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Landry clarifies AG opinion on Lafayette Home Rule Charter

Posted at 10:00 PM, Mar 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-28 23:09:42-04

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry released a statement Thursday to clarify his office’s recent opinion regarding the decision made by the Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday to side with LCG attorneys and amend council districts by ordinance.

Attorney General Jeff Landry
Attorney General Jeff Landry

Landry reiterates the opinion’s claim that for a home rule charter to be amended it needs to be voted on by the people, but he also seems to indicate that the council’s decision runs contrary to the Louisiana Constitution.

The statement also rebukes Lafayette City-Parish Attorney Paul D. Escott.

“Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but that does not mean that all opinions are entitled to equal weight,” the statement says. “Unlike the [Lafayette] City Attorney’s memo, our Opinion carries Constitutional weight. Historically, the courts have sided with Attorney General’s opinions in disputes (save very rare exceptions).”

In the statement, Landry cites Article VI, Section 5(c) of the Louisiana Constitution that deals with home rule charters, which states:

Adoption; Amendment; Repeal.  A home rule charter shall be adopted, amended, or repealed when approved by a majority of the electors voting thereon at an election held for that purpose.  

The statement emphasizes that amendments to home rule charters are only valid when approved by the voters.

“Contrary to the City Attorney’s 11-page memo attempting to correct his own mistake, this is a cut and dried issue,” the statement reads. “It is important to always note that this problem arose after taking the City Attorney’s original advice.”

KATC reached out to the Lafayette City-Parish Council for comment and received a response via email from Councilman Bruce Conque.

“Everyone is entitled to an opinion,” states Conque. “I am confident in what was issued by our legal counsel. It does in fact support 17 previous Council ordinances amending precinct descriptions within the existing charter, which has been in effect since 1996. Not one of those ordinances was ever questioned or challenged. I stand with the majority of the Council in moving the process forward; allowing preparations to continue for the October elections. If there is a lawsuit filed, we will do what is necessary to protect our position.”

To read Landry’s entire statement, click here.