Judge rejects election lawsuit

Published 8:13 am Monday, December 1, 2014

Tina Ratliff Boley and six other defendants had their lawsuit dismissed last week for a lack of evidence.

The suit was filed against Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, Washington Parish Registrar of Voters Randy Strickland, Washington Parish Clerk of Court Johnny Crain Jr. and the City of Bogalusa elected officials and council members.

The plaintiffs were contesting a number of issues concerning the legality of the recent election for Bogalusa municipal offices in the Nov. 4 election. Among the races questioned were the legality of the races for Bogalusa mayor and City Council races in Districts A, B and at-large.

Along with Boley, plaintiffs in the case included Emma Dixon, Tamira Moss-Smith, Shawn Chatmon Ratliff, Presious Johnson, George Williams, Brian McCree, Edward Sartin and Keith Merrill. Other than Boley, all plaintiffs are or were City Council candidates.

Moss-Smith said she did not support Boley’s action.

“I don’t support the lawsuit,” Moss-Smith said after the suit was filed. “I don’t want anything to do with it.”

Judge Richard Swartz presided over the case.

Boley said she didn’t feel like she had her day in court.

“As far as I’m concerned, we never were heard in court,” Boley said. “The defendants were served a 28-page lawsuit with 14 issues one day, and court was at 9:30 the next morning. The judge and defendants came to court totally unprepared because they knew the outcome.”

Boley said she raised some substantive questions in the suit.

“The issues that were not heard were the fact that only a part of Bogalusa was redistricted,” Boley said. “Anyone living in the area of Military Road or the east side of Sullivan Drive across Louisiana Avenue on the north can see if they go the Secretary of State’s website. They are all listed as registered in District B, yet they all voted for District A candidates.

“Since the redistricting was not done across the board and was begun and not completed, no office for the City of Bogalusa should have been on the ballot,” Boley said. “The effectuation of the redistricting began on or about Oct. 1, 2014, between the day of qualification and the day of the election. That’s illegal.”

Boley said Swartz was less than fair in his decision.

“This judge did not hear any evidence about these real issues,” Boley said. “When we came to court, he believed ‘not from the lawsuit’ that it was candidates vs. candidates. The secretary of state objected to anything regarding the legal issues and the judge sustained them. It was a joke and a mockery against the court process. Australia could not practice produce kangaroos that jumped as high as this proceeding. But the motions of court had to be gone through so an appeal to a real court could be made.”

Boley said the judge made errors.

“There were three laws that the judge would not entertain,” Boley said. “One, effectuating a redistricting between the time of qualifying and the day of the election. Two, effectuating a redistricting without the secretary of state receiving a preclearance letter from the City of Bogalusa. Three, because the Council only redistricted the black areas of Bogalusa, it caused division, separation and chaos in our communities and separated our votes.

“I actually don’t know what issue the judge had in his mind that we were there for,” Boley added. “He separated us into candidates for three separate proceedings and totally ignored the issues in the petitions.”