AG asked to assist in bribery probe against Ascension Parish President

AG asked to assist in bribery probe against Ascension Parish President
Source: The Pelican Post
Source: The Pelican Post
Source: The Pelican Post
Source: The Pelican Post
Source: The Pelican Post
Source: The Pelican Post

GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - District Attorney Ricky Babin says he has asked the Louisiana Attorney General to assist with the investigation into bribery allegations against Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa, WAFB's Cheryl Mercedes reports.

Matassa is accused of offering cash and a job to a candidate for parish council if that man would agree to drop out of the Gonzales City Council race.

The allegations, which include audio recordings, were first reported by the Pelican Post, an online newspaper. The conversations reportedly captured by The Pelican Post over a four-day period are seemingly scandalous.

The alleged conversation is between President Matassa, his friend Olin Berthelot, and a candidate for Gonzales City Council Division E, Wayne Lawson.

Berthelot: We're going to take care of you. But we need you to drop out.

The Pelican Post said the recordings are of Matassa and Berthelot offering Lawson several things in exchange for withdrawing his name from the race.

Berthelot: We'd like to offer you three or four things. Whatever is best for you. You know what I mean? I could do that today.

The men on the tape are heard offering Lawson a job with the parish if he drops out, which would mean his opponent, incumbent Neal Bourque, would automatically get re-elected.

Berthelot: I'll get you a job. We're talking to the boss. We can get you a job today.

In the recording, the men believed to be Matassa and Berthelot also tell Lawson that if he bows out now, they would back him in an election for a parish council seat in three years.

Matassa: I don't know when it's going to happen but when Judge Turner retires, Travis (his son) is going to go there, and that's going to be another seat open on the parish side.

One of the taped conversations ends with both men each offering to put up half of the money Lawson paid to qualify for the race. The last day to withdraw was Friday, July 29.

Lawson: You're going to give me $75 and Olin is going to give me $75 of it?

Lawson agreed to meet someone at Berthelot's place of business, Bayou Financial, to finalize the deal. Pictures by The Pelican Post show Lawson coming out of Bayou Financial after he said he was handed cash and a document needed to withdraw his candidacy.

Lawson said he had no actual intention of dropping out of the race.  He returned the money and unsigned papers and has now hired an attorney.

His opponent, Bourque, spoke to 9News hours after the audio recordings surfaced.

"I had no prior knowledge of anyone attempting to persuade anybody to do something they didn't want to do. I had no meetings with my opponent to discuss his attempt to get out of the race," Bourque said.

When 9News was told Matassa was not at work, we went looking for him at his home. We were told he was not there. We also went looking for Berthelot at Bayou Financial, but were told he was not there.

Neither men returned calls to 9News.

District Attorney Ricky Babin said he has enough evidence to launch a full scale investigation. The Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office is also assisting in the investigation.

The audio recordings are below:

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