DERIDDER, LA (KPLC) - Councilman Michael Dwayne Harris does not meet the residence and domicile requirements of the office of Councilman at Large for the City of DeRidder, a judge in Beauregard has ruled.
Harris was elected in April of 2018 and took office in July 2018. The District Attorney’s Office began investigating his eligibility to hold the office following a complaint from a registered voter, according to the ruling.
A hearing was held last week to determine which of his homes he spent more time - at his residence on Harmony Trail right outside of DeRidder or his home on Lake Court drive just inside city limits.
Judge Eric Harrington ruled that the evidence showed that Harris made his home at the house on Harmony Trail. Click HERE to read his ruling.
“Nearly 700 people voted for me for this office and that’s because they wanted me to represent them. I feel like if I don’t give it my all that I’m letting them down,” Harris said.
Harris claims two houses: one on Lake Court Drive in the DeRidder city limits and the other on Harmony Trail outside the city limits.
When asked about this decision, District Attorney Jimmy Lestage says he thinks Judge Harrington’s ruling is legally sound and well reasoned. However, Harris questioned why this residency requirement wasn’t brought up sooner.
“Two open debates to the public, and this issue, concern, never came up at those debates. Then we had the first election and this issue never came up during that first election, then we had the run off and this issue never came up during the runoff,” Harris said.
Harrington ruled Harris' seat “vacant”. Harris decided he will appeal Harrington’s decision.
“This lawsuit I did not win, and I’m good with that because it is what it is, I have to accept it," Harris said. "But moving forward, I have to now dress myself accordingly, prepare myself mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and be prepared to get back on the battlefield and do what I gotta do to win.”
After the appeals process, if the decision is not overturned, a special election could be called to fill the position.