Tiffany Perkins fought Monday to keep alive her bid to unseat incumbent East Baton Rouge Parish School Board member Jill Dyason during a hearing Monday in 19th Judicial District Court.
The two women are vying to represent District 6, but Perkins’ residency in the district is being challenged.
State District Judge Todd Hernandez, who presided over the hearing Monday, said he will issue a ruling soon.
Perkins is the third candidate for the parish School Board whose residency has been challenged in court. 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 board President David 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.
Seven of nine School Board districts still have competitive races. If Hernandez rules against Perkins, that total drops to six races.
The election is Nov. 4.
Matthew Dozier, a resident of District 6, is challenging Perkins’ residency.
Dozier’s attorney, Bob Morgan, of Denham Springs, submitted several pieces of evidence Monday suggesting that Perkins lived outside of District 6 until at least May when she signed a lease at her apartment at 12901 Jefferson Highway, No. 635, which is inside the district. Perkins then waited until Aug. 20, the same day qualifying began, to change her voter registration to that address.
State law requires that prior to qualifying, candidates live for at least a year in the election district in which they are running.
There is an exception for when district border’s 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.
For her part, Perkins testified Monday her legal domicile is not on Jefferson Highway. 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.
Morgan was flummoxed by Perkins’ testimony.
“This has taken us by surprise,” Morgan said. “We have no prior record of her having lived there.”
But neither Morgan nor Perkins’ attorney, Murphy Bell, asked in court Monday whether 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 Tatman and is part of the new District 9, Koepp said.
Under questioning from Bell, who also represented Allmon and Weatherspoon, Perkins said she cooks, stores her clothes, cares for the kids and spends almost every night with Corceone. She said as a single woman, she’s maintaining a separate residence until they get married, in part not to force herself on Corceone’s two girls, who maintain relations with their mother.
Morgan said in an interview Monday night that he didn’t realize until after the hearing that 4161 Southpark Drive is not in District 6. He said he plans to bring this to the attention of Judge Hernandez first thing Tuesday morning.
During the hearing, Corceone took the stand and confirmed what Perkins had just said.
Bell argued that state law allows candidates for public office to maintain multiple residences, but they can select one as their domicile and in Perkins’ case, the Southpark Drive address is that domicile.
“Domicile is where you eat, sleep and enjoy all the comforts of home,” Bell said.
Morgan was dubious, saying Perkins needs to show proof that the Southpark Drive address is indeed her domicile.
“You can’t just pick an address out of the air and make it your domicile,” he said.