Two councilmen question Matassa's political future
GONZALES - There is dissension on the Ascension Parish Council amid allegations the parish president was involved in a bribe.
This week, the WBRZ Investigative Unit reported audio recordings purportedly captured Parish President Kenny Matassa paying Wayne Lawson not to run for a seat on the Gonzales City Council. Matassa's attorney said Wednesday, Matassa gave Lawson a loan and free political advice. There was no bribe, attorney Lance Unglesby said.
Thursday morning, Ascension Parish Councilman Aaron Lawler told WBRZ, he's pushing for Matassa to resign immediately. He called the accusationsan "embarrassment."
In a letter Lawler wrote to parish residents, he's asking people not to question the legality of the bribery allegations but whether they were ethical or right.
The councilman describes the situation as a distraction, adding it tarnishes Ascension's image and could hurt its ability to attract new businesses. Lawler, who copied WBRZ reporter Natalia Verdina on the letter, said officials are talking with ExxonMobil Chemical Co. about locating a massive petrochemical complex in the parish. Lawler said while the project is not finalized, he is worried the scandal could destroy the opportunity.
Read Councilman Aaron Lawler's full statement below:
Letter to the Citizens of Ascension Parish
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.
This is a sad time for Ascension Parish. I have gotten to know President Matassa and his family personally over the past several months. These are good people that care about Ascension Parish. It hurts me to ask for his resignation. But, I must follow my conscience and do what is best for the parish.
Maybe, this is the way politics works. Maybe, I am an outsider. Maybe, I don’t understand the way Ascension Parish government works. But, maybe this is a time for change in Ascension Parish.
Also Thursday, Councilman Daniel Satterlee announced on Facebook he'd ask his colleagues on the council for a vote of no confidence in Matassa. Satterlee said he would like to call for the vote at the council meeting Thursday evening.
"I believe he involved himself in serious unethical behaviors, irreparably hurting [Ascension Parish]," Satterlee posted. "As my colleague, Councilman Aaron Lawler, stated in his press release this morning: '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.' I concur with these thoughts and many others as well."
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