Judge to consider casino vote legality prior to vote
COVINGTON, La. (WVUE) - A district court judge in Covington has scheduled a Dec. 3 trial to determine whether the controversial Slidell casino measure can remain on the ballot for the Dec. 11 election in St. Tammany Parish.
Judge John Keller will hear arguments regarding the constitutionality of the proposition, which has been challenged by a group lined up in opposition to the proposed Northshore casino and sports center.
It has been one of the Northshore’s most-debated issues of the past year. People for and against the proposed $325 million Camellia Bay casino near Slidell have dominated airwaves for the past several weeks.
Opponents to the project have been saying for months that the state constitution requires a straight up or down parish-wide vote on a casino before a site-specific vote is taken.
Keller previously ruled that the legality of the measure should be determined after voters cast ballots on Dec. 11. But his decision was reversed by an appellate court, which remanded the matter back to Keller’s courtroom with orders to decide the matter before the election.
“We were very happy with Judge Keller honoring the first circuit court of appeal ruling to hear the motions,” said Slidell Pastor John Raymond.
That measure will still be on the ballot, but its validity must still be decided.
“I’m very excited to hear that he ruled in that position, I think honestly it should’ve been done that way previously but I’m glad he’s listening to the first circuit and they’re moving forward with it,” said Rick Franzo, with the group, ‘Concerned Citizens of St Tammany.’
A hearing on motions in the case, including one seeking a summary judgment from Keller, was set for Nov. 30.
“Folsom is 45 miles away from the proposed location, so is Metairie. Is it fair that Metairie can vote on a Slidell casino? No, and It’s not fair that Folsom is, and that’s why the state constitution was written the way it was,” said Raymond.
Chris Masingill, chief executive officer of the St. Tammany Corporation that supports the casino measure, said in a statement, “I believe the majority of people in St Tammany Parish are excited about the first-class Camellia Bay Resort project and the proposed state-of-the-art East St. Tammany Sports Complex. They deserve the right to vote on this economic development project and I am glad Camellia Bay is getting its day in court to defend that right to vote. Let’s hope that a few loud voices don’t deny that right from their friends and neighbors.”
“We are excited to get our day in court. St. Tammany Parish deserves a right to vote yes for this economic development opportunity on December 11. We will be leading the charge in court to protect their right,” a spokesperson for Camellia Bay said in a statement.
St Tammany corporation also said it hopes loud voices don’t deny the right to vote, but opponents say it’s about the law and fairness.
“It needs to be done the right way and that’s why it’s put in the constitution to ensure a fair vote,” said Raymond.
Attorneys for the St. Tammany Parish government filed a motion Monday asking the Louisiana Supreme Court to intervene and decide the matter for the lower courts. That motion is still pending.
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