Piazza adviser files lawsuit to disqualify Watson in Baton Rouge mayor’s race

    A consultant with ties to mayoral hopeful Jordan Piazza has filed a lawsuit seeking to disqualify fellow mayoral candidate Matt Watson from the crowded field of candidates.

    In a petition filed earlier today in 19th Judicial District Court, Adam Hensgens alleges that Watson, a Metro Council member, violated both the code of governmental ethics and state campaign finance laws by failing to disclose that at the time he qualified for the mayor’s race on July 24 he had several outstanding fines from the Louisiana Ethics Administration.

    According to the lawsuit, Watson had two fines totaling $3,200 for failing to file his 2017 and 2018 personal financial disclosure statements in a timely manner.

    Additionally, he had two fines totaling $2,960 for late filings on his 2016 campaign finance reports.

    Both fines were still posted on the ethics administration website as recently as Monday.

    “At the time Matthew Jacob Watson qualified for office, he did not meet the qualifications for the office of mayor-president, Metro Council, City of Baton Rouge …,” the lawsuit reads.

    Watson, while acknowledging he was late paying the fees and filing the requisite reports and disclosure documents, however, says he paid his fines and filed the financial statements on the morning of July 24, shortly before qualifying early that afternoon. On July 21, he filed the late campaign finance reports.

    Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen, who has not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on the allegations, confirms Watson has settled all his obligations with her agency. She says the website was not updated until late yesterday, so it did not immediately reflect that he had paid his fines.

    “We would not object to his candidacy,” she says. “He came to our office. He paid his late fees. He qualified later that day.”

    Hensgens says his lawsuit was not politically motivated, even though he is advising Piazza’s campaign, and that he continues to have questions about why Watson failed to file the required reports and documents, even as he served on the Metro Council.

    “I am not doing this on behalf of Jordan,” Hensgens says. “I am looking at all the candidates and I am curious why this man didn’t file an annual report or any financial report since 2017, until now. He has had signs out since May but he didn’t file a 180-day campaign finance report. Something is not adding up.”

    Watson says he recently fired a former staffer, whom he had hired to file his paperwork and finance reports.

    “I trusted this person to handle this for me and this was part of their duties,” he says. “They no longer work for me.”

    Watson and Piazza, both Republicans, are two of seven candidates challenging Mayor Sharon Weston Broome in the November primary election. Other hopefuls include: Steve Carter, E. Eric Guirard, C. Denise Marcelle,  Frank Smith III, and Tara Wicker.

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