New Orleans City Councilman Jason Williams, pictured at a special council meeting on Jan. 29, 2020. (Michael Isaac Stein/The Lens)

Before he takes his place as the newly elected Orleans Parish District Attorney on Monday, Jason Williams will have to formally resign his seat on the New Orleans City Council. But whether he resigns on Monday or before will impact whether his seat is filled by a special election or an appointment by the City Council, possibly the mayor. 

But Williams hasn’t publicly announced his decision yet. In a vague statement to The Lens, Williams’ council Chief of Staff Keith Lampkin implied Wednesday that his resignation would be effective Monday, and that he expected his vacant seat to be filled by a council appointment. But the statement also left room for doubt, and his office declined to confirm Williams’ intentions. 

“The District Attorney-Elect will submit a letter of resignation from his City Council seat on or before the day he takes office as Orleans Parish District Attorney,” the statement said. “Prior to his resignation, the DA-Elect intends to make a recommendation on his replacement to the remaining City Councilmembers.”

Williams’ office did not respond to a follow-up request on Thursday. 

The New Orleans City Charter lays out the procedure for what happens when a City Council seat is vacated. If there is a year or more left on the term it triggers a special election. 

If there is less than a year left in the term, the remaining City Councilmembers will choose a replacement to serve the rest of the term through a majority vote. If the Council takes no action after 30 days, the obligation to appoint a new council member will fall to the mayor. (That happened in 2012 after Stacy Head, formerly the councilwoman for District B, was elected to an at-large seat. When it came time to vote on Errol George, Head’s recommendation to replace her in District B, two council members boycotted council meetings, leaving the body short of a voting quorum, long enough for the appointment to fall to then-Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who selected former state legislator Diana Bajoie instead of George.)

Williams’ full City Council term will end Jan. 10, 2022. That means if his resignation is effective Monday — Jan. 11 — he will have less than a year left in his Council term and his seat will be filled with either a council or mayoral appointment. If Williams resigns any earlier, he will trigger a special election.

To make his resignation official, his letter of resignation must be received by Louisiana’s Secretary of State’s Office. The statement from Williams’ office leaves open the possibility that he may submit the resignation letter the over the weekend.

“We wouldn’t receive it on Sunday if it was put in the mail,” said Tyler Brey, communications director for the Secretary of State’s office. “It can be hand delivered, but we’re not open on Sundays. So the earliest would be if he hand delivered it on Monday, but otherwise it would be at the mercy of the postal service.”

But Brey stopped short of guaranteeing that Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin would be unable to receive and confirm the resignation over the weekend. 

“Most likely, it’s certainly not definitive,” he said. “It’s not official until our office received the signed and notarized resignation.”

Clarification: An earlier version of this article said Williams’ office’s statement said he may submit his resignation on Sunday, Jan. 10. The article has been clarified to reflect that his statement allows for the possibility of a Saturday or Sunday submission. (Jan. 7 , 2021)

Michael Isaac Stein

Michael Isaac Stein covers New Orleans' cultural economy and local government for The Lens. Before joining the staff, he freelanced for The Lens as well as The Intercept, CityLab, The New Republic, and...