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Louisiana appeals court bars felon mayor from taking office

January 25, 2019

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The man who was elected mayor of the small Louisiana town of Ball has lost another round in his effort to move into the office, stymied by recent passage of a constitutional restriction on felons in elected jobs.

A three-judge Louisiana appeals court panel late Thursday upheld a state district judge’s decision that Democrat Roy Hebron cannot be seated as Ball’s mayor.

Hebron overwhelmingly won the election to lead the town of 4,000 in central Louisiana, ousting previous Republican Mayor Neil Kavanagh with 56 percent of the vote in a three-man race.

But on the same November ballot as Hebron’s election, voters statewide passed a constitutional amendment requiring felons to wait five years after their sentences before seeking office.

Hebron falls short of that standard since he was under corrections supervision for a hurricane-related fraud conviction until 13 months ago. Kavanagh filed a lawsuit, challenging Hebron’s win and citing the new constitutional provision.

A district judge determined the constitutional change prohibits Hebron from moving into the mayor’s job this month and ordered Kavanagh to keep running things. A three-judge panel of Louisiana’s Third Circuit Court of Appeal refused to overturn the decision “finding no legal error or abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court.”

Hebron’s lawyer Charles Elliott said Friday he will appeal the latest ruling to the state Supreme Court. Elliott argues the law on the books on the day of the election should govern things and the new restrictions shouldn’t affect Hebron’s victory. He’s also challenging whether Kavanagh had the right to sue.

If the high court supports the decision barring Hebron from office, a new election for mayor would be held.

Hebron worked as mayor of Ball for 24 years, from 1987 until 2011, when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the federal government by overbilling FEMA thousands of dollars for the town’s disaster recovery efforts after Hurricane Gustav, according to court documents. As part of the plea agreement, Hebron agreed to resign. He spent more than three years in federal prison, the documents say, and his three-year term of probation ended in December 2017.

Kavanagh was elected mayor while Hebron was in prison.

The appeals court decision came from Chief Judge Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Judge Elizabeth A. Pickett and Judge Phyllis M. Keaty.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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