Posted: Sep 16, 2013 10:03 PM by Erin Steuber
Updated: Sep 17, 2013 3:12 PM
A New Iberia City Councilman is coming under fire for his past. District 4 Councilman David Merrill is serving his second term but now it's come into question if he has had the right to serve at all. According to a lawsuit filed by the Iberia Parish District Attorney's office, by law Merrill should have never been elected.
"We must take seriously what's in our constitution," said Iberia Parish DA Phil Haney.
State law says anyone who has a felony record must wait 15 years after they've completed their sentence to run for office. According to the lawsuit Merrill pled guilty in 2003 on two separate drug possession charges: Marijuana possession and a schedule two offense, which could be possession of a narcotic, or methamphetamine. Those records were sealed in 2005. Doing the math, the guilty plea was in 2003, plus the required 15 years, means Merrill is ineligible until 2018.
"But that does not change, nor did it have any impact on the constitution, which says you must have a governor's pardon in order to serve if you don't wait the 15 year cleansing period," said Haney.
But with so many public officials coming under fire for previous felony offenses, DA Haney says it's time for change, the solution:
"For someone to have access on a statewide basis to expunged records, or records of people that have been convicted," said Haney. "That way we can make sure that the constitutional provision is adhered to and we don't have a situation like we have now, when a period of time goes by before it's discovered and brought to light."
Merrill refused to comment but says his attorney is looking into it.