Defendant asserts Matassa not entitled to reimbursement; not engaged in official duties

Matassa and his criminal defense attorney (file photo)

Sued by Ascension Parish Government (APG) and Kenny Matassa personally, Harry Robert Insurance Agency (Robert) has answered.  Robert, the agent who brokered the insurance agreement, was accused of failing to alert APG and Matassa to the existence of coverage to pay Matassa’s legal fees to defend felony bribery charges in 2017-18; and added as party-defendant to the Breach of Contract suit against Berkley Insurance Company.

Berkley has yet to respond in the APG/Matassa suit filed on June 19.  Its defenses will probably mirror those asserted by Robert who…

“Denies that Matassa was acting solely in the performance of his official duties as Parish President…Between July 27, 2016 and July 29, 2016, while Matassa was acting in his personal and individual capacity as a private citizen and was not acting in his official capacity or carrying out any duties as Ascension Parish President…

July 27, 2016

Matassa offered, procured and/or delivered $1,200.00 in cash to (Wayne) Lawson as a donation or gift, or as a loan to a friend, or as an act of generosity, or for another purpose; Matassa offered to help Lawson out as a friend who had fallen on hard times; Matassa met with Lawson because Matassa’s moral code is to share whatever blessings he has with others…

Matassa offered Lawson a job at that time, or offered to get a job for Lawson, or offered to help Lawson get a job in the future; Matassa suggested, recommended or requested to Lawson that he withdraw from an election contest for public office; and, Matassa furnished or facilitated providing Lawson with a withdrawal form for Lawson to sign and use to exit or withdraw from an electoral contest.”

Robert forgot about Matassa directing a parish employee to repair Lawson’s food trailer.

Matassa was indicted “in his individual and personal capacity as a private citizen (and) hired the Unglesby Law Firm in his individual capacity and not as the Parish President.”  Thus, Robert argues, the operative insurance policy does not provide coverage of those fees incurred to Unglesby.

According to Robert the policy only covers “insured” which does not include anyone NOT acting within the scope of their duties.  The policy Exclusions Section “does not apply to damages or claims expenses for any claim brought by, on behalf of, or in the right of any insured.”  Meaning that coverage is limited to cases when an outside third-party sues a named insured, not when such insured sues itself like Matassa and APG are doing here.

That is Robert’s argument, part of it anyway.

Louisiana law also bars Matassa’s recovery it contends.  Article VII, Section 14(A) of the State Constitution:

“(P)rohibits APG from funding and prosecuting this lawsuit for the benefit of Matassa, to assist with or facilitate Matassa’s recovery of any fees with or incurred to defend the prosecution initiated against him (because) the criminal proceeding did not arise out of the performance of Matassa’s official functions or duties as the Ascension Parish President.”

Robert goes on to invoke Louisiana Revised Statute 42:11, because “Matassa is a ‘public servant’ (and) no public servant shall receive anything of economic value, other than compensation and benefits from the governmental entity to which he is duly entitled.”