ACA.chartersuit.053019

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

A Lafayette Parish judge is expected to consider motions Monday by the Louisiana Secretary of State and residents who want to intervene in a lawsuit that could negate the Dec. 8 home rule charter amendment election creating separate city and parish councils.

A court hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday before 15th Judicial District Judge John Trahan.

On Dec. 8, Lafayette Parish voters approved a charter amendment that creates separate city and parish councils for the first time since they were consolidated in 1996. In the Lafayette City-Parish Council's rush to get the amendment on the Dec. 8 ballot, errors were made in describing voting precincts. Some of the errors are typographical in nature. Others are more serious, such as forgetting to include a city precinct in new city council districts.

The city-parish legal team studied the problem for three weeks and issued an 11-page report on its review of how best to correct the errors, deciding a council ordinance would be the best route. The council took that advice on March 26, despite a two-page opinion from an assistant attorney with the Louisiana Attorney General's Office that said a new election is needed.

Lafayette Parish businessman Keith Kishbaugh filed a lawsuit April 5 to stop implementation of the council ordinance correcting precinct errors and omissions. Kishbaugh said he ultimately would like the Dec. 8 election results thrown out and a new vote on the charter amendment during the Oct. 12 election for governor, when a higher voter turnout would be likely.

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, the highest elections official in the state, filed a motion April 10 to intervene in Kishbaugh's lawsuit, arguing that throwing out the ordinance would not correct the precinct errors, leaving some residents unable to vote or run for office. 

Ardoin wants the judge to either invalidate parts of the amended charter or throw out the entire charter amendment approved Dec. 8 in favor of a new election. If that happens, elections for the new city and parish council seats probably would not take place in October as planned.

Six of the city residents inadvertently excluded from the new district descriptions filed a motion April 18 asking the judge to throw out Kishbaugh's lawsuit and allow to stand the ordinance that places them in the proper district and restores their ability to vote and run for office. They claim Kishbaugh filed his lawsuit after the deadline to challenge the Dec. 8 election had passed.

On April 23, in response to the above lawsuit and motions, Assistant City-Parish Attorney Michael Hebert filed a response into the court records that seeks a declaratory judgment that the council ordinance is the proper way to correct the precinct errors, or declare the intent of voters with the Dec. 8 charter election should stand and typographical errors should be disregarded, or declare the erroneous precinct errors invalid and either allow the council to correct them or for the court to correct them and to order Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret and the Secretary of State to qualify candidates for the council seats and conduct the elections for those seats.

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

The trial on Kishbaugh's lawsuit is set for May 8.

Follow Claire Taylor on Twitter, @ClaireTaylorACA