NOTE: Due to nature of recording, we were unable to download individual clips in format adaptable for use in some mobile devices. At bottom of page we’ve provided four YouTube links where an hour or so of audio can be accessed.
Wayne Lawson is not for sale…no matter what Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa and his bagman, Olin Berthelot, have to offer. They offered Lawson quite a lot if…If Lawson withdrew his candidacy for Gonzales City Council, Division E. But Wayne Lawson is not for sale; and Matassa, if there be any justice in Ascension Parish, is about to find that out the hard way.
Pelican Post has obtained over an hour of audio, in four separate recordings, where Matassa and/or Berthelot (whose brother is State Representative Johnny Berthelot) can be heard tendering bribes to Wayne Lawson. The recordings were captured over a three day period; July 27-29. The initial recording is not the best quality but statements are clear enough (the rest are crystal clear).
1. Matassa offered Lawson a much needed job with Ascension Parish…if he got out of the City Council race.
The president promised, a few times, to call “his man, (Supervisor Alan) ‘Boxcar’ Braud” to take care of Lawson that very Wednesday.
“Kenny’s a man of his word, I can tell you, Wayne. He hired my son and I know there was opposition that he hired him,” Olin Berthelot said of his son, Brandon, who was hired as Ascension’s Recreation Director, only to be removed a few months later.
Then Matassa created a brand new position, Recreation Supervisor, just for Berthelot, the Younger.
2. Matassa and his bagman promised to support Lawson’s candidacy in four years…if he let opponent Neal Bourque have the seat unopposed in 2016.
Berthelot went on to assure Lawson that he would also have the backing of Judge Alvin Turner, Jr. and Gonzales Police Chief Sherman Jackson. Matassa even hinted that Lawson might be in line for current District 3 Parish Councilman Travis (Alvin’s son) Turner’s seat in 2019 because he would be taking over his father’s seat on the bench. There is much this group takes for granted.
They also promised to have SaveGonzales, a group of city residents organized to recall two Gonzales councilman in 2014 (and essentially disbanded after Gary Lacombe and Tim Vessel were ousted), behind Lawson in the future; but not on November 8, 2016. Berthelot, who was not a member of SaveGonzales until late in the process, seems to have commandeered SaveGonzales for his own purposes. (That will be among a series of stories in the coming weeks).
3. Matassa and his bagman initially offered $150 ($75 each) to compensate Lawson for the cost of election qualifying; then upped the offer to $1,200 to pay for repairs on a trailer…if Wayne Lawson withdrew his candidacy.
See link below which evidences the more generous bribe offered to Lawson.
4. Matassa offered to have a parish employee make repairs to the same trailer…if he took his name off the ballot.
5. Olin Berthelot offered to hire Wayne Lawson if the parish job somehow didn’t work out…if only he came to his senses and dropped out of the race.
The bagman had the necessary form already prepared and was eager to affix his Notary Public seal to make it official.
Neal Bourque’s unopposed election is so important to Matassa and Berthelot that they (repeatedly) committed a felony? Louisiana R.S. 18: §1461.5. Election offenses involving bribery, threats or intimidation of election officials or candidates; penalties. It reads:
“A. No person shall knowingly, willfully, or intentionally:
(4)(a) Give or offer to give, directly or indirectly, any money or any thing of apparent present or prospective value to a candidate for public office for the purpose of securing the candidate’s withdrawal from an election.”
Violators face up to two years imprisonment.
No wonder they were so insistent that Wayne Lawson keep the events of July 27 a secret. There are several instances where Matassa and Berthelot insist that Neal Bourque knew nothing of their bribery and Pelican Post will publish additional recordings showing same. (There were so many incriminating statements that we could not include even 25%. The difficulty in writing this story was choosing which audio clips to use. Every second will be available in the coming days).
Wayne Lawson needed a job and their offers were tempting; but he needed a friend, someone he could trust even more. This writer was the trusted friend to whom Wayne Lawson turned (and I’ve never been paid a better compliment).
Work has been hard to come by for Lawson recently and he struggles to make ends meet as a barber, truck-driver, and any side work he can pick up. A job with the City of Gonzales didn’t materialize (as you heard in the clip above… Pay particular attention to Matassa’s obvious disdain that Mayor Barney Arceneaux would question an applicant’s “qualifications;” and Olin Berthelot’s regret that he hadn’t applied “political pressure” on the mayor).
Matassa, a five-term Councilman for the City of Gonzales, added this about Mayor Arceneaux:
Kenny on Mayor Arceneaux: “Let’s face the facts; he ain’t got no f***ing nuts!”
The conspiracy to bribe Wayne Lawson out of the Division E election began on Monday, July 25 when Olin Berthelot “blew up” Lawson’s phone with texts and calls over the course of the day. This writer was listening when they finally had the conversation Berthelot sought.
“I got you taken care of, I got you fixed up; but you gotta’ get outta’ the race against Neal,” Olin Berthelot promised Lawson just before 4 pm on July 25, a Monday afternoon. “Can you be at my office Wednesday morning, say 8 o’clock? There will be three of us; me, and you, and the man himself…Parish President Kenny Matassa.”
Lawson agreed to the meet, but had no intention of withdrawing his candidacy.
He was angered by “veiled threats made by Olin,” who dangled the carrot of employment while waving the stick of political retribution if Lawson refused “to join the team.”
“I’ve been on the team and I’m tired of the bench. I am running for the Division E seat no matter what,” he declared moments after the Monday conversation with Berthelot.
“They kept after me, and kept after me until I had no choice but to show the people of Gonzales, the citizens of Ascension Parish who Kenny Matassa and Olin Berthelot really are,” Wayne Lawson proclaimed his intention “to expose their corruption” and asked Pelican Post for help in doing so.
He met Kenny Matassa and Olin Berthelot at the bagman’s office, Bayou Financial in the heart of Gonzales, Wednesday morning. Wayne Lawson strung them along, never once agreeing to sign the paperwork to withdraw from the Division E race which Berthelot had prepared. Lawson is smarter than they are; and they never saw it coming.
Memo to Kenny Matassa: The purpose of a bagman is to make the payoffs so you don’t have to; why have Olin Berthelot around at all if you’re going to offer the bribes yourself?
Wayne Lawson left Bayou Financial without the cash Matassa and his bagman tried to foist on him Wednesday. Neither would he accept the parish job Matassa urged upon him. They called Wayne Lawson several times on Thursday, and again Friday morning, to urge him “to sign the forms,” and his candidacy away.
NOTE: Two conversations between Berthelot and Wayne Lawson were recorded and Pelican Post has made them available separately, a piece titled The Smoking Gun: Olin Berthelot/Wayne Lawson conversations which is on our site now. And yes, the headline title is appropriate given the statements made by Berthelot.
The deadline to withdraw was high noon, Friday, July 29.
Matassa and “the bagman” were both out of town but brought a parish employee (who happens to be a Notary Public) into their criminal conspiracy.
It didn’t work because Wayne Lawson is not for sale. He returned the cash, the unsigned Notice of Withdrawal affidavit, and unsigned Ascension Parish job application within minutes after this photograph was taken. Hear those events at:
And there’s so much more to come. Matassa and his bagman invoked the names of local politicos to intimidate Wayne Lawson; their views on racial politics in the City of Gonzales are sickening to hear; they have commandeered SaveGonzales for their own selfish political objectives; you’ll love what they have to say about this writer; and on and on.
A meeting has been scheduled to turn original recordings over to the appropriate authorities. Pelican Post will pursue this disgraceful, felonious matter to its conclusion.
NOTE: Matassa and Berthelot repeatedly assured Lawson that Neal Bourque had no knowledge of their bribery. Pelican Post contacted Bourque who seemed genuinely shocked that such tactics would have been employed; and disgusted that it happened in his Division E race. We will afford Neal Bourque every opportunity to elaborate should he choose to do so.