AP NEWS

Election required: Felon barred as mayor of Louisiana town

March 26, 2019

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Voters in a small Louisiana town will have to elect another mayor after the man they chose got sidelined by a constitutional restriction on felons holding elected office. The state’s voters adopted the ban on the same November ballot as his mayoral win.

Roy Hebron turned in paperwork Monday formally declaring that he won’t become mayor of the town of Ball, after losing his court battle for the job. Hebron’s lawyer Charles Elliott said the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled against Hebron and his pardon application was denied.

Hebron, a Democrat, previously had been mayor of the central Louisiana town of 4,000 for two decades. He won the fall election with 56 percent of the vote in a three-man race to return to his old position.

But a lower court ruled that Hebron couldn’t be seated as mayor in January because he was elected at the same time voters statewide enacted a constitutional provision requiring felons to wait five years after their sentences before seeking office. Hebron didn’t meet that standard since he was under corrections supervision for a hurricane-related fraud conviction until 15 months ago.

Previous Mayor Neil Kavanagh, a Republican who was supposed to be ousted by Hebron’s victory, filed the lawsuit challenging Hebron’s win. Kavanagh cited the new constitutional provision.

The district judge sided with Kavanagh and ordered him to keep running things, rejecting Hebron’s argument that the law on the books on the day of the election should govern the matter.

The Louisiana Supreme Court this month refused to overturn the district judge’s decision, which also was upheld by a state appeals court.

A new election for mayor will have to be held. The Louisiana secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections, said the Ball town aldermen will appoint a temporary mayor and set the new election date.

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.

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