Lafayette Consolidated Government lawyers have determined that a new vote of the people is not needed to correct omissions and discrepancies in political lines created when a home rule charter amendment was placed on the Dec. 8 ballot, some City-Parish Council members said Monday.
But Council Chairman Jared Bellard told The Acadiana Advocate late Monday afternoon he may ask the council to request an Attorney General's opinion on whether the charter amendment should go back to voters.
The Dec. 8 measure approved by voters splits the nine-person City-Parish Council into a five-member city council and a five-member parish council for the first time since Lafayette Consolidated Government was created in 1996.
The problem is that the council resolution calling for the Dec. 8 ballot included technical descriptions of precinct lines and new council districts that did not align with corresponding maps.
Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said Friday he believes Lafayette Parish should hold another election to determine if the City-Parish…
Time is of the essence in correcting the problems because Lafayette voters are scheduled to fill the new city and parish council seats in the Oct. 12 election, with qualifying beginning on Aug. 6. If deadlines aren't met in time for qualifying in August, current City-Parish Council terms could be extended a year, according to state law.
The charter amendment issue blew up last week when Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin publicly opined a new election might be necessary. Mayor-President Joel Robideaux, who opposed the council split, seized on Ardoin's statements, telling council members in an email that Ardoin had told him privately that the charter amendment "MUST go back to a vote of the people."
Supporters of the charter amendment argued that a council ordinance could fix the problem. City-Parish Attorney Paul Escott determined that, with regard to reapportionment of districts, the charter can be amended with an ordinance, according to a news release distributed by Robideaux's office after a meeting Monday in Ardoin's office with Robideaux, Bellard and others.
Mike Hefner, who drew the new district maps and attended the meeting Monday morning, said two types of ordinance are available to the council to correct the boundary discrepancies, a technical correction ordinance or a reapportionment ordinance.
Three councilmen who authored the Dec. 8 Home Rule Charter amendment — Kenneth Boudreaux, Jay Castille and Bruce Conque — said they would introduce such an ordinance March 12. If approved, the council would vote on final adoption March 26. Officials want the corrections completed by July 1.
The validity of the landmark Dec. 8 election splitting the Lafayette City-Parish Council into separate bodies has been thrown into question.
Bellard emphasized Monday that there has been no decision on how to fix the charter problems. A formal report from city-parish attorneys is pending, he said, although he did not know when the report will be finished.
Escott pointed out in the meeting Monday that one problem with calling for another vote on the charter amendment is that the charter prohibits putting the same issue on the ballot twice in a 12-month period, Hefner said.
Ardoin told The Acadiana Advocate on Monday afternoon he believes a new election would be less likely to result in lawsuits that could interfere with the October council elections, although he has stressed that the decision is for local officials to make.
"All I’m suggesting is make certain all voters are included," Ardoin said. "That is my position wholeheartedly. The politics of how they do this is not my issue."
Robideaux's news release states Ardoin "suggested" at the Monday meeting a Louisiana Attorney General opinion "should be considered."
Ardoin later said the idea of seeking an Attorney General's opinion on the need for a new election arose in Monday's meeting, but he took no stance on whether such an opinion is necessary.
Bellard said the attorney general could serve as "another set of eyes" on the matter.
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