A suit has been filed in state court challenging the candidacy of the lone challenger to Police Chief Randy Fandal in Slidell’s March 24 election.
The petition, filed Wednesday (Jan. 10) by Jerry Williams of Slidell, claims Tommy Qualls does not meet the residency requirement to run for Slidell police chief because he is domiciled at an address outside the city limits.
The petition asks a judge to disqualify Qualls from the race.
State District Judge Peter Garcia of the 22nd Judicial District Court has ordered a hearing for Tuesday.
Qualls signed up for the police chief race on Jan. 5, the last day of the three-day qualifying period for the March 24 elections. Slidell mayor, most City Council offices and chief of police races are on that ballot.
Williams’ challenge says the law requires a candidate to be domiciled in the city for at least a year prior to the date of qualifying. Williams’ petition says Qualls is domiciled at 135 Live Oak Drive, which is outside the city limits, and has lived there “for a substantial period of time prior to qualifying.”
The petition says Qualls claims a homestead exemption on the property.
The suit says records with the Registrar of Voters show Qualls listed his address at 135 Live Oak Drive, but changed it on Jan. 5, 2018, to 146 Palm Springs, which is inside the city limits. The petition says the Palm Springs address is owned by someone else who claims a homestead exemption on it.
Qualls said Friday (Jan. 12) he is in the midst of a separation and resides at the Palm Springs address, which is his mother-in-law’s home. He said he’s lived there since 2012.
Asked about a homestead exemption on Live Oak Drive, he said “I’m not sure of that.”
Qualls, 29, said he was “born and raised” in Slidell. Asked if he has a law enforcement background, he responded, “I have zero interest in law enforcement.”
Asked why he would want to run for police chief, he said he thinks it’s the best office from which to make the city a better place because it’s “the most powerful office.”
Fandal is completing the term of former Police Chief Randy Smith. Fandal was elected in December 2016 to complete the term after Smith became sheriff.
He had no comment on the challenge to Qualls’ candidacy.
Williams is represented by Craig Robichaux of Talley, Anthony, Hughes & Knight in Mandeville.