DeRIDDER – Michael Harris, who was recently elected to serve on the DeRidder City Council, is facing a city lawsuit that claims the veteran is not eligible to hold the office because the location of his residence is outside city limits.
At issue in the lawsuit filed in the 36th Judicial District of the Louisiana District Courts is a technicality based on residence requirements.
Although Harris lived in the city and has owned a residence in town for many years, he built a second country house outside city limits and used that formal address on record since 2015, according to an article posted on the Leesville Daily Leader's website.
Harris talked about his campaign and his reaction to the lawsuit in an interview with the Louisiana Record. He said the lawsuit seems out of the blue and comes rather late in the game – after qualifications, early voting and a runoff election.
“I thought that I was OK,” Harris said, describing how he spoke with DeRidder Mayor Ron Roberts before qualifying dates. “I gave him a copy of my resume at that time.”
Harris said he also notified council members regarding his living situation.
“I didn't want to do anything unethical,” Harris said. “I presented myself to the counsel – I don't have anything to hide – no one said anything during early voting or during the runoff.”
He said that to his knowledge, the council did not admit to initiating the lawsuit. He suggested that the only one who could have set the wheels in motion is the mayor himself. “The city of DeRidder chose who they wanted to represent them,” Harris said. “I don't understand why (this was done) – what is (Roberts) afraid of?”
Harris said when he decided to run, he started to use his DeRidder home as his primary address again.
"I pointed out to Mr. Harris in my office four months before he qualified to run that in my opinion he was not qualified,” Roberts told the Leesville Daily leader on May 10. “Everything I have to say about the situation is clearly stated in the petition to the court.”