The recent retirement of longtime Registrar of Voters Elaine Lamb has created a surprisingly coveted opening that’s caught the attention of 24 people seeking what’s been described as a “lifetime” appointment.
The Baton Rouge Metro Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday for a new registrar, earning between $85,000 and $117,0000 a year, and Councilman John Delgado said he believes a move is afoot to award the position to former Metro Councilman Ulysses “Bones” Addison.
“The fix is in,” Delgado said. “They are making Bones the registrar of voters. There is no consideration being given to candidates of actual quality.”
Based on his conversations with other council members, Delgado said, he believes Addison has the support of a majority of the council and much of that support is based on their past relationship working with him on the Metro Council.
Addison served 12 years on the Metro Council, representing the north Baton Rouge district currently held by Chauna Banks-Daniel. He worked alongside eight of the 12 sitting council members before his last term expired in 2012.
Council members and other parish elected officials are prohibited from doing business or taking a job with the city-parish for two years after they leave office. But Addison has been out of office for almost three years.
“We are not serving the people of East Baton Rouge Parish by selecting our friends over the people who are more qualified,” Delgado said. “I think it’s cronyism of the highest order and people should be outraged about it.”
Addison could not be reached for comment on this story.
Addison’s résumé indicates that since 1987 he has been president of Genesis Marketing Inc., a firm that does marketing, consulting and business development. The address for the firm, which does not seem to have a website, is listed at the same address as Addison’s home.
Since leaving office because of term limits, Addison can sometimes still be seen around City Hall attending council meetings. In 2013, he was represented by Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe, who is an attorney, in a lawsuit against a construction company.
The other applicants have a wide range of experience, but a few have backgrounds specializing in elections.
For example, Stephen Raborn served as a registrar of voters in the Fort Worth, Texas, area. Before that, he spent 13 years in the East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar’s Office.
Other candidates include Bill Bryan, a local attorney who is working for the state Attorney General and who specializes in elections cases, and Jacques Berry, who works as press secretary for Jay Dardenne while he serves currently as lieutenant governor and previously as secretary of state over state elections. East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Jerry Arbour also applied.
Council members contacted Monday were dismissive of Delgado’s accusation that there is a plan to give Addison the job, but they also all acknowledged Addison is being given strong consideration.
Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle said she has not talked to other council members about Addison, but he is among her top two candidates.
“I certainly think that three terms on the Metro Council and his work in local government makes him a viable candidate,” Marcelle said.
Councilman Buddy Amoroso said he has not committed to any particular candidate, but said Addison is in consideration.
“He was a very good councilperson, but I haven’t committed to Bones, contrary to popular opinion,” Amoroso said. “If there is a movement to get him the job, they haven’t talked to me about it. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.”
Councilman Joel Boé also said he spoke with Addison, but has not had pressure from any council members to support him.
Boé said he has winnowed the list to seven people whom he believes have elections or governmental experience, and Addison is on the list.
The minimum requirement for the registrar is that the applicant be a registered voter in the parish. The position has been described as a lifetime appointment because those appointed tend to keep the job until they retire. In the 94 years the East Baton Rouge Parish Registrar’s Office has existed, it’s had only five registrars.
Lamb retired from her 43-year career in the office last month. She was deputy registrar from 1974 until 2002, when she was appointed to lead the office. Before her, Nat Bankston was registrar, from 1973 until 2002. He inherited the job from his grandmother.
The registrar oversees elections and voter registration on the parish level. The office has a budget of about $870,000 a year and there are roughly 285,000 registered voters in the parish. This registrar also will likely oversee the tail end of the controversial St. George petition process, validating signatures to determine if the incorporation proposal will be put on the ballot.
Once appointed, the new registrar will have to be sworn in within 30 days. But that person can start working the next day if he or she chooses and the council dictates it.
Delgado said he feels “100 percent confident” that Addison has lined up the votes.
“If I’m wrong, I’m fine with that,” he said. “I would hope that everyone still has an open mind.”
Here is the full list of applicants: Addison, Arbour, Berry, Bryan, Raborn, Stephen Bailey, Donald Berniard, Jeffery Duhe, Erick Fields, Belynda Gauthier, Colette Greggs, Laurie Hardison, Brendia Johnson, Jacob Johnson, Denise London, John Mandeville, Brittany Martin, Joseph Miller, Rachael Rapier, Lawanza Richardson, Dan Schaneville, Laura Scott, Rachel Stewart and Kierstyn Viviano.