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Lawsuits aim to disqualify candidate from EBR Mayor-President race

3 years 11 months 2 weeks ago Wednesday, July 29 2020 Jul 29, 2020 July 29, 2020 7:15 AM July 29, 2020 in News
Source: The Advocate

Two lawsuits designed to disqualify Councilman Matt Watson from the race for mayor-president were filed Monday, the documents allege Watson did not reconcile thousands of dollars in penalties with Louisiana's Ethics Administration prior to qualifying for November's election. 

According to The Advocate, the petitions, both filed in the 19th Judicial District Court, claim Watson falsely certified he did not owe any outstanding fines and fees for campaign finance and government ethics violations when he filed his notice of candidacy on July 24.

The first lawsuit was filed by M.E. Cormier, executive director of Better Together/One Baton Rouge, an anti-St. George group. She filed the suit personally, not on behalf of the organization.

The second lawsuit was filed by Adam Hensgens, a political consultant for mayoral candidate Jordan Piazza. It includes the same language as the first as well as additional allegations.

Watson, one of seven candidates challenging incumbent Sharon Weston Broome, called the petitions baseless. 

The lawsuits include three major allegations, which are detailed below:

(1) Lawsuit's claim: Cormier and Hensgen's suits claim that Watson, at the time of qualifying, owed $3,200 for filing a 2017 personal financial disclosure almost two years too late and $2,960 for a delay in filing a supplemental campaign finance report for the November 2016 election. 

Watson's defense: Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen said Tuesday that Watson was in good standing and had paid nearly $7,000 to resolve any remaining fines on Friday morning prior to entering the race for mayor-president. 

And though Hensgens' lawsuit includes screenshots of the Ethics Administration website showing the fines had yet to be paid as of Monday, Allen pointed out that the website takes time to update and shouldn't be used as an official record of outstanding fees. 

(2) Lawsuit's claim: Hensgen's lawsuits allege Watson owed fines and fees for failing to file his 2018 and 2019 personal financial disclosures in a timely manner.

Watson's defense: Allen said Watson did not owe anything because the Ethics Administration did not officially serve him with a notice. The office had sent out letters, which were all returned.

"This is another accusation where they didn't check their data before making the claim," Watson said.

(3) Lawsuit's claim: Hensgens' lawsuit goes on to allege Watson failed to file a 180-P campaign finance form, which includes contributions and expenditures from Jan. 1 to April 27 ?— 180 days prior to November's election. 

Watson's defense: Watson said he didn't start fundraising until the middle of May and had nothing to report. He also said he's since let go of the staffer he'd hired to file his paperwork and finance reports. 

A hearing on the Hensgens' lawsuit is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday before Judge William Morvant, and the Cormier lawsuit has been assigned to Judge Timothy Kelley, but a court date has yet to be set. 

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