Judge again reinstates Tatum as Opelousas mayor pro tem

by Leslie Turk

The twice-removed mayor pro tem who wants the feds to investigate Opelousas Mayor Donald Cravins again won his seat back Wednesday.

Opelousas Mayor Pro Tem Reggie Tatum, initially removed from the post in June by Mayor Donald Cravins - Cravins broke the "tie" after three aldermen abstained and three voted to remove Tatum - got his seat back again Wednesday. In what might turn out to be a precedent-setting ruling for municipalities, 27th Judicial District Judge Ellis Daigle determined that an abstention is not a "no" vote. An abstention is equivalent to an alderman recusing himself, Daigle ruled, which was the argument Tatum says he put forward.

"This is ground-breaking," Tatum says. "No one's even been removed as mayor pro tem," notes the alderman, who consulted with municipalities across the state in building his case. "We couldn't even find any case in the whole United States."

When he was first reinstated by the court in July, Tatum wasted no time asking the feds to investigate Cravins and his handling of the city's business after a legislative audit found a number of troubling issues, and Cravins wasted no time trying to have his adversary removed as mayor pro tem. The vote went down in July just as it did in June - three for removal and three abstentions (including Tatum himself). Cravins once more broke the tie.

Tatum, who has been a vocal critic of how Cravins runs the city, teamed up with state Sen. Elbert Guillory, state Rep. Rickey Hardy and Opelousas Alderman at Large Joe Charles in urging U.S. Attorney Stephanie Finley to investigate City Hall. Tatum says he hasn't heard from Finley since making the request. "I guess that could be good or could be bad," he says.

Judge Daigle Wednesday ordered the city to pay all court costs. It's unclear whether the city of Opelousas will again appeal. "They're going to waste the people's money again," Tatum says.

Cravins faces Guillory in a Nov. 19 runoff.