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Appeals Court disqualifies police chief from re-election

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Posted at 2:05 PM, Aug 12, 2022

Ville Platte Police Chief Neal Lartigue's candidacy has been disqualified by an appeals court.

The chief's only opponent in his race for re-election, Al Perry Thomas, filed a legal challenge to Lartigue's candidacy. He alleged that the chief does not live in the city, but instead lives outside the city limits. State law requires that a candidate for police chief live within the city limits for the year prior to the election.

At the district court level, a judge said there were questions going both ways in the dispute, and because of that he felt he had to rule in the chief's favor because that's what the law requires.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeal disagreed, and declared that Lartigue is disqualified. If Lartigue doesn't appeal, that means Thomas would be elected Chief of Police by default.

The Third Circuit opinion, which you can read here, discusses at length testimony from Lartigue's ex-wife and their divorce proceedings. During their divorce, they both wanted the house she says they lived in outside the city limits. The judge who decided the property settlement in their divorce awarded them joint use of the house, with each person allowed to live there 60 days at a time. During the other 60 days, they were free to live in the house that was within the city limits.

The ex-wife testified that the city limits house was not livable. Thomas also testified that he lives near that house, and he's never seen any sign of someone living there. Photographs were entered into evidence showing the house wasn't in good shape, and evidence was produced that Lartigue had homeowners' insurance on the house outside the city limits, but not on the house inside the city limits.

The appeals court said the district judge made a mistake by placing the burden of proof on the plaintiff; in other words, the judge said that Thomas had to prove that Lartigue didn't live in the city limits. The judge said Lartigue didn't have to prove that he did.

Also, the appeals court found, Lartigue testified during the divorce proceedings last year that he lived at the house that is located outside the city limits, and had done so for months before the divorce because he didn't want his ex "tearing up" the house.