D.A. declines charges vs. former LPSB candidate

The district attorney’s office on March 10 announced it would not pursue election-related charges against Erica Williams.

Chassion, left, and Williams
Photos by Robin May

The district attorney’s office in Lafayette is declining to pursue election-related charges leveled by a winning candidate against the candidate he beat in the 2014 election for Lafayette Parish School Board. LPSB District 4 member Tehmi Chassion accused competitor Erica Williams of filing false residency papers — Chassion claimed Williams didn’t live in District 4 at the time of the October 2014 election and was therefore ineligible to run — among other charges.

Following his election victory, Chassion again pressed the D.A.’s office to pursue the charges, but on March 10 District Attorney Keith Stutes notified the parties that his office would not pursue the case.

On Monday Williams released the following statement:

“Let the dogs bark, but the caravan moves on” is an old Arabic proverb. In this instance, the dogs have barked, yet we (the community) must move on.

I ran for public office for the first time in October 2014. During my campaign, I was quickly attacked by the so-called “powers that be” in their attempt to discredit my name, discredit my work and my passion for building a better community that is focusing on building up our children. My residency quickly became an issue by Tehmi Chassion, where he accused me of voter fraud. After a full investigation was launched with media reports, it was determined that these charges had no merit and I was allowed to continue my campaign.

Even though I was unsuccessful in my campaign in 2014 for school board against Tehmi Chassion, he again filed charges against me for the same offense of voter fraud in 2015 for reasons that are beyond my understanding. I am happy to report that these charges have been refused by the Office of the District Attorney, 15th Judicial District as of March 10, 2016.

Although there has been an attempt to deter, to slander and to discourage my love, passion and involvement in our community — the caravan moves on. No longer will our community allow negativity to deter our progress, the caravan moves on. No longer will our community settle for sub-par educational programs, the caravan moves on. No longer will the voices of the people be silenced, the caravan moves on. No longer will a group of self-serving individuals place a monopoly on our progress, the caravan moves on.

Today, I am hopeful that we as a community begin the process of silencing the barking dogs that continue to slow progress for our kids and our community. The campaigns for office are over, yet our children are still in need of leadership and real change.

Today, I choose to embrace educational excellence over petty politics. Today, I choose to embrace higher graduation rates and lower drop-out rates over systematic division in our community. Today, I ask that you join me in finding solutions to the problems that our students and future leaders face as it will take all of us working together to be successful in really raising the bar for our children’s future.

I remain committed to working with every educational partner, every parent, every school administrator, and even working with my current school board member Themi Chassion, in building a better tomorrow for our students. The caravan is moving forward.