A failed lawsuit that challenged a Lafayette Parish Home Rule Charter amendment and threatened to derail the Oct. 12 city council elections cost taxpayers more than $117,000 to defend against.
It cost Lafayette Consolidated Government and ultimately taxpayers $103,062, Chief Finance Officer Lorrie Toups said, to defend against the lawsuit filed in April by Lafayette businessman Keith Kishbaugh and joined by Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin.
Toups, who received the information from City-Parish Attorney Paul Escott, said that includes $102,331 in attorney fees and $731 in expenses.
LCG pulled into the lawsuit as another defendant the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Office, which handles elections locally. Clerk of Court Louis Perret said it cost his office $14,694 in attorney fees to defend against the lawsuit.
Kishbaugh, who is a candidate for the Lafayette Parish Council District 1 seat, challenged in his lawsuit an ordinance by the City-Parish Council to correct errors and omissions in city voter precincts and districts related to a Dec. 8 charter amendment. The charter amendment, approved by more than 2,400 votes in an election with 23 percent turnout, creates separate city and parish councils for the first time since 1996.
In an interview at the time, Kishbaugh said he ultimately wanted another vote on the charter amendment and wanted to keep the combined city-parish council form of governing.
The Louisiana Attorney General's Office intervened on behalf of Ardoin, whose office handles elections, seeking to have all or parts of the Dec. 8 charter amendment thrown out. They argued that errors with a charter amendment must be corrected with another public referendum amending the charter, not with a council ordinance.
A district court judge and 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals panel disagreed. The Louisiana Supreme Court declined to hear the case, paving the way for the Oct. 12 elections for a new five-person Lafayette City Council and a five-person Lafayette Parish Council.
For the first time in more than 20 years, voters in the city of Lafayette will cast two ballots Oct. 12, one for a city council representative and one for a parish council representative. A runoff, if needed, will be Nov. 16. The new city and parish councils take office in January.
The city of Lafayette, the largest in population in the parish, is the only municipality that has operated without its own mayor and city council since the city and parish governments formed LCG in 1996. Five other municipalities kept their own mayors and councils and voted on a city-parish council representative.
Lafayette still won't have its own mayor. A mayor-president will continue to serve as both the city of Lafayette's mayor and the parish's president. That election also is Oct. 12.
Early voting is from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. Sept. 28-Oct. 5, except Sunday, at the Registrar of Voters Office, 1010 Lafayette St., in downtown Lafayette.