Gonzales City Council speaks about bribery allegations made against Ascension Parish President

Gonzales City Council speaks about bribery allegations made against Ascension Parish President

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The Gonzales City Council candidate who claims he was bribed by Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa talked to 9News about how it happened and why he chose to blow his cover.

It comes after a series of audio recordings surfaced of Matassa allegedly offering the candidate, Wayne Lawson, money and a job if he would d rop out of the race. Lawson is running for a spot on the Gonzales City Council. He said from day one, he has made his intentions clear.

"I have a passion for Gonzales. I live here in Gonzales. I was born and raised here. Heck, when I came to Gonzales as an infant it was in the 50s when I was born," Lawson said.

Lawson said he was ready to hit the campaign trail, but before he could make any ground he was approached by local businessman Olin Berthelot, owner of Bayou Financial.

"He said, Wayne look I would like for you to come to my office and he said Kenny is going to be here as well. I said hmmm ok, I will meet you guys there, and it kind of took off from there," Lawson said.

Lawson did not go into the meeting empty-handed. Feeling suspicious about the meeting, he said he wore a recording device. What he got on tape has now turned into an investigation of bribery allegations against president Matassa.

RELATED: AG asked to assist in bribery probe against Ascension Parish President

The audio recordings were first published in the Pelican Post online newspaper Monday morning. Lawson said over several days, Matassa and Berthelot offered him $1,200, a job with the parish, and other things if he would d rop out of the race. That would mean his only opponent, incumbent Neal Bourque, would be re-elected.

Berthelot: We're going to take care of you. But we need you to d rop out.
Lawson: So you guys are asking for me to withdraw my candidacy?
Berthelot: Yes.
Lawson: What's the procedure on that?

Lawson said Matassa also offered to back him for a parish council seat three years from now.

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.

Lawson said the men caught him off guard.

"I was rather surprised because I didn't think the race was that serious. Man, it's just a city council race," Lawson said.

The Pelican Post also obtained a video of Lawson going into Bayou Financial to collect the $1,200 he said he was promised. Lawson said the transaction was finalized by a female notary.

Lawson: Can you call Olin right quick for me? He told me $1,200 and this is $900. And, what's your name again?  You the notary?  What's your full name, Christy? Christy Burnett.

Lawson said after the woman handed him the money and document to withdraw his candidacy, he returned it all.  He said he never had any actual intentions of d ropping out of the race.

"When you decided to qualify did you ever imagine you'd be dealing with this,"
reporter Cheryl Mercedes asked.
"No, not at all. I'm appalled. I had no clue," Lawson responded.

Lawson said he plans to hire an attorney and hopes Matassa will face consequences for the alleged actions.

"I think with what I have done with exposing the corruption going on in this parish, in this city, and individuals who think they can strong arm and get away with it, I am hoping that type of mentality would be abolished," Lawson said.

9News tried to talk to Matassa again Tuesday, but were told he was not in his office. Matassa has yet to comment on the allegations.

He has hired criminal defense attorney, Lance Unglesby, who plans to speak with reporters on Wednesday afternoon. Unglesby said Matassa has no intention of resigning.

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