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U.S. Marshall Genny May administers the oath of office to incoming Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal as his wife, Dania Fandal, looks on.

Advocate staff photo by SARA PAGONES

Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal, who drew an opponent on the final day of qualifying for the March 24 election, will return to office without having to campaign after a judge disqualified his challenger Tuesday.

Tommy L. Qualls, who qualified to run, said that 22nd Judicial District Court Judge Peter Garcia ruled "fairly" but that he was disqualified on a "technicality."

In fact, a lawsuit filed on Jan. 10 to challenge Qualls' candidacy alleged that he does not live in the city limits but instead at 135 West Live Oaks Drive, where he also has his homestead exemption.

Tommy Williams, a reserve police officer who has worked in Fandal's campaigns, said the campaign hired a private investigator who found some information on Qualls' driver's license and records from the St. Tammany Parish tax assessor.

The Fandal camp had to file paperwork to get Qualls' voter registration, he said, and that required getting 25 registered voters to sign.

But in the end, Williams said, they discovered that Qualls had changed his voter registration and license to an address within the city limits, at 146 Palm Springs Drive, on Jan. 5, the same day he qualified to run for police chief.

That property is owned by Lester H. Swanson Jr., who has a homestead exemption on the property, the lawsuit said.

By law, candidates must live within the city limits for a full year before qualifying.

Slidell resident Jerry Williams, husband of the late City Councilwoman Pearl Williams, filed a lawsuit challenging Qualls' candidacy, Tommy Williams said.

Qualls said that he ran to make a positive change in his community. "We've got to get to work for the next go-round," he said, adding that he had spoken to Fandal, whom he described as a good person.

Fandal was elected to fill the remainder of Randy Smith's term as police chief after Smith was elected St. Tammany Parish sheriff. Fandal was sworn into office a year ago.

The removal of a challenger means he will get a full four-year term. 

Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.