The Iberia Parish Council was deadlocked during a vote to appoint a new interim constable at Wednesday’s meeting, with a resolution only happening when one of the contenders conceded.
The position was for Ward 3 of Iberia Parish, which includes the village of Loreauville and unincorporated parts of northern Iberia. An opening came up for the job after Benjamin Hoffpauir resigned effective July 1, and an election is slated to take place in November.
But in the meantime, the IPC had to appoint an interim constable to oversee the day-to-duties of the office, and the two applicants were Chad Hazelwood and Jack Clifton.
Before the first vote took place, Loreauville Mayor Brad Clifton approached the podium and gave an endorsement for Hazelwood.
“I’m here to voice my support for Chad Hazelwood,” Clifton said. “It gives the village of Loreauville an opportunity to have a constable and put him in a dynamic situation. He gives us an opportunity to give our sheriff’s deputy an ability to call someone with all the qualifications he has.”
Jack Clifton was then asked to speak for himself about the appointment. A Jeanerette native, Clifton said he’s lived in Loreauville recently and was hoping to get more involved in the area.
“I probably don’t have all of the flash and dash my competitor has,” Jack Clifton said. “I moved to Loreauville and I’m going to retire in Loreauville. I wanted to get involved in the Loreauville area.”
“As far as what Loreauville’s needs are, I don’t know that yet and I thought this would be my first step,” he added. “I’ve been a public servant and I love it, I like to help people.”
Councilman Joel Dugas, who represents the Loreauville area, said that the appointment has been a source of some tension in the village recently.
“In a small community like Loreauville, it puts neighbor against neighbor,” Dugas said. “I know there’s a lot of competition going on and a lot of hurt feelings right now, but I would encourage y’all to keep trying to get active in the community and next time an election comes around remember qualifications do matter.”
After the first round of voting, the vote ended in 6-5 in favor of Hazelwood, with council members Tommy Pollard, Michael Landry, Ricky Gonsoulin, Joel Dugas, Brian Napier and Chad Maturin voting in favor of Hazelwood.
Voting for Clifton were council members Lloyd Brown, Warren Gachassin, Natalie Broussard, Paul Landry and Marty Trahan. Council members Tommy Landry, Berwick Francis and Eugene Olivier were absent.
Because eight votes were required for an appointment to be successful, the council did a second round of voting that also didn’t get the required votes. That final vote was 7-4, with Councilman Marty Trahan switching his vote.
At that point, the council began questioning what would happen if more than eight votes could be reached. State law mandates that if a council can’t appoint a person for more than 20 days, then the governor is obligated to appoint someone.
Some also considered tabling the issue and holding a special meeting, presumably where more council members would be present.
“Before we do this next one, you think the two candidates want to talk,” Councilman Lloyd Brown asked. “Because if it goes around again this time, we’re going to let the governor decide.”
“You can’t call make that call,” Councilman Brian Napier responded.
“I’m not making the call, I’m asking if they want to discuss,” Brown said. “I’m not going to no special meeting.”
The third round ended 7-4, with each council voting the same as the previous round.
After some discussion about allowing for the governor to make the appointment instead, the issue was tabled to the end of the meeting. By that time, council members and audience members were all over the council chambers talking to each other.
But before the final vote, Clifton once again took to the podium to suddenly announce that he was withdrawing his name from consideration.
“It seems to me that I’m just not going to have the votes to get where I want to be, so I’m going to go ahead and concede,” he said. “I know this has been quite an ordeal, unprecedented and abnormal, but thank y’all for your patience.”
Hazelwood then spoke to conclude the agenda item.
“I never intended on this to be a burden on anyone,” he said. “Two years ago I was considering this position long before Mr. Clifton came along. I know Mr. Clifton and I acknowledge and respect what you just did and I thank you. I look forward to serving the community.”