ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The Ascension Parish Council voted Thursday, approving a resolution of no confidence in Parish President Kenny Matassa's ability to do his job effectively while fighting a bribery indictment.
The meeting was held Thursday, March 16, and many residents, including Matassa's sons and wife, spoke out. The initial resolution of no confidence failed to get a second, but a substitute motion was brought to the floor.
"Corruption hurts little people. If you heard those tapes and didn't see anything wrong there's something wrong with you," said one speaker at the meeting.
Matassa's sons urged the council to focus on the positive things they say their father does for the parish. Matassa has been indicted on bribery charges for allegedly offering a bribe to a man to drop out of a city council race. The meeting lasted more than two hours and attracted plenty of sparks from the dozens of people who voiced their opinions before the council.
"Y'all throwing the word 'corrupt' around, well I want to know how you describe corrupt," Matassa's wife, Selma asked.
"The love of Mr. Matassa for his family is not in question. His good deeds in the past are not in question. No one is casting stones. These are the facts," Kathryn Goppelt added.
The council voted 6 to 4 Thursday, saying they have lost confidence in Matassa and are calling for his immediate resignation. "It's just that at this point we think that he's got a lot on his plate that he can't concentrate fully on the job that has to be done as parish president," said Councilman Aaron Lawler.
While Lawler said it is not a victory for the parish, Councilman Daniel "Doc" Satterlee maintains it is the right thing to do when the parish leader has been indicted by a grand jury. "I'm pleased with the vote I'm surprised that it was so narrow. I was hoping for a unanimous decision," Satterlee said.
The vote may be final, but the emotions were far from extinguished as council members prepared to exit the meeting room Thursday night. Satterlee told reporters he was threatened shortly after the vote by one of his colleagues.
"The threat is that I was a piece of I'm going to clean the word up...excrement... and that I better watch out if I step out of the courtroom this evening and appear of Irma Boulevard," Satterlee added.
Frightened by the threat, Satterlee said he called his wife to be escorted off the property by Ascension Parish Sheriff's deputies.
WAFB's Scottie Hunter asked Satterlee if it was unfortunate that a council vote has to end in threats. "It's very sad," Satterlee replied. "I think when you live in a civilized society, threatening people with any kind of words, it has been unsettling to me."
While the vote cannot force Matassa to resign, Brennan Howell, who filed paperwork with the Secretary of State's Office a day before the controversial vote, said getting people to sign the recall petition has never been more important.
"We did elect those officials, so they are somewhat of our voice, but the people their voices are greater than the people that we elect ultimately," Howell added.
It remains unclear if Matassa actually will submit a letter of resignation to the council. He made a hasty exit from council chambers before discussion about his future got underway.
For background information on the case, click here.