DONALDSONVILLE, La. — Ascension
Parish President Kenny Matassa, a former parish administrator and
Gonzales city councilman, took office in January after winning a
runoff election with Gonzales surveyor Clint Cointment.
But his first days in office saw him
facing criticism and being in the middle of a lengthy
According to a report
on TheCreole.com, Matassa allegedly bribed Gonzales City Council
candidate Wayne Lawson to stay out of the race and offered him a
parish job, money and support in a future election, according to
recordings provided by Lawson and Wade Petite, owner of the online
newspaper Pelican Post.
Matassa argued that he was just offering
his friend advice and a loan to repair his trailer, according to his
attorney, Lance Unglesby.
Lawson and Petite shared a recording of
the conversation on the Post website in August. The conversation was
between Matassa, Lawson and Gonzales businessman Olin Berthelot.
Nearly 200 days since the recordings were checked for
authenticity, the investigation and case are ongoing.
claimed he did not take the alleged bribe and stayed in the race. He
lost to incumbent Neal Bourque in the November elections.
the bribery allegation trial against Matassa was put on hold in
November, and the jury was sent home after the 23rd
Judicial District Attorney Ricky Babin excused his office from the
case the day before after it was discovered that Assistant District
Attorney Charles Long was a contributor to Matassa’s campaign.
Babin recused his office the day before the trial because some of
his staff donated to Matassa’s campaign. Long gave $5,000 to
Matassa, according to campaign reports.
“The district attorney’s
office properly recused itself to assure that there was no appearance
of impropriety in the investigation or presentation of the case to
the grand jury,” legal-ethics expert Dane S. Ciolino, a professor
of law at Loyola University in New Orleans, told the Louisiana
The investigation was handed over in its entirety to
Attorney General Jeff Landry's office, but the grand jury was set to
expire that week, which would not have left enough time to present
the evidence before end of the year.
Landry's office has offered
no details on when the grand jury will reconvene.
“A new grand
jury was put place on Nov. 18,” Ruth Wisher, Landry' press
secretary, told the Louisiana Record.
And as far as when
the proceedings will take place, Wisher said the office does not
comment on grand-jury proceedings.
“A charge of bribery is very
serious allegation against a public official. However, it is not a
prosecution that must be initiated by grand-jury indictment,”
Ciolino said. “The case could be charged by a district attorney’s
office or by the attorney general alone without using the grand-jury