The Investigators: Son of Matassa's friend fired by Ascension Parish

The Investigators: Son of Matassa's friend fired by Ascension Parish

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The Ascension Parish Recreation Supervisor, who is the son of a close friend of the parish president, has been fired.

In response to a public records request filed by the 9NEWS Investigators, Ascension Parish confirmed Wednesday morning that Brandon Berthelot was terminated on August 8 for "violation of Ascension Parish policy."

When Berthelot was first hired one week after Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa took office, he was named Ascension Parish Director of Recreation. The job was not publicly advertised and Berthelot, son of Olin Berthelot, was the only person who applied for the job. Berthelot was later demoted to Recreation Supervisor.

Both Matassa and Olin Berthelot are currently the subject of a district attorney's investigation into allegations that they offered a cash bribe to a Gonzales City Council candidate if he agreed to drop out of the race. That candidate, Wayne Lawson, secretly recorded the conversations. Lawson says he refused to take the money. Matassa's attorney says the cash was not a bribe, but rather a loan by Matassa to a man who was down on his luck.

In response to two different public records requests by the 9News Investigators, the parish produced multiple documents last week related to Brandon Berthelot's hiring and his time as a parish employee. The parish custodian of public records said the parish was not legally obligated to post the job opening for Director of Recreation and did not do so.

Parish records show Berthelot was hired as "Director of Recreation" on January 11, 2016 at a starting salary of $60,000. But his job title was changed to "Recreation Supervisor" on April 25, 2016 and his salary lowered to $45,000, parish records show.

His parish personnel file shows that during his first five months of employment, at least two documents were placed in Berthelot's personnel file related to his performance.

In March, it was documented that he failed to act in a timely manner to address mold concerns at the Darrow Community Center. In the document, Ascension Parish Environmental Manager Don Hysell says he spoke to Berthelot about the issue and reminded him that "respect and credibility are earned, not given."

The next month, a document was placed in his file regarding EBT cards not being securely stored in his office during an emergency food-stamp distribution. Because of that, his initial 90-day probationary period for new parish employees was extended for another 90 days.

When contacted Friday for comment, Ascension Parish councilman Daniel "Doc" Satterlee said the whole situation smells "fishy." Satterlee said he could summarize his comments in four words: "you do the math."

"It's troubling that we would appoint someone into such a high office so quickly after an election," he said. "I think it would be more prudent to take our time and make sure we have the right person for the job. That is not to say Mr. Berthelot is not the right person for the job, but we have no way of knowing that."

Councilman Aaron Lawler said Friday afternoon that he is working to put a policy in place that would provide guaranteed oversight and review before the hiring of any supervisory or director positions by parish government.

Berthelot listed on his application that he last worked as a manager at Liberty Loans, llc. on Burnside Avenue in Gonzales. That loan company is also managed by his father, Olin, according to records filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State. Brandon Berthelot attended Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond where he majored in Kinesiology but did not graduate, according to his job application.

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