In what may turn out to be the most startling discovery so far in the wake of the December 8th “fix the charter” vote, on December 18th, the Lafayette Parish Registrar of Voters notified Lafayette Parish administration of errors included in the amended home rule charter. That notification came ten days after the election and just five hours before the council would vote to declare the result of the special election to separate the councils.
In an email titled, “Possible Error to The New Home Rule Charter,” the Registrar laid out the issues, several of which we’ve previously discussed. This date is key, because there is a specific challenge period for an election. Fix the Charter’s Carlee Alm-LaBar was keenly aware of that rule. In fact, in a recent interview with KPEL, she said “those of us who helped organize the movement to ‘fix the charter’ – we actually watched until, I think that date was January 17th.” That date is precisely 30-days from the December 18th email and the December 18th special meeting.
When did the council find out?
As evidenced by the complete lack of discussion on resolution R-084-2018, to declare the results of that special election, it would appear that none of the council members knew about the email they purportedly received earlier in the day. One document suggests that some council members may have been notified on January 31st, which is after the 30-day challenge period. Numerous council members we reached by phone said they had no knowledge of the problems with the charter until Tuesday, February 19th.
Then, on February 21st, Joel Robideaux discussed the issue on his radio program, “The Sport of Politics.” In the broadcast, a listener might be lead to understand that the Mayor-President had first heard of the issue on February 19th.
Why February 19th?
Toward the bottom of the Secretary of State’s FAQ page, the 30-day challenge period is for anything not related to a constitutional amendment, bond or tax. While the charter amendment isn’t a bond, it did create a new bonding authority. That change necessitated a state bond commission authorization, which appears as item 27 in their September 20th meeting minutes. Since this election was directly related to bonding, it’s possible for the challenge period to be interpreted as 60 days, instead of thirty.
The 60th day was Saturday. The 61st day was Sunday. The 62nd day was a federal and state holiday. February 19th is the first business day following the 60 day challenge period.
Yes, it’s possible that 30 days is the correct challenge period. However, if you wanted to be certain — no doubt, no ambiguity, no question — you RELY on 60 days; you rely on February 19th.
Who was notified?
The first email of December 18th was sent at 12:43 PM to the council office. Normally, the council office would forward such an email to the council members, but what we have suggests that never happened. Initially, it was only forwarded to the legal team.
Later the same day, at 2:55 PM, the Registrar sent another email – forwarding the previous with some modifications. That email was copied to each individual council member. However, when asked by telephone when was the first time they were aware of the issue, none of the council members said December. Several happened to be in front of their official email and gave the February 19th date. When given a specific date, time, and subject, they confirmed never having received such an email.
Early on Wednesday morning, Citizens for a New Louisiana requested a copy of any emails to the council regarding news from the Registrar of Voters office. As of this writing, the council has not even acknowledged the request.
Is any of this important?
While council members do receive considerable compensation for serving, they are not what we should consider public employees. They are civilian oversight of the local government, and the front-line defense against government overreach. It’s their job to know what’s going on and to put a stop to anything that shouldn’t be happening. Why would the bureaucracy intentionally keep pertinent, relevant information from them until after the election challenge period ended?
As always, we strive to be as accurate as possible with the information we have available. Clicking on the links contained in this article will take you to the documents and information from which we draw our conclusions.