Judge with key role in recall fight had signed petition

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A judge who approved a court settlement lowering the number of signatures needed on a recall petition against New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell didn’t disclose that she had signed the petition.

The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate reported that Judge Jennifer Medley had signed the petition in December. The newspaper made the discovery after having filed a lawsuit to get the signatures from recall organizers.

Last week, Medley presided over a recall-related lawsuit that the recall organizers had filed against state and local election officials over the number of signatures required to force a recall. They had argued that voter rolls were inflated with hundreds of dead people who have yet to be removed from the rolls, and thousands of people who have moved out of the city.

The result was a settlement, approved by Medley, that dropped the number of signatures required to force a recall election from nearly 50,000 signatures to just under 45,000.

Cantrell’s office declined comment Thursday on Medley having signed the petition. Medley’s office didn’t immediately respond to a Thursday emailed query by The Associated Press. But it has declined comment to other news outlets, citing the fact that the court case is still pending in her court.

It remains unclear if Cantrell’s opponents have gathered enough signatures to force a recall. Organizers delivered the petitions to the New Orleans registrar of voters on Feb. 22. The registrar’s office, which has until March 22 to certify the results of the petition drive, is counting and validating signatures.

Cantrell is more than a year into her second term, which has been plagued by numerous problems, including stubborn violent crime, fitful progress on major street projects that have left some city streets a mess, and unreliable garbage collection. Questions also have been raised about her travel expenses and her personal use of a city-owned apartment.

On Wednesday, the City Council unanimously approved a resolution to open an investigation into the use of public money to send a mailer to city residents earlier this year touting Cantrell’s accomplishments.

Cantrell’s director of communications defended the mailer. “Given the challenges the City has had to endure and work through, our people deserve to be notified of the efforts being made by this administration to ensure that future generations of New Orleanians are given opportunities to thrive in a progressive, safer, healthier, more inclusive and more equitable city,” Gregory Joseph said in an email.

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