After months of silence, former DeRidder mayor Ron Roberts issued a statement this week in the wake of Monday’s hearing to argue the eligibility of city councilman Michael D. Harris.
In his statement, Roberts called for unity amongst the community as the battle comes to an as-yet-undetermined end, calling the past five months “tedious and troublesome” for the citizens of DeRidder.
“Marches, demonstrations, and speeches — many of them by impartied mouthpieces who knew nothing about our city — have been divisive and I’ll-informed,” Roberts stated, seeming to refer to the multiple rallies held by Harris and his supports in anticipation of court proceedings.
“On Monday, the matter was heard in the appropriate forum — our local courthouse. It required no trappings of a circus,” Roberts added.
Throughout the recent rallies, Harris and his supporters have alleged that Roberts was attempting to attack Harris because of personal issues he had against the city councilman, and to “hijack” the April 28 run-off election from which Harris was elected as city councilman at-large.
Roberts referred to those accusations as “false”, and said there had been other false accusations made against the sheriff, District Attorney, city attorney, new mayor Misty Clanton, other council members and both district judges.
“All of this was unnecessary, unwanted, and harmful to our legal system,” he stated.
On Monday, retired Natchitoches Parish judge Eric Herrington heard testimonies and arguments in a suit filed by District Attorney James Lestage to declare Harris’ seat vacant. Lestage claimed that an investigation conducted by his office showed that Harris did not have a domiciliary residence within city limits, as is required by the DeRidder City Charter.
That investigation was legally required of Lestage after he said his office received a written complaint from a registered voter in August. That voter was identified as Roberts.
Roberts had previously filed suit against Harris while still in office in May, but that suit was thrown out when Herrington ruled the city failed to follow the State Election Code which requires all challenges to candidacy be filed within seven days of the end of qualifying.
On Monday, Herrington said that he would return a judgement within ten days and Roberts said in his statement that he believed that ruling should be the end of the matter.
“His (Judge Herrington) decision, whatever it may be, should require no commentary or rebuttal,” he stated.
Roberts thanked Lestage for his “aggressive investigation and pursuit of the truth”, and said he hoped the community could move forward.
“DeRidder is a wonderful place. Let us enjoy it. Let us move forward together.”