French Settlement Mayor Toni Guitreau

FRENCH SETTLEMENT -- A stay-at-home mother and the wife of the French Settlement police chief say they will seek signatures for a petition to recall French Settlement Mayor Toni Guitreau.

Catherine Moran and Tammy Brignac allege Guitreau has carried out a vendetta against Police Chief Harry Brignac, who was arrested and charged with malfeasance in office in July.

"Honestly, it has to do with some of her choices in office, and the fact that she has a personal vendetta and is embarrassing the town by using a personal vendetta to torment a public official elected by the voters," said Moran, who has lived in French Settlement eight years. "She has no regard for the people who voted her in and voted in Harry, whom people voted for."

Guitreau said she will have faith that French Settlement voters will support her.

"It's been an honor serving them and I intend to keep on serving them," she said.

The Louisiana Election Code usually requires signatures from 33 1/3 percent of the registered voters in a municipality, parish or precinct. The code mandates signatures from 40 percent of the voters in an area with fewer than 1,000 qualified voters.

The village has a total 689 registered voters, which would put the required number of signatures at 40 percent -- or a total of 274 voters.

"It won't take much to get those signatures," Tammy Brignac said. "It's going to be a piece of cake ... people are fed up with her."

Livingston Parish Registrar of Voters Jared Andrews said he had to return the first petition to the Secretary of State's Office, which deemed it invalid because it only said "mayor," but did not list the municipality in which Guitreau serves.

Moran and Guitreau will have 180 days to gather signatures once the Secretary of State's Office validates the petition.

"Once it's filed and the petition is sent to me, that's when the clock starts ticking," Andrews said.

Guitreau and Brignac have been at odds several years. A move by the mayor to amend the Lawrason Act to make the police chief an appointed official failed among village voters in 2014.

Tammy Brignac said the move on the move on the recall was "past due."

"We should've done this from the get-go," she said. "The mayor has been trying to get Harry out, and I understand that, but she doesn't have a reason to constantly harass him."

Moran also said the village charged her for copies of public records she was supposed to receive at no charge.

She said she requested petty cash receipts, copies of transactions made on the village credit card, along with the employees who have such cards, a list of all municipal employees, along with their names and information, and other financial documentation.

Moran said she asked Town Clerk Pam Melancon for copies of the public records and recorded her asking Melancon for the documentation fee the village charges local residents. She said Melancon originally told her the village did not charge village residents for copies of public documents.

"The mayor then sent me an email saying I would have to pay for the clerk's time to prepare the copies," Moran said. "It felt shady, like she had something to hide, after going back and forth numerous times."

Guitrau said the village charges 25 cents per page for copies of public documents. "Or, she can come sit down and do it for free," she said. "She spent $4.75 on the copies, or she could've viewed them for free."

Moran also alleged that Guitreau refused to let Brignac speak during a May 2017 council meeting. She also said the mayor cut her off after she asked about municipal expenditures after the flood.

"I had documentation that would show how the village could've save money for volunteers for work on the town hall, which is now three months from completion," Moran said.

Moran also questioned why the village did not seek out volunteers to gut out town hall. She believes the village could have saved far more money had workers done the job pro-bono.

"You have to follow certain procedures," Guitreau replied.

Gov. John Bel Edwards must call a special election asking voters if they wish to recall Guitreau if the petition draws the required number of valid signatures.

If voters recall Guitreau, Gov. Edwards would call a special election to name an interim mayor. The Louisiana Election Code allows the sitting mayor to run for the seat after the recall.

The only successful recall of a Livingston Parish public official occurred in 2001 when School Board member Cheryl Lovett was officially removed from office by an overwhelming 72 percent to 28 percent margin.

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