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DA calls for probe of alleged bribe by Ascension president

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GONZALES- Audio recordings first published this morning by the Pelican Post, an online newspaper in Ascension Parish, appear to show Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa offering a bribe to a man running for a seat on the Gonzales City Council. That bribe included at least $1,200 in cash and a parish job.

Wayne Lawson is running for Gonzales City Council. The recording insinuates he was given money and a promise of a parish job if he withdrew his candidacy. He never accepted it. Lawson has decided to run instead.

A piece of the 40-minute recording can be found here:

Lawson asks "What are ya saying?"  A voice purported to be Matassa answers, "We don't want you to run against Neal."

Lawson confirms with a question, "You don't want me to run against him?"

"No," the voice that is believed to be Matassa answers. 

The attached audio clip is edited, and the second half is from about ten minutes later.

"I did want to come meet with you guys and see what the ultimatum was," Lawson said.  "[To] basically just do the withdraw."

"If you'll sign this, I'm a notary," the believed voice of Matassa said. 

"If you put up 75, I'll put up 75," another voice said.  

"Money talks and all that other stuff walks," Matassa said.

District Attorney Ricky Babin says he wants law enforcement to conduct interviews and investigate. He said the allegations are troubling. Babin added, even if a bribe is offered but isn't taken, it's still a violation of the law.

We reached out to Parish President Kenny Matassa. His spokesman, Lester Kenyon, referred all questions to Matassa's attorney. When asked who Mattassa's attorney is, Kenyon said he didn't know.

The man running against Lawson for Gonzales City Council, Neal Bourque, claims the bribe had nothing to do with him.

"I'm very disappointed in that," Bourque said.

"I had no prior knowledge of any attempt to persuade my opponent to do anything he didn't want to do. I had no meetings with my opponent to discuss his attempt to get out of the race. I've had no meetings with him at all," Bourque said.

Bourque said that he wanted this election to be clean.

"I saw one part of one side of the story," Bourque said.

He was tight-lipped on if the audio recording sounded like a bribe to him.

"I'd like to hold my comments until I hear the whole story," Bourque said.

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