Ascension Parish president addresses parish council following bribery allegations

Ascension Parish president addresses parish council following bribery allegations

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa broke his silence and addressed the parish council Thursday evening, saying the parish government is not "crippled or broken."

The speech to the council marked his first public comments since news broke Monday that he is accused of bribing a Gonzales City Council candidate into dropping out of the race.

"I know this controversy we are facing is difficult and I understand that this is a time to test all of us. This council does a great job for the people of the parish. My employees do a great job for the people of Ascension Parish. Our government is not crippled or broken. I will continue to listen to your suggestions about parish government. I will continue to give my employees what they need to serve the people," Matassa said.

His address to the council lasted less than one minute. He ended his remarks by saying "I ask that you keep my family and myself in your prayers."

Wayne Lawson, who is running for Gonzales City Council, said Matassa and businessman Olin Berthelot offered him $1,200 in cash to drop out of the race. He said Matassa also promised him a parish job.

Lawson, who secretly recorded the conversations which were later published by the Pelican Post, said he turned down the alleged offer and remains in the council race.

Council member Daniel "Doc" Satterlee said he had every intention of introducing a motion for a vote of no confidence. That means the council would have stripped any and all financial decisions from Matassa and require council approval. Matassa negated the need for that in his address to the council.

"I will send to you every contract no matter how much money it is to you for your approval," Matassa said.

The parish attorney started the meeting saying if anyone tried to add anything to the agenda in the past 24 hours, it's illegal. It's why Satterlee said he did not mention the vote of no confidence.

"Doc Satterlee does not break the law. If legal counsel is sitting here in the court room and telling me if I do this, we're breaking the law because it was not advertise for 24 hours, etc, well we are not going to do it," Satterlee said.

Another council member, Aaron Lawler, released a press release Thursday:

Like many of you, I am disappointed, angered, and embarrassed by the recent allegations against our Parish President.  My concern is not the legality of the actions by President Matassa, but whether his actions were ethical and right.  Elected officials have the responsibility to ethically serve the people we represent.  Thus, I do not feel is it necessary to wait until these allegations have run their legal course. The actions of our President have embarrassed Ascension Parish, eroded the public's trust in the elected officials of Ascension Parish, harmed our ability to attract new business, impaired our ability to hire qualified employees and become a distraction.  For these reasons, I believe it is in the best interest of Ascension Parish for President Matassa to resign his position immediately.

It's why Satterlee wanted the vote of no confidence.

"What's wrong with it right now? We're just cutting back a little bit with a vote of no confidence? Again we're not firing you. We are not even saying you are guilty. We are just saying we need to build the trust back in the people and do the people's business," said.

Matassa: "Nothing to say. I am doing my job and I will continue doing my job."
Kiran: "What do you say to the voters who voted to put you in office?"
Matassa: "I'm going to do my job like they voted me to do and I have due process and that's what I'm going to do."

Matassa's attorney Lance Unglesby said the parish president did not try to bribe Lawson but was simply offering him a loan.

"Kenny offered to assist this guy out. If this guy needed some help, he was willing to help him out," Unglesby said.

When asked if Lawson asked for a loan, Matassa walked off without answering.

"This is America. He is innocent till proven guilty," Satterlee said.

The next council meeting is in two weeks on August 18 and Satterlee said he will try to put the vote of no confidence on that agenda.

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