Tiffany Perkins does not legally reside within the boundaries of District 6 and is therefore disqualified from running for that seat on the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, a state district judge ruled Tuesday morning.
The decision clears the way for incumbent Jill Dyason’s reelection to a fourth term, which will start Jan. 1.
“I appreciate the support that has poured in through all of this,” Dyason said. “It has been humbling.”
“I’ll give this everything I’ve got, but I need to see some real change,” she added. “We can’t have a dysfunctional board again.”
Perkins’ legal defeat is the third successful residency challenge in the past week lodged against School Board candidates. The litigation leaves just six competitive races remaining when voters go to the polls Nov. 4.
“After a review of the law and the facts and argument presented, the court finds that the plaintiff has shown that the defendant is not domiciled in the district in which she qualified,” Hernandez wrote in a two-page ruling.
Hernandez presided over a hearing Monday in the case.
In the ruling, Hernandez sided with plaintiff Matthew Dozier, a resident of District 6, and Dozier’s attorney, Bob Morgan, of Denham Springs.
Morgan submitted several pieces of evidence Monday suggesting that Perkins lived in District 6 for at most three months before qualifying, starting in May of this year. That’s when she signed a lease for her apartment at 12901 Jefferson Highway, No. 635, which is in the district. Before that, records show, she maintained a residence outside the district.
State law requires that prior to qualifying, candidates live for at least a year in the election district in which they are running.
Perkins waited until Aug. 20, the day qualifying began, to change her voter registration to the 12901 Jefferson Highway address. When she qualified two days later, she gave the Jefferson Highway address as her domicile.
In a surprise, Perkins testified Monday that her legal domicile is not on Jefferson Highway at all. Rather, she said, she has lived since June 2013 at the 4161 Southpark Drive home of her boyfriend, now fiancé, Angelo Corceone, and his two daughters. Corceone later took the stand and confirmed what Perkins had said.
She said she maintains more than one residence by choice, but that 4161 Southpark Drive is her primary residence and it’s the place she considers her domicile.
Hernandez was not persuaded, noting all the written documentation pointing to other addresses.
There is an exception addressing when a district’s borders change due to reapportionment, which occurs every 10 years after the U.S. census. Glenn Koepp, who handled the most recent reapportionment for the School Board, approved July 24, testified Monday that the reapportionment did not change the boundaries of District 6, only its number — it was previously known as District 10.
Also, neither Morgan nor Perkins’ attorney, Murphy Bell, asked in court Monday whether her newly disclosed address, 4161 Southpark Drive, is in District 6 and, according to Koepp, it is not. Instead, it’s in precinct 3-11, which is now represented by board President David Tatman and is part of the new District 9, Koepp said.
Hernandez made no mention of that discrepancy in his ruling.
Perkins, in an email late Tuesday, said that “while disappointed with the court’s ruling today, I believe change comes about through consistency and time. I started my campaign to fix the schools in District 6. That is what I will do. … I will be at school board meetings and PTO meetings to ensure that those elected or appointed to resolve the problems in our public school system remain informed and do their jobs.”
On Friday, two other candidates under challenges, Eugene Collins Weatherspoon and Rachel Allmon, withdrew.
Weatherspoon’s withdrawal means the incumbent in District 3, Kenyetta Nelson-Smith, is re-elected without opposition. She will start her second term Jan. 1.
She joins Tatman, who did not have anyone qualify to run against him in the newly drawn District 9.
Allmon’s departure means incumbent Vereta Lee now faces a lone opponent, Daniel Banguel, in her bid for a third term on the board in the newly drawn District 2.