Dominic Massa and Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Challenges have been filed against three New Orleans City Council candidates, calling in to question the qualifications of District E candidates Cynthia Willard-Lewis, James Gray and Austin Badon.
The lawsuits filed Friday in Civil District Court challenge Gray on grounds that he has not been living in the district, Williard-Lewis on the issue of term limits, and Badon because he reportedly owes ethics fines for failing to file campaign finance reports.
In the challenge against Willard-Lewis, who represented District E from 2000 to 2010, a legal challenge was predicted even before she qualified for the race last week.
The New Orleans city charter states that anyone "who has served as a council member representing a council district for more than one and one-half terms in two consecutive terms shall not be elected as a councilmember representing a council district for the succeeding term."
In a separate suit, local attorney James Gray’s residency is being called into question, because the plaintiffs say he has not been living in his eastern New Orleans home on Winchester Park Drive since it suffered flood damage in Hurricane Katrina. The house is currently under renovation.
Badon’s candidacy is being challenged because he reportedly owes about $1,900 in ethics fines for failing to file campaign finance reports. In the lawsuit against him, two plaintiffs claim that in Badon’s qualification papers he certified under oath that “he does not owe any outstanding fines, fees, or penalties pursuant to the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act.”
All three lawsuits were filed Friday, the final day to challenge a candidate’s qualifications. The same group of three District E voters – Japhen Ogden, Alton Crowden and Wendell Pierre – are listed as the plaintiffs in the lawsuits against Gray and Willard-Lewis.
Badon, currently serving as a state representative, is being challenged by plaintiffs Kelli Wilkerson and Tiffany Page.
A court hearing will be scheduled on both election challenges.
Gray, Willard-Lewis and Badon are among six candidates in the Nov. 6 election to replace Jon Johnson on the council. He resigned after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges.
Eyewitness News is working to contact both candidates’ campaigns for comment.