Voters in council District 5 can vote for their future parish councilman earlier than expected, according to District Attorney Camille Morvant’s interpretation of Lafourche’s Home Rule Charter.
The Charter, according to Morvant, says that a vacancy occurs when a seat “is or will be” unoccupied.
In the case of Bayou Blue councilman John Arnold, his seat “will be” unoccupied in January of next year, therefore the council may call a special election now to fill his seat. Otherwise, the council would have to appoint someone to fill the seat and wait until November 2016 to call an election for the Bayou Blue seat.
Arnold was disqualified from participating in the recent election because the Louisiana State Ethics Board found that he had not paid certain state fines in a timely manner.
Wednesday night in Mathews, the Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to call a special election to fill the upcoming vacancy for the District 5 seat.
Morvant was present to explain his office’s interpretation of the Charter.
“There is no special provision (in the Charter) for this issue because it’s never happened before. The Ethics Board never did this in the past,” he said.
He explained carefully that knowing of the office’s future unoccupied status gives the council the right to hold an election before the seat goes empty.
Morvant made it clear that he was not advising Council members on how to vote on the resolution, but that the Charter is a “fluid document”, one that essentially provides for “both ways”.
"If you take no action tonight, you won’t have time to call an election. The next available date would be November of next year. District 5 would be without an elected representative for about one year,” said Morvant.
By passing the resolution, the Council is able to hold the election on March 5th of next year, with qualifying to begin December 2nd through the 4th of this year.
Arnold said he intends to qualify and run for his seat and asked other councilmen to support the resolution.
“Because of my clerical errors and my misjudgment and timing, I was disqualified. But I don’t want my whole district to suffer for that,” he said.
If no one else qualifies for the election, Arnold would be able to take his seat with the other elected council members on January 1, 2016.
If others qualify, the new council will have to appoint someone to the District 5 seat until the election in March is final.
Posted on Fri, October 30, 2015
by Buster Avera Contributing Writer