A Lafayette businessman filed a lawsuit Friday over an ordinance the City-Parish Council approved in March to fix voter precinct problems created with the Dec. 8 adoption of a home rule charter amendment.
Keith Kishbaugh, through attorney Lane Roy, filed the lawsuit seeking an injunction to stop implementation of a council ordinance approved March 26. The ordinance would fix errors and omissions in precinct and district descriptions in support material associated with the Dec. 8 charter amendment that splits the council into separate city and parish councils for the first time since they were consolidated in 1996.
Descriptions of some of the newly-created city and parish council districts contain errors and omit at least one voter precinct in the city of Lafayette. The ballot language did not include the precinct and council descriptions. The ballot asked voters if they wanted to create separate five-district city and parish councils out of the existing nine-district combined council.
Ultimately, Kishbaugh told The Acadiana Advocate Friday afternoon, he wants a re-vote on the Dec. 8 charter amendment.
"I'm hoping to fix the fix and have things revert back to where they were prior to the December election," he said. "I'd like to see it done properly, in a gubernatorial election instead of three weeks before Christmas with a low voter turnout election."
That may not be possible. The election for governor is Oct. 12, but the home rule charter says a full year must pass before the same proposal to amend the charter is placed on the ballot again.
The charter reads, "Upon passage or rejection of a proposal by the voters, at least one year shall lapse before the same issue can again be submitted to the voters."
Because of that restriction, the earliest the charter amendment can be placed before voters again is Dec. 9.
Kevin Blanchard of the Fix the Charter group that supported the charter amendment welcomed the lawsuit. He said he's confident a judge will not require the charter amendment to go to a vote again.
"Obviously we don't agree with the lawsuit," Blanchard said. "But we are happy to be in the position to get this over with. Our main worry was that if someone had an issue with the way the council corrected the precincts, if they were in bad faith, they would wait until the last minute and disrupt the election."
The lawsuit requests "an expeditious hearing and must be done within 10 days."
Blanchard said that's early enough to resolve the matter in time for the Oct. 12 elections for the new city and parish council.
Qualifying for the new city and parish council seats begins Aug. 6. The precincts and council districts must be defined properly by then so candidates can qualify in the proper districts. If that deadline is missed or if a judge rules that the charter amendment must return to the ballot, the new city and parish council elections probably would be postponed.
Kishbaugh, who said he plans to run for the parish council district 1, said if voters are allowed to vote again on the charter amendment and it passes, he will accept the council split.
The city-parish legal team spent weeks researching the best way to correct the problems, determining the council could do so with an ordinance. The city-parish attorneys issued an 11-page memo with support documents to support their determination.
Some in the community want the entire charter amendment on the ballot again. The Louisiana Attorney General's Office issued a two-page opinion March 26, one day after it was requested by state Sen. Bob Hengsens, R-Abbeville, saying the only way to correct the precincts is with a vote of the public. The council ignored that opinion and voted 5-4 on March 26 to follow the advice of its own attorneys.