A defeated Lafayette Parish School Board candidate will not face criminal charges related to her residency in the 2014 election, which her opponent alleged she misrepresented on voter registration and qualifying forms.
The 15th Judicial District Attorney’s Office declined to move forward with a complaint filed by District 4 School Board member Tehmi Chassion against Erica Williams, who garnered 43 percent of the vote against Chassion’s 57 percent.
The DA’s Office announced its refusal to prosecute the case in a March 10 letter Williams distributed Monday to the media.
“Today, I am hopeful that we as a community begin the process of silencing the barking dogs that continue to slow progress for our kids and our community. The campaigns for office are over, yet our children are still in need of leadership and real change,” Williams wrote in a statement accompanying the letter.
Chassion, who’s in his second term, said Monday he stands by his allegations, which include voter registration fraud and filing false public records. He said Williams changed her address after qualifying, and he further questioned her claims that she lived in a small, portable building on the property she listed as her address.
“I don’t understand why the charges were refused. But there are innocent people that are determined guilty, and there are guilty people that are determined innocent,” Chassion said.
Chassion said he filed the complaint during the 2014 election and under former District Attorney Mike Harson’s administration but got no response. Chassion said he followed up on the complaint after District Attorney Keith Stutes took office in 2015.
Williams’ 2014 candidacy is listed on the Secretary of State website with a 217 Piave St. address, although she’s also listed in public records as a resident of 221 Piave St., both in District 4.
When reached by phone, Williams said the 221 Piave St. address belongs to her mother-in-law, whom she cared for and stayed with during the election while she established residency in the next-door lot she owns at 217 Piave St.
But Chassion has insisted that Williams really lived in District 6, at a previous address. State law requires that school board candidates must live in the district they’re seeking for at least a year prior to qualifying.
One exception to the rule is if the candidacy is during the first election following reapportionment, which happens every 10 years after the U.S. Census and reconfigures district borders. Under state law, a candidate may live in any other district in the parish during such a year, as long as he or she moves to the district upon being sworn into office.
Williams said she understood that exception to apply to her candidacy.
Follow Lanie Lee Cook on Twitter, @lanieleecook.
, or contact her by phone at (337) 534-0825.