Suspended Lafayette City Marshal Brian Pope, who was convicted of four felonies in October and awaits sentencing, may be considering a run for Lafayette Parish Sheriff.
Several people posted on social media Tuesday that they received automated phone calls on behalf of Pope asking questions about his approval versus Sheriff Mark Garber.
A Lafayette Parish jury convicted Pope Oct. 3, 2018, on one count of perjury and three counts of malfeasance in office, all felonies stemming from a 2016 press conference where Pope criticized Garber, a candidate for Sheriff, alleging he encouraged illegal workers to come to Louisiana and file worker's compensation claims. The Independent news organization filed a public records request for emails and other documents surrounding the press conference. When Pope failed to produce the documents, The Independent sued and won.
The felony charges grew from that press conference and a sworn deposition of Pope by The Independent's attorney during the civil litigation.
Pope, who endorsed Garber's opponent in the 2016 race, now may be considering a move to unseat Garber as sheriff.
Several Acadiana residents said on Reddit that they had received calls Monday from an organization that seemed to be polling people to gauge support for Pope. One poster said the "robocall" mentioned Pope by name, describing him as the person paying for the poll.
The recorded calls said Pope's prosecution was "a witch hunt," alleged Garber is "soft" on illegal immigration and stirred up anti-tax sentiment by pointing out a failed 2018 Sheriff's tax election.
Other questions allegedly asked:
- Do you approve of Pope?
- Do you think the city marshal was brought down by a witch hunt?
- Do you approve of Garber holding illegal aliens only 48 hours and releasing them instead of holding them for immigration officials?
- Did you vote for Garber's failed jail tax?
- Would you vote for Garber or Pope for sheriff?
Pope is scheduled for court April 3 for sentencing, but his attorneys filed a motion for acquittal, seeking to have the conviction tossed out.
An amendment to the Louisiana Constitution approved in 2018 allows a convicted felon, such as Pope, to run for and hold public office if he has not exhausted all appeals and legal remedies and is not under an order of imprisonment, Tyler Brey, press secretary for the Louisiana Secretary of State, said Tuesday. Pope has not yet appealed his conviction. His attorney previously said an appeal would come after he is sentenced.
"If he's appealing, he could technically still run, but the second he exhausts all remedies and the conviction is upheld," Brey said, "that would disqualify him from seeking office."
Pope also is scheduled for a court appearance April 4 in Lafayette on 17 additional felony charges of malfeasance in office. Those charges relate to allegations he continued to supplement his salary in 2018 with fees that are supposed to be used for his office even after he received an attorney general opinion saying he should not keep the money for himself.
Pope did not return a call for comment on this story. A call Tuesday to the local telephone number used for the poll connected the caller to Google Voice. The Acadiana Advocate did not receive a call after leaving a message.
The election for Sheriff is Nov. 3, 2020. Garber has announced he is seeking re-election.