of the alleged “constant acrimony that accompanies him in the meetings.”
At issue in the lawsuit is a June 14 vote on rescinding Tatum’s appointment earlier this year to the position of mayor pro tem.
Three members of the six-member board of aldermen voted to rescind the appointment, and three members abstained, according to the lawsuit.
The city’s attorney, Pride Doran, said during the meeting that the abstentions should be considered no votes, sending the tie-breaker decision to Cravins.
The lawsuit alleges that the agenda for the meeting did not specifically state that a vote would be taken on Tatum’s appointment and that Cravins met with Aldermen Julius Alsandor, Jacqueline Martin and Louis Butler Jr. — the three yes votes — before the meeting to discuss how they would vote.
Tatum contends that both allegations constitute a violation of the state’s open meetings law, which aims to ensure that government bodies discuss the public’s business in the open and give adequate notice about what is to be voted on at a meeting.
Tatum also questioned whether Cravins had the authority to make the deciding vote on the appointment.
Cravins said that the mayor generally casts the deciding vote in a tie and that he relied on the advice of the city attorney.
Cravins said he did not have a meeting with the three aldermen but that he had been contacted by two of them about the possible removal of Tatum, who he alleged has been interfering in city personnel issues and making burdensome requests for records.
After Tatum’s removal on June 14, the Board of Aldermen appointed Alsandor to the mayor pro tem position.
Mayor pro tem is in most cases a ceremonial title, but the mayor pro tem would be called on to fulfill the mayor’s duties in the event that he or she is unable to do so.
No court date has been set for Tatum’s lawsuit.