Large turnout for hearing on DeRidder council member-elect

Large turnout for hearing on DeRidder council member-elect

DERIDDER, LA (KPLC) - It was a packed house in DeRidder where many filling the courtroom were supporters of Pastor Michael Harris.--who won the April 28th election for councilman at large. They wore t-shirts saying "it's my city too."

The City of DeRidder challenges whether Harris has met the residency requirements to hold the office.

Harris says he does.

"My drivers license have that address, my drives license expired this year, which means I had to have it for four years for it to expire.  Fact is, I still receive mail at that address, my water is on there, my electricity's on there.  My kids was in high school at that house," said Harris.

After arguments from both sides, the judge told attorneys he needs more information on some issues.

Harris's attorney Mike McHale says it would be unfair to take back an election after voters have spoken," and filed a response to the petition.

"This is what democracy is all about. The most important thing we have in this country is the power of the ballot box. And for them to just say, 'Oh, that doesn't matter, we're going to disregard people's votes," said McHale.

So what is the suit and the controversy really about?

"Somebody's favorite candidate didn't win and they didn't expect Mr. Harris to win, but the power of the people comes out and whoever gets the most votes wins and that's how politics works,"said McHale.

"I won the election fair and square.  He had an opportunity to render any type of questions or any concerns at the alotted time by law.  He did not do it," said Harris.

The Louisiana Secretary of State also took part in the hearing arguing in part that state law trumps a local city charter or there would be way too many elections.  A memo filed in court explains why they became involved.

"I mean people would be trying to overturn elections all the time.  We'd have to have even more elections in Louisiana than we already do now. And that's unfair to the voters who have already voted for the candidates and elected people," said Hale.

Another issue, yet unresolved, is whether it's premature to remove someone from office when they haven't even been sworn in yet.  neither the city's attorney or mayor had any comment.

Judge Eric Harrington city's attorney to submit written arguments by July 1, and gave McHale until July 15th to respond.

Copyright 2018 KPLC All rights reserved