Address of newly elected councilman in question

The city of DeRidder is asking a judge to forbid a recently elected councilman from assuming office in July, claiming he doesn’t meet the requirements to hold the post.

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in 36th Judicial District Court, Mayor Ron Roberts claims Michael D. Harris didn’t meet the domicile requirements in the city’s charter when he qualified for the election in January. Harris won the second-most votes in the at-large council seat runoff April 28.

{{tncms-inline content=”<p class="p1"><strong>‘If the city felt that I was not qualified, then I question the motivation behind them not saying anything until this point.’</strong> </p> <p class="p3"><strong>Michael D. Harris</strong></p> <p class="p4">DeRidder councilman-elect</p>” id=”a3e76fea-aafb-4325-9684-3b0d72e1591d” style-type=”quote” title=”Pull Quote” type=”relcontent”}}

According to the suit, Harris qualified for the election Jan. 3 and declared on his qualifying form to have a domicile address that differed from his mailing address. Harris claimed his domicile was on Lake Court Drive, which is in DeRidder, but that his mailing address belongs to a residence on Harmony Trail, outside the city.

The suit says Harris filed for a change of homestead exemption to the domicile address on Jan. 16, after the qualifying period had ended.

The lawsuit cites the city’s charter, which says that “a council member elected at large shall have been legally domiciled and shall have actually resided for at least one year immediately preceding the time established by law for qualifying for office in an area which, at the time of qualification, is within the city.” 

The charter also says a council member must continue to be legally domiciled and reside in the city for the entirety of his or her term. In November, past City Council President Elizabeth Granger announced her resignation from the panel due to her family’s change of domicile residence to a home outside DeRidder. 

Historically, state law has held that “domicile” consists of two elements: residence and intent to remain. 

Just hours after the filing, Roberts told the American Press that the lawsuit is solely an effort on his part to uphold the charter. 

“It is my belief that Mr. Harris has not met the requirements of the city charter,” Roberts said. “As mayor, it is my duty to defend and protect the charter. Thus, I have asked the district court to decide the matter.”

While Harris declined to comment on the accusations made in the lawsuit, he said the timing of its filing is suspect. 

“If the city felt that I was not qualified, then I question the motivation behind them not saying anything until this point,” Harris said. “I think it’s disrespectful to the other candidates and to the taxpayers to wait not only until after the primary election, but then after the run-off election to raise these accusations.” 

Harris said he has retained an attorney to handle the legal proceedings, but that he is maintaining his focus on the position he was elected to. 

“The people have spoken, and I have committed myself to following through on my promises to them for the future of DeRidder.”

‘If the city felt that I was not qualified, then I question the motivation behind them not saying anything until this point.’ 

Michael D. Harris

DeRidder councilman-elect

      672042d8-2eb8-11e8-81d1-dbbbd15596482018-03-23T18:00:00Znews/crime,newsTwo suspects in Lake Arthur murder arrested on unrelated theft, drug chargesDoris MaricleJefferson Davis Parish Reporter

      Two suspects in the 2015 murder and armed robbery of an elderly Lake Arthur man have been arrested again on unrelated charges.

      Vaughn Dell Robinson, 40, of Lake Arthur was arrested Wednesday for illegal possession of stolen things. Damian Vaughn Robinson, 20, of Lake Arthur was also arrested the same day on drug-related charges.

      Vaughn Robinson was arrested after detectives recovered stolen lawn equipment from a barn located at his girlfriend’s home on La. 1126, according to Chief Deputy Chris Ivey.

      Robinson was currently out of jail on two previous arrests — an Aug. 15, 2015, drug arrest by the Lake Arthur Police Department and a Mach 2015 arrest by the Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office for obstruction of justice, accessory after the fact to second-degree murder, possession of stolen things over $1,500 and property damage in connection with the murder of Charles Raymond Talen Sr., 73, of Lake Arthur.

      Damian Robinson was arrested Wednesday for possession of a controlled dangerous substance, Schedule IV, by the Jennings Police Department. His bond is set at $6,0000.

      Damian Robinson was charged with accessory after the fact to murder and obstruction of justice in the Talen case.

      The Robinsons are among 11 suspects arrested on various charges in connection with Talen’s slaying. A 12th suspect has not been charged.

      Talen was found dead on the floor inside his residence on Feb. 21, 2015, by sheriff’s deputies who had gone to the home for a welfare check after the victim’s vehicle was found abandoned and burning in a remote area in Vermilion Parish.

      An autopsy showed he had suffered trauma to the back of the head.

      To date the only defendant convicted is Roderick Cawthorne Jr., 21, of Youngsville. He was found guilty in June 2017 of second-degree murder in Talen’s death and sentenced to life in prison.

      Cawthorne was also sentenced to 40 years in prison on an obstruction of justice charge which included burning the victim’s car, dumping a safe taken from the home and throwing away clothing worn during the crime. The latter sentence will run consecutive with the life in prison sentence.


      V. Robinson


      D. Robinson


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