Lawsuits were filed Friday to disqualify Orleans Parish Clerk of Civil District Court Dale Atkins from running for the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal and to remove two candidates from the Jefferson Parish sheriff and Kenner mayor races, court records show.
New Orleans resident Kenneth Bazile alleges that Atkins failed to file a campaign finance report for her early expenses in the race. Any expenses made before Dec. 15 should have been disclosed by a Dec. 27 deadline, but Atkins failed to report hiring several consultants and holding a French Quarter fundraiser, the suit alleges.
Atkins' camp immediately dismissed the allegations. "The petition is factually and legally deficit and without merit," campaign spokesman John Litchfield said.
Atkins is running against Criminal District Court Judge Robin Pittman in the March 24 election for the appeals court seat.
Bazile's suit claims that Atkins hired Greg Rigamer, Danae Columbus and Billy Schultz as consultants on or before Dec. 14.
On that day, Columbus wrote an upbeat article about Atkins' candidacy for the Uptown Messenger. The suit insinuates that Columbus, a consultant and writer, wrote the piece as a paid consideration for a client.
Columbus, however, said she is not being paid by Atkins, and the campaign denied it as well. She said she worked on a small personal project for Atkins 15 or 20 years ago.
"I’ve never been on her payroll for her office, nor have I been on her campaign payroll, ever," Columbus said. "I guess they’re just trying to reach out for whatever they can grab on to."
Litchfield, a lawyer, said Schultz is not working on the campaign, while Rigamer is still in the process of being hired.
The ballot challenge also makes much of a Dec. 15 fundraiser held at the French Quarter home of attorney Darleen Jacobs. It argues there must have been campaign expenses before that date in preparation for the party.
However, Litchfield said the campaign did not even open its bank account until after the end of the campaign finance reporting period in question.
Bazile's connection to the race was not immediately clear, and attempts to reach him and his lawyer were not successful Friday.
Meanwhile, two lawsuits were filed against candidates running for office in Jefferson Parish.
One suit, filed against sheriff candidate Anthony Bloise alleges that Bloise hasn't paid state income taxes in any year since 2012. Candidates must declare that they have filed state and federal income tax returns for the last five years.
Bloise, 75, acknowledged Friday that he hadn't filed the returns but said he is retired and his only income is a pension that pays less than $2,500 per year. "I don't have any income" to be taxed, he said.
Bloise is the third candidate in a heated race between interim Sheriff Joe Lopinto and John Fortunato, a longtime deputy who retired last year.
Bloise ran in 2015 against then-Sheriff Newell Normand and garnered 12 percent of the vote.
Bloise said he had not seen the suit and didn't know if he would challenge it.
A suit also was filed in Kenner to disqualify M.V. "Vinny" Mendoza from the mayor's race. According to the suit, Mendoza hasn't lived in Kenner the required three years before he would take office on July 1.
The suit supplies assessor records and voting history to show that Mendoza lived in Tangipahoa Parish as recently as last year.
Mendoza said Friday that he had no knowledge of a city charter provision that says mayors must have lived in Kenner for at least three years on the day they take office.
He said he would have to "check and see when" he had moved. He noted that he has owned the house he lives in since 1999 but said he moved back to Kenner "two years ago."
Mendoza said he did not have an attorney and had not seen the suit so he wasn't sure if he would fight it.
Mendoza is one of three challengers to incumbent Mayor Ben Zahn.