A Jefferson Parish resident filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to disqualify at-large Parish Councilman Chris Roberts from his bid for re-election in the Oct. 24 primary.
Meanwhile, the Louisiana Ethics Administration filed a separate lawsuit seeking to disqualify Scarlett Alaniz, who is challenging incumbent Ben Zahn for the District 4 seat on the council.
The challenge to Roberts accuses him of failing to be up-to-date with his campaign finance reports when he signed up last week to run for a second four-year term as the council’s Division A at-large member.
That lawsuit — filed in 24th Judicial District Court in Gretna by lawyer Stephen Petit — also alleges that Roberts did not file state income tax returns for the past five years. Such transgressions are grounds for disqualification, the lawsuit alleges.
Roberts disputed Petit’s claims, saying in a text message Tuesday afternoon that all his tax returns and campaign reports had been filed, and his returns had even resulted in refunds.
“The (allegations) are entirely incorrect,” said Roberts, a Republican from Harvey.
According to the lawsuit, Roberts certified when he signed up to run for re-election that he either had filed his tax returns for the previous five years, had asked for an extension of time or was not required to file.
Petit said that in response to a public records request, the Louisiana Department of Revenue indicated to him that Roberts had not filed a state income tax return from 2010 to 2014, though he was required to do so. The department also said Roberts had not asked for an extension to file in 2013 or 2014, according to the lawsuit.
Further, the lawsuit alleges, Roberts was supposed to have filed three campaign finance reports by the time he signed up for re-election at 3:49 p.m. Sept. 9. But the Ethics Administration told Petit that Roberts didn’t file one of those reports until 5:36 p.m. that day and didn’t file the other two until almost three hours later, the lawsuit says.
In qualifying, Roberts certified that he had filed every report required by campaign finance disclosure regulations.
“The sanction for one false certification, much less plural false certifications, is disqualification from the election,” Petit’s lawsuit says.
Roberts is being challenged in the primary by former Kenner Mayor Louis Congemi and Jimmy Lawson, both of whom previously served on the Parish Council.
As for Alaniz, state Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen’s office is moving to disqualify her because she failed to pay more than $700 in fines she incurred in a prior election.
Once the liaison to the Hispanic community in former Kenner Mayor Phil Capitano’s administration, Alaniz ran unsuccessfully for a City Council seat last year. But she filed two campaign finance disclosure reports late, incurring one fine of $420 and another of $300.
She hadn’t paid off either fine when she signed up last week to run against Zahn in the October election, Ethics Administration records showed.
Alaniz nonetheless affirmed in an affidavit that she didn’t owe any fines — an incorrect statement exposing her to disqualification, according to the lawsuit against her candidacy.
Alaniz said Monday that she mistakenly thought her campaign manager had paid the fines. She said she paid them Monday but could not say to what extent she would fight the challenge to her candidacy.
Because there are no other candidates in the race, Zahn would automatically be re-elected if she is disqualified.
Court dates had not been set for either suit Tuesday.