Heflin Mayor Judy Tillman has launched the first salvo in her battle over her December 8 recall election.
"We'll be able to establish that the (recall) petition did not meet the minimum required number of citizens within the town of Heflin and should never have been certified," Tillman's attorney Pamela Breedlove of Bossier City said. "We're waiting to hear from the court about what date we'll have a hearing."
Breedlove filed a petition on behalf of Tillman around noon on Monday against J. Thomas Schedler in his official capacity as Secretary of State and Melanie J. Smith in her official capacity as Webster Parish Registrar of Voters.
Smith said she had only learned about Tillman's petition five minutes before her interview and that she couldn't comment on anything specific.
"The Attorney General is my legal representation," Smith said. "I will take it there and we'll just go from there."
Tillman's petition seeks to nullify Smith's recall petition certification and Governor Bobby Jindal's recall election proclamation and to grant an injunction prohibiting the December 8 recall election from occurring.
"Numerous errors and deficiencies" and "improper procedures" with the recall petition are claimed by Tillman's petition.
It alleges some who signed the petition do not live within the Heflin village limits. Recall committee chairman Jaime Guice resigned because he reportedly lives immediately outside the village limits.
"Some of them moved out of town a long time ago," Breedlove said. "Several live out of town in other cities, and have. You don't live there just because you might own a piece of property there."
Tillman's petition also alleges that some signed the petition due to being given false information
"It is my understanding that people were told information that wasn't true to get them to sign," Breedlove said. "Saying that she said this or she did things that weren't accurate. I think there were multiple things that people were told that wasn't true."
The remainder of Tillman's allegations revolves around technicalities of the recall procedure.
Seven of the signatures did not include a complete address as required by state law, according to Tillman's petition. It cites precedence from an Attorney General opinion (04-0265) and court case (Cowan v. Ensminger, 96-955 (La. App. 3 Cir. 7/23/96)) in which courts have decided that signatures without a complete address are invalid.
Tillman's petition also alleges at least two signatures were not properly witnessed.
"The first set of documents that my client got from the recall people had two signatures that had no witnesses," Breedlove said. "They were dated three weeks before it was provided to her, and then later when it was filed they were all of a sudden witnessed and backdated."
A successful outcome of Tillman's petition would prevent the December 8 recall, according to Breedlove. However she said the injunction, if granted, would not prevent other recall attempts.
"If we are successful – which I feel we should be – they'd have to start over," Breedlove said. "Unfortunately for my client and for the village, there is not necessarily any limit to the number of times somebody can try again."
On March 24, Jindal ordered Tillman's recall election after the recall petition signatures had been certified by Smith and received by the Secretary of State's office. The petition reportedly contained 69 signatures of 165 registered Heflin voters; three more than the 40 percent required.
At Heflin's August 2 Board of Aldermen meeting, the board voted to pay for Tillman's petition to nullify the recall petition.
Recall committee vice chairwoman Barbara Hutchins, who was elevated to chairwoman after Guice's resignation, could not be reached for comment before press time.