Sep 22, 2011 10:18 AM by Lauren Wilson & AP

Suspended councilmen to return to duty

MONROE, La. (AP) - Arthur Gilmore and Robert "Red" Stevens will return to the Monroe City Council in light of last week's announcement they'll receive a new trial.
The News-Star reports Gilmore and Stevens were suspended from the City Council after being convicted in May of racketeering and bribery.
U.S. District Judge Robert James last week ruled Gilmore and Stevens will receive a new trial since certain evidence about the prosecution's star witness was withheld from the jury and defense.
James contended the defendants were denied their due process rights by not being able to effectively cross-examine the government's star witness, local businessman Eddie Hakim.
A new trial date has been set for Jan. 4.
City Attorney Nanci Summersgill said late Wednesday that Gilmore and Stevens will return to the City Council for Tuesday's meeting.
Interim City Council members Ellen Hill and Dr. Glenda Smith-Starr were notified they will have to resign from the City Council.
"I've done a lot of research, and I did find an attorney general's opinion from 1988 about new trials and what that means with regard to convictions being overturned. Unless a new conviction is returned, there is no conviction for felony of a public officer," Summersgill said.
"It's a very unusual situation, so all we can do is feel our way around, but I think the minute their conviction was overturned and a new trial was granted, they were restored at that time to their positions."
The Louisiana Disciplinary Board also has recommended the councilmen's interim suspension be dissolved, Summersgill said.
She said Gilmore and Stevens will remain on the City Council unless another conviction is returned.
"If they're convicted again, then we would have to go through the same process of appointing somebody," Summersgill said.
Defense attorney Charles Kincade said the return of Gilmore and Stevens to the City Council was an appropriate step under state law.
"This is something that happens as an operation of law. It's the appropriate thing to happen. The impediment to their suspension has been removed, and there's an attorney general's opinion right on point," Kincade said.
Stevens said he is looking forward to returning to the City Council on Tuesday for his first meeting in months.
"Obviously to say I'm excited would be an understatement. We will come back and continue to do the job we've done in the past. As always, my ultimate goal is to move the city forward in a positive direction. I'm just thankful for a new day," Stevens said.
Hill has served as the interim District 3 Monroe City Council representative since May.
Wednesday afternoon she said her departure from the City Council would be bittersweet.
"I'm glad Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Stevens will have the opportunity to plead their case again, but I'm sad to leave because we have started working on a few projects I hoped to complete. It's been a wonderful experience and a pleasure to work on the council and help the residents," Hill said.
Summersgill said they are entitled to any back pay during their suspension. However, she said neither Gilmore nor Stevens have asked for it.


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