AMITE — Tangipahoa Parish sheriff candidate Arden Wells has not filed a state tax return for the past five years and should be barred from the Oct. 22 primary election, a lawsuit filed Thursday alleges.
The plaintiff in the suit — Richard A. Schwartz, an Amite city attorney — was arrested twice earlier this year and booked with driving while intoxicated, according to a news report from WDSU-TV in New Orleans.
The suit asks a judge to disqualify Wells from the race on the basis of a false qualification form, which requires candidates to assert that they have either not been required to file a state tax return or have filed one for each of the previous five years, the suit says.
Wells, who was a practicing attorney until he was disbarred Nov. 7, 2007, earned sufficient income to be required to file a return in both 2006 and 2007, the suit alleges.
A hearing in the case has been set for 10 a.m. Monday, according to statute that applies to these types of lawsuits, said Glen Galbraith, of the Hammond law firm Seale and Ross, which represents Schwartz.
“I just got the suit about five minutes ago,” Wells said late Friday afternoon. “This was filed solely to harass, embarrass and defame me.
“They set this thing for Monday and I haven’t even had a chance to research the law,” he said.
Wells refused to comment on whether he had filed returns for the previous five years, but did say that if he didn’t work during a year, he didn’t file a return.
“I didn’t have any of what I consider income in 2010,” he said. “I received a compensation settlement from a personal injury claim, but I did not work.”
Wells said the suit is retaliation for his request to have Schwartz removed as city attorney for the town of Amite earlier this year.
Wells alleged during a July 5 Town Council meeting that Schwartz had been arrested three times and booked with driving while intoxicated and “expressed concern” that the town had not fired him, according to minutes published on the town government’s website.
“This is a mountain out of a molehill and if I get a fair hearing, that’s what it’s going to look like,” Wells said.
Ad hoc Judge Jerome Winsberg has been appointed to hear the case, Galbraith said, after all judges of the 21st Judicial District Court recused themselves on the basis of a 2006 lawsuit Wells filed against the district judges.