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Was a high ranking parish employee fired over campaign promise?

8 years 2 weeks 2 days ago Thursday, May 12 2016 May 12, 2016 May 12, 2016 3:57 PM May 12, 2016 in News
Source: WBRZ

GONZALES- Tonight, there are allegations the "good ole boy" network is running strong in Ascension Parish. A prominent land owner claims he brought Parish President Kenny Matassa money to fire a high ranking parish employee.

That land owner donated hundreds of dollars to Kenny Matassa. What is unclear tonight was whether the donor was able to influence others to support Matassa by extension of his own agenda.

With a hand on a bible and a smile, Kenny Matassa proudly took over as Ascension Parish's new president in January. But, just four months into that new job, already there's controversy. It all centers around what critics described as the unscrupulous firing of former Planning Commission Director, Ricky Compton.

"I heard the rumors when I was fired that's what probably happened, but to hear it recorded and admitted to was a little shocking," Compton said.

Compton was referring to a recording of prominent land owner Dempsey Pendarvis.  Pendarvis can clearly be heard in the recording saying he orchestrated the firing of the planning director. In fact, he makes it sound like Matassa had no choice.

"Let me tell you in life Kenny, you made a commitment to me and numerous other people who brought you money that you would run Ricky Compton off," the recording states.

One of those people who brought Matassa money was Pendarvis. Campaign finance reports show he donated at least $500 to the Matassa campaign. Pendarvis went on to say that money was given with a promise.

"In life if you stick to your agreements, you're not going to have any problems," Pendarvis said. "If you don't stick to your agreements, you'll have problems right off the bat."

WBRZ's Chief Investigative reporter Chris Nakamoto went looking for Pendarvis at his sprawling piece of property in Gonzales. But, no one came to the door. We also tried to track down Kenny Matassa, but we learned he's in Washington D.C.

Matassa agreed to a phone interview. Thursday, Matassa said he questioned Pendarvis about why he said that, but gave a shaky explanation about the money and Compton's firing.

"I talked to him and said I was disappointed in some of the content, but I... um you know... I make all my own decisions and move forward," Matassa said.

Matassa claims he didn't make anyone a promise to fire Ricky Compton. Instead, he says the two couldn't agree.

"I'm the type of person that likes to get things done," Matassa said. "Cut the red tape and move on. We had a company like Smith Tank that was waiting six months to get a rezoning. That's absurd."

Tonight, Compton says he isn't buying it and believes he was let go because he followed the rules and didn't make it easy for developers by quickly green lighting projects.

"The one question I would like to know is how much did my firing actually cost," Compton asked. "There was speculation is it was 60-70-80 thousand dollars. Who all contributed? One person can't do it by themselves, so who else is complicit? That's what I want to know. Who else is out there? The next guy needs to know these are the bad guys."

Campaign records show Matassa raised $300,000 and insists he is bought by no one. Former Parish President Tommy Martinez hired Compton. He told me by phone, he respected his work and even though they didn't always agree, Compton was about doing the right thing for Ascension Parish. Meanwhile, we also reached out to Dempsey Pendarvis by phone, but he never called back.

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