Mayor: Recall Pushed By Supporters Of Convicted Ex-Mayor

RICHWOOD, La. (AP) — The mayor of a northeast Louisiana town says he believes a Nov. 13 recall election against him is backed by aldermen who want a convicted former mayor back in office.

The recall petition began the month after former mayor Ed Harris became eligible to run for office, Richwood Mayor Gerald Brown told the News Star.

“We had a former mayor who was convicted of malfeasance in office, so ... he wasn’t able to run for office,” Brown said. “That restriction was lifted in January and February, this matter began.”

Harris did not immediately return a call Thursday from The Associated Press asking if he plans to run again. He tried to run last year, but was disqualified because fewer than five years had passed since the end of his sentence, KNOE-TV reported at the time.

One of the aldermen Brown named denies the allegation. The recall petition was a grassroots effort by people who think Brown is doing a poor job, said Alderman Wysinger Cleveland.

“We didn’t have anything to do with the recall and our names are not on the petition,” Cleveland said.

He said voters tell him, “We don’t have any police protection. We don’t have no nobody put anything back into the community to fix our streets. We don’t have anybody to give the safety we need and what are ya’ll doing up there?”

Recall petitions held 462 verified signatures, 81 more than required to get the issue on the ballot.

The Ouachita Parish town of 3,400 has a contentious political history.

Harris was convicted of malfeasance for firing all city employees and plundering the town's bank account during his last days in office in 2008, when he was defeated after about 24 years.

He got a suspended five-year prison term and was ordered to repay $65,360 to the town.

The state appeal court panel that upheld his conviction wrote, “He set a trap for the new administration: no cooperation; no money and no employees. He refused to provide information or access to the incoming mayor.”

His successor, Steve Hunter, was recalled in 2009 but was reelected six months later, the court noted.

Brown said he doesn't think this recall will succeed.

“We’re going to get out and we’re going to fight the false things that are being said, the things that people are being misled about and make sure we educate folks on what we’ve done and what we plan to do,” he said.