CAUGHT: Election Rigging in Youngsville!

   
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There are many phrases which refer to “law” in different respects. For instance, most of us are familiar with Murphy’s law – “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” The “law of Karma”, a notion that all of life is governed by cause and effect and that your deeds impact the future. Some lawyers and judges in this area are familiar with the “law of the Teche” surmised by the phrase “a card layed is a card played.” Then there is the “law of holes” which seems to originate in the British Parliament – ‘when you keep digging a hole deeper it is harder to get out of.’ That is the “law” we want to focus on today.

IT ALL STARTED WITH A SIMPLE FOLLOW-UP

Back in March a series of events started to unfold in the City of Youngsville surrounding the handling of a motor vehicle collision involving then Councilwoman Kayla Reaux. The incident and aftermath resulted in a closer look at Youngsville Chief of Police Rickey Boudreaux and the operation of his department. The Council for the City of Youngsville passed a series of resolutions calling for an investigation of Boudreaux. Boudreaux, who attended the Council Meeting where the initial action was discussed, talked about being open, transparent and cooperative with any investigation. We brought you details of this “tangled web”, which you can read for more detail. Weeks later, Boudreaux filed suit against the City of Youngsville seeking to halt that investigation. He claimed that, under the Lawrason Act, the Council lacked the authority to investigate him. As it stands today the matter has not been taken up by the District Court, and likely won’t be until sometime in August.

Then in May we broke the story about Brian Baumgardner resigning from the Youngsville Police Civil Service Board. The reason? Baumgardner cited retaliation concerns over a “high profile” case coming before the Board when leaving the post. This is where our simple follow-up opened the door for other abuses in the City of Youngsville, including potential election rigging.

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THE ELECTION

The position vacated by Brian Baumgardner is what is commonly termed an “Employee Board Member.” Essentially, regular and permanent employees within the Youngsville Police Department are allowed to vote for a member of the department to serve as their representative on the board. Although nominated and elected by the eligible members of the Youngsville Police Department, the Board member selected represents the public interests as a whole, not solely the interest of the Department employees.

In response to a June 6, 2023 inquiry as to whether a replacement had been named to fill the vacant position on the Civil Service Board we learned that “Tim Cotone won the election and will be sworn in tomorrow.” In response to a request for records showing the outcome of the election we were provided with the following vote tally:

Tim Cotone — 8 votes

Tracy Girard — 7 votes

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Jade Broussard — 6 votes

Louvenia Landry – 5 votes

Larry Holland — 0 votes

There was a total of twenty-six (26) votes cast. No one person received a majority vote, which would have been fourteen (14). Under the Louisiana Election Code a “plurality vote” is allowed for the election of political party candidates (LARS 18:443). However, candidates for election to a Municipal Police Civil Service Board are more closely categorized as state or local candidates. In fact, candidates are specifically excluded from being a member of any local, state, or national committee of a political party, or an officer or member of a committee in any factional political club or organization in the sixth months preceding any appointment to the Board. Primary elections concerning state or local candidates are governed by LARS 18:511 which states: “A candidate who receives a majority of the votes cast for an office in a primary election is elected.” As no one candidate received a “majority of the votes cast” a run-off election is required.

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THE RESPONSE

In response the Board Secretary defended the outcome of the election stating: “There is no primary or general election for the board representative. The election laws you are referring do not pertain to this type of election. Also, this election does not require more than 50 percent to win. The candidate only needs to be nominated by his peers and the candidate with the highest vote tally wins.” However, Louisiana Revised Statue 18:1(B) states: “The Louisiana Election Code shall regulate the conduct of elections and political subdivisions shall be prohibited from adopting any law, resolution, or ordinance relative to elections and the conduct thereof, including campaign finance, except as otherwise specifically authorized in this code.” In support of her position we were referred to a section of the “Operation of a Municipal Fire and Police Civil Service Board” manual compiled by the Office of the State Examiner.

Clearly stated on page 15, “The employee who receives the majority of the votes that were cast wins the election. If no one wins by a majority, then there is a runoff between the top two. The chief shall officially notify the governing body within ten (10) days immediately following the election, the name of the employee-nominee elected by the regular employees of his department.”

Louisiana Revised Statute 33:2474(C)(3) outlines the election procedure for employee Board members. It states: “If more than one name is placed in nomination, the chief shall call an election within forty-five days after this Part takes effect in the municipality by posting, for a fifteen-day continuous period immediately preceding the election, a notice thereof on the bulletin board of each station house of his department. The chief shall officially notify the governing body of the municipality within the ten-day period immediately following the election, the name of the employee-nominee so elected by the regular employees of his department. The chief of the department shall vote in the election only in the case of a tied vote.” So, while this statute doesn’t specifically outline the threshold by which a winner is selected, both the Election Code and the materials relied on by the Youngsville Police Department clearly indicate that the winner must be selected by a majority.

CHIEF OF POLICE KNEW AND IGNORED THE ELECTION RULES

If it is easy to cheat, it is easy to win! And there is no better way to cheat than when no one is looking. In this scenario we are dealing with an election that provides for the selection of a Board member for the City of Youngsville Police Civil Board. An individual tasked with representing the public interest, which could more broadly be interpreted to extend past the residents of the City of Youngsville to include all who may visit the City and may come in contact with agents of the Youngsville Police Department.

The election was conducted over a period of three days within the conference room of the Youngsville Police Department. Though an “election committee” was allegedly present there was no outside access or oversight to the election. According to the notice of the election it indicates that the notice was to be placed on police department bulletin boards from May 11, 2023 to May 26, 2023, but no other notice provisions are observed. The most interesting thing about the notice issued under the signature of Chief Rickey Boudreaux is the voting procedure language:

Only regular and permanent employees may vote. An employee is not required to vote. Each employee can only vote one time. All employees must cast their own vote. Employees cannot vote by phone. As there will be no absentee voting for this election the election committee will count the votes immediately after the close of the election. (Note: if the chief provides for absentee voting, the dates of the absentee voting and the procedures shall be provided on the posting notice). The employee who receives the majority of the votes that were cast wins the election. If no one wins by a majority, then there is a run-off between the top two.

As expected, upon writing an objection to ratify the outcome of this “election” and/or appoint Mr. Cotone to the Board has resulted in various justifications for the election procedures. We can expect a slew of legal opinions and similar attempts to justify the results. However, at the most basic level Chief Rickey Boudreaux ignored the very rules he himself authored and posted for the conduct of the “fair election.” It was done to subvert and control the outcome of a lawfully required election. This stands out as yet another example of the ongoing abuses of power within the City of Youngsville.

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