The Louisiana Supreme Court decided Wednesday not to review lower court rulings in a lawsuit over how to correct Lafayette City Council district errors, clearing the way for fall council elections.
For the first time since the city and parish councils were consolidated in 1996, voters this fall will elect members to a five-person Lafayette City Council and a separate five-person Lafayette Parish Council.
Last week, attorneys for plaintiffs Keith Kishbaugh and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin filed writs asking the Louisiana Supreme Court to consider reversing decisions against them by 15th Judicial District Judge John Trahan and the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
Kishbaugh and Ardoin argued the City-Parish Council lacks the authority to correct errors in new city council districts created with a Dec. 8 home rule charter amendment approved by voters. They insisted the matter must go before voters again. Trahan ruled the council could correct the errors by an ordinance approved in March. The appeals court agreed with a 2-1 vote.
By refusing to consider the writs, the supreme court clears the way for Oct. 12 primaries and Nov. 16 elections.
In a statement Wednesday Ardoin said, "I am disappointed that the court system has failed to provide the clarity we requested, and hope none of the long-term concerns we expressed ever come to fruition. Nonetheless, we have a final decision, and my office is ready to hold qualifying next month for the appropriate offices."
Qualifying is Aug. 6-8.
Kevin Blanchard of the Fix the Charter group that pushed for the charter amendment creating separate city and parish councils said Wednesday he is happy with the outcome but disappointed with the waste of time and taxpayer money by some people who wanted to overturn a legitimate vote of the people.
"Where we are today is exactly where we were the day after the council passed the ordinance (in March) fixing the districts," Blanchard said. "This was about trying to get a new election and that was a waste of money. People should be upset about that."
In 2018, council passed an ordinance calling for the Dec. 8 election. On the ballot was a home rule charter amendment that split the nine-person council into separate five-person city and parish councils. In the haste to meet election deadlines, errors were made in some city council districts. Three hundred and thirty registered voters in one city precinct were left out of the city districts. Some parish residents were included in city districts.
On the advice of its city-parish legal team, the council in March approved an ordinance correcting the errors. Kishbaugh and Ardoin sued. During the trial, demographer Mike Hefner testified that he inadvertently sent the incorrect version of the city council district map, which caused the errors. City-parish attorneys argued in court that voters decided the home rule charter based on the ballot language, which did not include council district boundaries.
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