‘Deconsolidation’ Issue Can Be Solved With Ordiance, But Council Must Decide
The takeaways from this morning's meeting between Lafayette City-Parish officials and Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin are varied. We're hearing different things coming out of the meeting in Baton Rouge.
One group of Councilmembers (Boudreaux, Castille and Conque) say in a statement that an ordinance would fix the errors identified by the Secretary of State's office. However, Councilmember Jared Bellard tells KPEL News that Ardoin said using an ordinance or calling a re-vote would be up to the Lafayette Consolidated Council.
Bellard went on to say that Ardoin's wishes are that it would go to a re-vote, but the way to fix it was up to the Council as long as it was legal. Bellard says Attorney General Jeff Landry may be asked to weigh in before a final decision is made.
KLFY News10 is reporting Ardoin gave LCG three options to fix the issue: Using an ordinance, holding a special election in May or seeing a legislative fix.
According to a press release from Cydra Wingerter, Chief Communications Officer with Lafayette Consolidated Government, Lafayette City-Parish Attorney Paul Escott presented his legal opinion at Mayor-President Joel Robideaux's request. He stated that the Charter may be amended via ordinance.
“As questions and concerns began to arise about the errors in the amendment, I think it was important for us all to come together and determine how to best move forward,” stated Robideaux. “I appreciate the Secretary of State keeping an open mind on how this can be resolved. The process moving forward needs to be managed in a way that helps regain the public’s trust.”
Louisiana Commissioner of Elections Sherri Wharton Hadskey said in the meeting that her office needs corrective action finalized by July 1st in order to move forward with the October elections.
“It is imperative to get it right this time," stated Robideaux. "The Commissioner has given the Council ample time for a thorough and public process.”
In attendance at the meeting was a representative from the Louisiana Attorney General’s office, Robideaux, Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Louis Perret, Lafayette Parish Registrar of Voters Charlene Meaux Menard, Lafayette City-Parish Council Chairman Jared Bellard, Lafayette City-Parish Clerk of Council Veronica Williams and demographer Mike Hefner.
We received this statement from Councilmembers Bruce Conque, Kenneth Boudreaux and Jay Castille (who were not in attendance at the meeting):
After consulting with attorneys, election officials, experts, and a productive meeting with the Secretary of State’s office this morning, it is clear that the only reasonable path to correct the clerical errors in the voting precincts is an ordinance, council members said Monday.
Accordingly, the council will meet on March 12 to introduce an ordinance that clarifies boundaries in writing so that the precincts and district lines match the City Council district maps that voters used when voting to approve separate City and Parish Councils on December 8.
The ordinance has been drafted and sent to city-parish attorneys for their review. If introduced on March 12, final adoption would be scheduled for March 26. That would give election officials more than enough time to prepare for qualifying this summer.
“Not only are precinct and district boundaries routinely re-adjusted by ordinance, re-adjusting by ordinance is also preferred to an election,” Council member Jay Castille said. “Trying to fix boundaries by an election holds the possibility that voters will vote ‘no’, leaving potentially hundreds of voters without a council district.”
The voters spoke clearly on December 8 that they wanted to see separate city and parish councils, Council member Kenneth Boudreaux said.
“We appreciate the discussion over the last few days and understand the need to correct those technical errors,” Boudreaux said. “But any solution has to be one that validates the will of the people. That should be foremost.”
An ordinance is the best way to clear up the issue, Council member Bruce Conque said.
“Many people with knowledge about this type of issue have reached out and verified that an ordinance is the best solution,” Conque said. “The voters deserve a solution that will end this mess soon.”
Lafayette group Fix The Charter doubled-down on its position that voters of Lafayette already made clear what their wishes are.