Jindal issues proclamation for recall election of 2 Gonzales council members _lowres

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- Timothy Vessel, Sr. Councilman/Drainage & Environmental Commissioner

With a special recall election now set for Gonzales voters on Dec. 6 to decide the political fates of City Councilmen Gary Lacombe and Timothy Vessel, organizers seeking the recalls plan to launch a “get out and vote” drive, Chuck LeBlanc, chairman of the recall effort, said Friday.

“We’re going to go back to all the residents in the city and the ones that signed (the petitions) and encourage them to get out and vote,” LeBlanc said.

Lacombe and Vessel could not be reached for comment Friday.

Gov. Bobby Jindal called the special recall election late Friday.

The governor’s proclamation came after the Ascension Parish Registrar of Voters Office verified 2,188 signatures on the recall petition on Vessel and 2,293 signatures on the petition on Lacombe.

A minimum of 2,145 verified signatures, one-third of the registered voters in Gonzales for the at-large positions, was required for a recall election to be held.

The recall effort was motivated in large part by repeated rejections of rezoning requests by Vessel, Lacombe and Councilman Terance Irvin, recall organizers have said.

Two lawsuits have been filed against the city and against some or all of the councilmen this year over zoning issues.

In April, a Baton Rouge company, South Park Business Center, that owns an undeveloped 25-acre parcel in Gonzales sued the city, Vessel, Lacombe and Irvin after the council rejected its request, by a 3-2 vote, to rezone the property from light commercial C-1 to C-2, a commercial zoning designation that includes both retail and wholesale.

In August, Judge Alvin Turner Jr., of the 23rd Judicial District Court, and his wife, Cherlynn Turner, sued the city, the mayor and the five councilmen after the council, in another 3-2 vote, rejected the Turners’ request for 28 acres of property to be rezoned for residential lots at 6,000 square feet, instead of the 8,000-square-foot lots required under its current zoning.

“Nothing’s going to change with them,” LeBlanc said on Friday of the three councilmen. “They’re going to vote 3-2, 3-2, whenever and forever.”

“They’re not going to change. The people all know that; that’s why they signed” the petitions, LeBlanc said.

If voters approve a recall, the public official has nine days after the election to contest it. If the recall stands, then voters face another special election to fill the seat until the term ends, which for Vessel and Lacombe’s terms is Dec. 31, 2016.

Under a new state law, public officials recalled from office are prohibited from qualifying for the same office in the special election called to fill the remainder of the term.