Two Lafayette district judges have disqualified suspended City Marshal Brian Pope from running for re-election.

The rulings came in back to back hearings Tuesday morning. The two judgments say that if Pope fails to withdraw his candidacy for the Nov. 3 election within 24 hours the judgments will be definitive, and he’ll be disqualified.

Pope’s attorney Brett Grayson said after the hearings his client has not decided yet if he’ll appeal the two decisions.

Pope was suspended without pay in October 2018 when he was convicted of several felony counts of malfeasance. He is appealing to the state supreme court after a state appeals court rejected his challenge. After Tuesday’s hearings, Pope maintained his innocence in those cases and said he believes his legal challenges have been a continuous witch hunt.

“It has been from day one…I’m not giving up. I’m innocent,” Pope said.

In the first Tuesday hearing, the Louisiana Board of Ethics argued that Pope signed an affidavit when he filed his candidacy form July 24 and attested that he did not have any outstanding fines owed to the ethics board. The board said he currently owes $5,000 in fines and late fees and had been mailed several notice letters about the outstanding balances.

According to court documents, Pope owed $2,500 in late fees for failing to file his 2018 disclosure form and a $2,500 fine from his original run for marshal over a paperwork error that had been waived pending future compliance. Because Pope had another infraction that fine was automatically due.

The notice letters were a point of contention because Pope had changed residences and claimed while he did not file a separate change of address form with the ethics board, he did include his new address on financial disclosure filings he mailed to the board in 2019 and 2020, which covered the prior year’s finances, respectively.

Tracy Barker, the ethics board’s deputy general counsel, testified financial disclosure reports were never received from Pope covering his finances in 2018 and 2019. Pope and Grayson did not submit the reports as evidence or proof the reports were mailed; Pope testified copies of the documents may be in storage, but he didn’t have time to find them before the expedited hearing.

Board of Ethics attorney Greg Thibodeaux argued that certified mail informing Pope of the needed payments were sent to his address on file and signed for by River Ranch Community Association Manager Natalie Vidrine, who testified that was the standard practice for residents in the community. Vidrine said Pope did not opt out of the program and she was not given any mail forwarding instructions. 

Grayson argued that because Pope no longer resided at that address, did not have access to the post office box the letter was delivered to and was not forwarded the mail, they cannot prove he had reasonable knowledge of the outstanding fines and fees when he signed the July 24 affidavit. Pope didn’t make a false statement on the affidavit because he didn’t know about the money owed, he said.

Judge David Smith disagreed and ruled to disqualify Pope.

In the second hearing before Judge John Trahan, Assistant District Attorney Daniel Landry argued that Pope is not qualified to run for re-election because he’s barred from registering to vote due to his felony convictions. Status as a registered voter is required to qualify as a candidate.

Lafayette Clerk of Court Louis Perret said the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office gave him directions for the method of filing Pope’s paperwork but did not discuss the legitimacy of his candidacy. Assistant District Attorney Alan Haney noted it’s Perret’s job to facilitate the candidacy process, not reject candidates’ qualifications.

Grayson argued Pope had been previously allowed to qualify as a candidate for the Republican Parish Executive Committee, with Pope testifying he was informed by a staff member at the Secretary of State’s Office he was allowed to do so because his case was being appealed. That appeal was rejected in June, but Grayson argued Pope has not exhausted his appeals options yet and has filed with the Louisiana Supreme Court, which should allow him to run in this election. 

Trahan disagreed and said because Pope cannot register as a qualified voter for the election he cannot run as a candidate.

Pope has other active legal matters. Additional malfeasance charges are pending against him and Pope was also ordered to court in August over the possible suspension of his probation in another legal matter for not completing court-ordered community service work.

The candidacy of Lafayette City Marshal hopeful Nathan Broussard was also challenged Tuesday. A Lafayette resident has alleged Broussard registered to vote using a Lafayette address but still claims a homestead exemption for his home in Scott.

Records show Broussard changed his voter registration address five days before he qualified July 22.

Judge Jules Edwards’ judgment in Broussard’s case is pending.

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