DeRidder city councilman wants no part of lawsuit bill

<p class="p1">DeRidder city council members may be seeking a way to avoid paying hefty fees after a ruling last week holds the city accountable for a failed lawsuit against a fellow council member.</p><p class="p3">On Wednesday, retired Natchitoches Parish Judge Eric R. Harrington dismissed a lawsuit filed by former DeRidder mayor Ron Roberts challenging the candidacy of councilman-at large Mike Harris, who was elected in a run-off election in April.</p><p class="p3">In his ruling, Harrington ordered the city to pay all associated court and attorney fees in the case, a total of $6,800.</p><p class="p3">On Monday city council member Julian “PeeWee” Williams questioned why the city should be left “holding the bag.”</p><p class="p3">“I’m just asking for transparency and credibility here. I think that is very important when we are talking about other people’s — the taxpayer’s — money,” Williams said.</p><p class="p3">Williams, who was elected to the city council during the same election period as Harris, said he would support seeking an official opinion from the state attorney general about whether the city could send the bill to Roberts instead.</p><p class="p3">“It’s a question I’ve been asked 100 times and it’s the elephant in the room. I think it should be addressed,” Williams said.</p><p class="p3">Williams also said he would support an investigation into allegations made by Harris that uniformed sheriff’s deputies had been harassing Harris and his family after the outcome of the lawsuit. Harris claimed that while out of town over the weekend, Beauregard Parish deputies were on his property and looking through his mailbox.</p><p class="p3">“They told my mother and my neighbors that their boss sent them, which to me implies Sheriff Ricky Moses,” Harris said. “I intend to pursue this based on state law.”</p><p class="p3">On Tuesday, Moses told the <em>American Press</em> that deputies had indeed been sent to Harris’ property to deliver documents from the 30th Judicial District Court in Vernon Parish to serve defendants at that address.</p><p class="p3">“Deputies made numerous attempts to locate someone at that address to either accept service or advise us that defendants are no longer at that address,” Moses said.</p><p class="p3">He said deputies opened the mailbox to verify if a defendant’s name was on any of the mail delivered to the address.</p><p class="p3">“This had absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Harris and the issues concerning the city council,” Moses said.</p><p class="p3">In May, Roberts filed suit against Harris claiming he was not eligible to run for council at the time that he qualified in January for the March primaries because he did not have a domiciliary residence within city limits as is mandated by the city’s charter.</p><p class="p3">In his ruling last week, Harrington said the city did not follow the state’s Election Code in its suit, which requires all challenges of candidacy to be filed within seven days after qualifying ends.</p>””<p>Former DeRidder mayor Ron Roberts (left) challenged the candidacy of Mike D. Harris (right) </p>