The legal battle over a Dec. 8 Lafayette Home Rule Charter amendment that created new city and parish council districts isn't over.

The attorney for the Lafayette man who sued the Lafayette City-Parish Council in April after it corrected errors in the charter without a vote of the people said Tuesday he will appeal the judge's decision last week in favor of the council.

ACA.charterappeal.051519

Lafayette City Hall is pictured Tuesday, August 28, 2018, in Lafayette, La.

Lafayette attorney Lane Roy, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Keith Kishbaugh, said he will file a notice of appeal as soon as 15th Judicial District Judge John Trahan signs the judgment, expected to take place Wednesday.

City-parish attorneys are writing the judgment document, Roy said, but there's some discussion about issues such as whether to include Trahan's reasons for ruling.

Roy said he spoke with the attorney representing the Louisiana Secretary of State who said they will appeal as well. Tyler Brey, press secretary with the Secretary of State's Office which intervened in Kishbaugh's lawsuit, said in an email that Secretary Kyle Ardoin is consulting with his legal team and will not make a decision about an appeal until a judgment is signed.

In 2018, the council approved an ordinance calling for the Dec. 8 election to amend the home rule charter that created Lafayette Consolidated Government. The amendment passed with 53 percent of the vote, with fewer than 35,000 ballots cast parishwide, a turnout of about 23 percent.

The charter amendment splits the nine-district city-parish council into separate five-district city and parish councils for the first time since 1996.

About 10 days after the election, Registrar of Voters Charlene Meaux Menard discovered differences between maps of the new city council districts and descriptions of the districts. Despite a Louisiana Attorney General's Office opinion advising that a new election is needed to correct the errors, the council in March adopted an ordinance making the corrections.

In April, Kishbaugh sued to have the ordinance invalidated. Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin intervened in the lawsuit because simply invalidating the ordinance does not correct the errors, leaving 330 city voters without a precinct assignment. Six of those voters intervened in the lawsuit in support of the ordinance.

Trahan ruled May 8 in favor of the council, saying the corrections can be made with a council ordinance.

Kishbaugh and opponents of the ordinance fix and of the charter amendment want a second shot at the council split, preferably during an election with multiple races on the ballot to increase voter turnout. 

The election for the new city and parish council seats is Oct. 12, with qualifying Aug. 6-8. 

Charter amendment timeline

• July 10, 2018: City-Parish Council introduces ordinance calling for Dec. 8 election amending home rule charter.

• Aug. 7, 2018: Council approves ordinance calling for Dec. 8 election on charter amendment.

• Dec. 8, 2018: Voters approve home rule charter amendment creating separate city of Lafayette and parish of Lafayette councils.

• Dec. 18, 2018: Registrar of Voters Charlene Meaux Menard finds errors in new city council districts.

• Feb. 21, 2019: Mayor-President Joel Robideaux advises council chairman in email a new election on charter amendment may be needed, based on call with secretary of state.

• Feb. 25, 2019: Robideaux, council chairman meet in Baton Rouge with secretary of state representatives about validity of charter amendment.

• March 26, 2019: Attorney General’s office says new vote of public needed to correct council districts; council approves ordinance correcting charter errors.

• April 5, 2019: Businessman Keith Kishbaugh files lawsuit challenging use of ordinance to correct problems in charter amendment.

• April 9, 2019: Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin intervenes in Kishbaugh lawsuit.

• April 18, 2019: Six residents omitted from city district intervene in lawsuit in favor of ordinance fix.

• May 8, 2019: 15th Judicial District Judge John Trahan rules the council can correct errors with ordinance.

Appeal of Lafayette charter lawsuit decision likely

Judge throws out lawsuit challenging fixes to Lafayette charter amendment


Follow Claire Taylor on Twitter, @ClaireTaylorACA