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Lafayette City-Parish Attorney Paul Escott speaks to the council during a Lafayette City Council and Lafayette Public Utilities Authority special joint meeting Tuesday, October 2, 2018, at Lafayette City Hall in Lafayette, La.

The Lafayette City-Parish Council won't seek an attorney general opinion on whether a vote of the people is needed to correct new city and parish district lines.

But Mayor-President Joel Robideaux is undecided if he'll seek an opinion.

Robideaux stock

Advocate file photo of Lafayette City-Parish Mayor-President Joel Robideaux 

"Asking for an attorney general opinion is simply showing good faith we're trying to make the best decision possible," he said at a council meeting Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the council introduced two ordinances Tuesday to correct precinct and district line problems introduced as part of a home rule charter amendment approved by voters Dec. 8. 

The ordinances return to the council March 26 for final adoption.

On Dec. 8, voters approved a home rule charter amendment splitting the nine-member city-parish council into a five-person city council and five-person parish council for the first time since consolidation in 1996.

Opponents say the measure was rushed to the Dec. 8 ballot without sufficient input from the council or public, despite several town hall meetings on the topic. In the past, home rule charter ballot items were produced after charter commissions spent months debating the proposed changes. A charter commission was not appointed in this case and, some say, was not necessary.

It was learned after the Dec. 8 election that some district and precinct line descriptions didn't match maps drawn prior to the election. At issue is how best to correct the problems: an election of the people or a council ordinance.

Four council members proposed a resolution Tuesday asking for an opinion from the Louisiana Attorney General despite a thoroughly researched opinion from the city-parish legal team that an ordinance of the council is the best way to correct the problems. The resolution failed.

Either way, a lawsuit is likely, Councilman William Theriot said.

"I believe that by not asking for an AG opinion it gives the public the opinion you don’t want hear what the AG has to say," Robideaux said.

City-Parish Attorney Paul Escott, who spent many hours drafting an 11-page opinion that concludes a council ordinance is the best way to solve the problems, said the attorney general opinion won't protect city-parish government from a lawsuit unless the opinion concurs with the city-parish legal team's opinion.

“You ask for a (second) medical opinion when you don’t believe the one you got," Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux said. It's the same with asking for an AG opinion, he said.

When residents voted in December, Councilman Kevin Naquin said, they voted in the correct precincts. They voted on whether they wanted to amend the charter to create a city and a parish council.

"Because a few precincts don't match with a map people want to blow the whole thing up," he said.

Councilman Jay Castille said asking for an attorney general opinion "is just a political stall tactic."

A delay in correcting the precinct and new council district boundaries could delay the election of new city and parish council members this fall. Qualifying is Aug. 6-8 for the Oct. 12 election.

Some supporters of the separate city and parish councils fear asking for an attorney general opinion will delay the fall elections. If that happens, the current council terms, which are set to expire at the end of the year, could be extended a year. Four of the nine council members — Boudreaux, Castille, Theriot and Council Chairman Jared Bellard — cannot run for the city-parish council or for the new city or parish councils because they are term limited.

Other city-parish officials and opponents of the charter change want a re-vote on the Dec. 8 charter amendment with the corrected precinct and district lines. But the home rule charter prohibits placing a charter amendment on the ballot within a year of a vote on the same issue, so a re-election couldn't be held until December, which would automatically delay city and parish council elections.

Voting to seek an attorney general opinion were council members Jared Bellard, Nanette Cook, Pat Lewis and Theriot.

Voting against involving the attorney general were council members Kenneth Boudreaux, Jay Castille, Bruce Conque, Liz Hebert and Kevin Naquin.

Acadiana Business Today: Council won't request AG opinion in Lafayette charter, district lines; Lafayette General now one of four Level II trauma centers in Louisiana


Follow Claire Taylor on Twitter, @ClaireTaylorACA