The Louisiana Ethics Administration has filed a challenge in 24th Judicial District Court to the candidacy of Scarlett Alaniz, who is challenging incumbent Ben Zahn for the District 4 seat on the Jefferson Parish Council in the Oct. 24 primary.
Alanaiz said Monday that she mistakenly thought her campaign manager had paid off more than $700 in fines, but could not say to what extent she would fight an objection to her candidacy.
A hearing date for the state’s challenge has not yet been set, though it likely will within the next couple of days.
Zahn would win a second four-year term unopposed if Alaniz, 45, is disqualified.
Once the liaison to the Hispanic community in former Mayor Phil Capitano’s administration, Alaniz had twice run unsuccessfully for a Kenner City Council seat before signing up on Thursday to challenge Zahn, 47.
During the second of those races, Alaniz filed two campaign finance disclosure reports late. The Republican was fined $420 for one of the late filings and $300 for the other.
She hadn’t paid off either fine when she signed up to run against Zahn on the last of three days of qualifying for the October elections, records from the state ethics administration showed.
She had to sign an affidavit that she didn’t owe any fines to the ethics administration when declaring herself a candidate, and campaign regulations say anyone providing sworn statements containing incorrect information can be disqualified.
On Friday, ethics administrator Kathleen Allen said her office was in the process of drawing up a petition objecting to Alaniz’s candidacy that could disqualify her depending on a Jefferson Parish state judge’s ruling.
It did not appear that petition had been filed Monday.
Alaniz on Monday said that she had instructed her campaign manager, Santiago Cuesta, to pay the fines off ahead of her signing up to run in the October primary.
“He said he would do it, and I left it at that,” Alaniz said. “I had no idea I had those outstanding. I am very responsible with all of my stuff.”
Alaniz said she had taken care of the fines by Monday and was going to discuss what her next step might be with Cuesta when he returned from an out-of-town business trip. Cuesta could not be reached for comment Monday.
Candidates who jump into races despite owing fines to the ethics administration can avoid issues if they withdraw, pay off the outstanding amount and sign up again before the qualifying window closes. Waiting to pay outstanding fines after the sign-up period is grounds for disqualification.
Alaniz said she signed up to challenge fellow Kenner Republican Zahn because she has “a heart to serve.”
“I work for people,” said Alaniz, who was born in Honduras but has lived in Kenner since she was a teen. “I’ve loved helping people since I was a little girl.”