Council tilted, Satterlee escorted out

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
Tony Matassa returns to his seat after speaking on behalf of his father at the March 16, 2017 Ascension Parish Council meeting.

The Parish Council met for a regular meeting on Thursday March 16. The final item was a vote of confidence in the ability of President Matassa to uphold the duties of Parish President and to request his immediate resignation.

Council Chairman Bill Dawson read from the resolution before the vote was passed.

"While this does not in itself constitute a conviction, it does affect his ability to perform his duty as Parish President and reflects negatively on the entire parish," Dawson said.

The meeting was standing-room only. The council ultimately voted 6-4 in favor of the resolution. Councilmen Travis Turner, Dempsey Lambert, Oliver Joseph and Todd Lambert voted in opposition to the resolution. Councilman Benny Johnson was the only member absent.

But first, the council heard public comments before voting. A tiny drama unfolded. Matassa left the room for this portion of the meeting.

During this time thoughts were heard by people on both sides of the coin, including pleas by two sons of Matassa, as well as Mrs. Matassa. The issue, which became primarily an emotional discussion, was that Matassa works very hard for the parish. His wife even exclaimed that he does not get paid enough for his job.

That may be true, but recently Matassa, along with Olin Berthelot, was indicted by a grand jury for bribery. It is seemingly a simple matter of corruption for those in favor of Matassa's resignation. Notably, Councilman Daniel "Doc" Satterlee was escorted out of the meeting with police force after adjournment, claiming threats were made on his life.

Before all this occurred, things went more like a typical meeting. For instance, President Matassa took photos with Alsie Dunbar, of Gonzales, and Tanya Whitney, of Sorrento, acknowledging their Esprit de Femme Award from LSU.

“I am very proud to recognize these two outstanding citizens of Ascension Parish,” Matassa said.

Matassa and the council also honored the Boys Scouts, the Toast Masters, the American Cancer Society's "Paint the Parish Purple," and even proclaimed March as Flood Awareness Month.

Moreover, the council may have begun heating up before the final vote on Matassa. The appointments to planning and zoning appeared to stir up Councilman Aaron Lawler and Satterlee. They were repeatedly opposed by most of the council for their choices.

All of that said, the following morning it was business as usual for Matassa, who was vying for Ascension flood recovery funds at the Restore Louisiana Task Force meeting at Lamar Dixon.