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Petition to recall Vidalia Police Chief Arthur Lewis fails

VIDALIA — A petition attempting to recall Vidalia Police Chief Arthur Lewis died Monday when the group of residents behind the petition didn’t turn in the document containing the necessary 1,174 signatures.

Concordia Parish Registrar of Voters Golda Ensminger confirmed Monday that the petition requiring signatures from 33 and 1/3 of the qualified electors of the voting area was not turned in by 4:30 p.m.

The deadline for any recall petition document is 180 days after being filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office, which was July 17 for the Lewis petition. The actual deadline fell on Sunday but was pushed to the next working business day — 4:30 p.m. Monday.

Lewis said that while he thought the residents who submitted the petition had every right to do so, the outcome of the petition was not something that kept him up at night.

“I went into the military to protect the right for people to voice their opinion or say whatever it is they want to say even if I don’t like what they’re saying,” Lewis said. “I didn’t have time to sit and worry about the petition or the signatures, because I have to worry about the safety and protection of the people of Vidalia.”

An official statement regarding the recall effort was sent from “The Recall Committee” thanking those involved in the petition.

“Even though we came up short by 204 signatures, we feel good about what we accomplished,” the e-mail said. “The information we were able to make public has made the people more aware and watchful of what is going on in their police department.

“This effort puts officials on notice that the public is watching, and if necessary a new petition can and will be started.”

The petition listed Vidalia residents Anthony Scott Cupit as chairman and Martha Maxine Lushute as vice-chairman.

After the petition was submitted in July, Lushute said she didn’t consider the petition a vendetta against Lewis or his administration, but that he simply hadn’t delivered what he promised to some residents.

Lewis said he was never told directly by anyone supporting the petition why it was created, but that he was going to continue leading the Vidalia Police Department the only way he knows how.

“I’m going to continue to run this police department as a law enforcement officer and not as a politician, because I have more than 30 years experience in law enforcement,” Lewis said. “I’m going to continue doing what I told the people I was going to do — be the best police chief I can be.

“I pray that the people who had something against me — for whatever reason — move on with their lives, so I can move on with my life and continue leading this department.”

In March, Lewis won the election for Vidalia police chief against opponent Todd Ainsworth by 39 votes.

Lewis — who won a special election for the seat in April 2011, after serving as chief on an interim basis for five months — had 869 votes. Ainsworth had 830 votes.