Calcasieu school board candidate’s two homestead exemptions ‘inadvertent’

Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 7:21 PM CST
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - Just days ahead of the December election, a challenge was made against one candidate about where she lived.

One of the school board candidates alleged his opponent had a homestead exemption at two homes, which is not allowed. And one of those homes was outside the school board district.

Chris Archinard was a candidate for the Calcasieu Parish School Board’s District 2 seat, but he was eliminated in the Nov. 8 election.

Karen McReynolds and candidate Ray Fondel are still in the race.

This week Archinard filed suit when he realized the frontrunner, McReynolds, had two homestead exemptions.

“She qualified and she had two homestead exemptions. So, right then she should have been disqualified from the election,” Archinard said. “We need to let the citizens of Lake Charles know that this is going on and we need to try to do something about it.”

Once alerted, Calcasieu Tax Assessor Wendi Curphy Aguillard said they removed the exemption from McReynolds house in Morganfield, which happens to be outside the district for which she is running.

The assessor said it was a mistake they since have fixed. McReynolds will have to pay the back taxes on the home that lost its exemption, once the tax commission approves.

McReynolds said she has lived in her childhood home in the district on Cathy Street since the 2020 hurricanes. She said the two homestead exemptions were an oversight raised by opponents for political reasons.

The suit challenging McReynolds’ residency was dismissed because any challenge would have had to be filed weeks ago after qualifying.

Still, Archinard plans to raise some type of challenge or complaint after the Dec. 10 election McReynolds wins the race.

A spokesman for the DA’s office said if McReynolds wins, the DA can receive complaints challenging her residency. They said the DA would have 20 days to investigate and then 10 more days to file a civil suit if the complaint has validity.

The candidates in the runoff are McReynolds and Ray Fondel.

Below is the full statement from McReynolds, shared by attorney Adam Johnson:

“We learned of the lawsuit filed by Mr. Archinard December 6. It was withdrawn by Mr. Archinard December 7. The matters at hand involved two homestead exemptions, one of which was inadvertently maintained during the disruption of Hurricanes Delta and Laura. For the property of concern, it is my childhood home, within District 2, where I continue to reside. I wish I was surprised by this attempt to tarnish my name as well as my candidacy for the Calcasieu Parish School Board but sadly, I am not. These accusations come from two of my competitors, both of whom have run for office numerous times, unsuccessfully, and both of whom, for some reason, think it is not “my turn” to serve. I disagree. And I hope our community sees this for what it is and votes accordingly.”