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Councilman Matt Watson at the Jan. 23, 2019, Metro Council meeting.

A pair of lawsuits seeking to disqualify Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Matt Watson from the race for mayor-president were dropped Thursday morning after the Ethics Administration confirmed the candidate was in good standing when he qualified for November’s election.

The petitions, both filed in the 19th Judicial District Court on Monday, claimed Watson falsely certified he did not owe any outstanding fines and fees for campaign finance and government ethics violations when he filed his notice of candidacy on July 24.

The first lawsuit was filed by M.E. Cormier, executive director of Better Together/One Baton Rouge, an anti-St. George group. She filed the suit personally, not on behalf of the organization.

The second lawsuit was filed by Adam Hensgens, a political consultant for mayoral candidate Jordan Piazza. It included the same language as the first, as well as additional allegations.

Watson, one of seven candidates challenging incumbent Sharon Weston Broome, called the petitions baseless and said ample public information proves that.

“This is another ridiculous accusation where they didn’t do their research before they filed their petition,” Watson said. “I’m wondering what they’ll come up with next.”

The lawsuits both claimed that Watson, at the time of qualifying, owed $3,200 for filing a 2017 personal financial disclosure nearly two years late and $2,960 for a delay in filing a supplemental campaign finance report for the November 2016 election.

But Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen said Tuesday that Watson was in good standing and had paid nearly $7,000 to resolve any remaining fines on Friday morning — before he officially entered the race for mayor-president.

The Hensgens lawsuit included screenshots of the Ethics Administration website showing the fines had yet to be paid as of Monday; Allen said the website takes time to update and shouldn't be used as an official record of outstanding fees.

"I'm sorry that the state ethics computer didn't update fast enough for Mr. Hensgens," Watson said Thursday, adding that he hopes Piazza gets a refund from his consultant for funding the failed lawsuit.

Piazza said Thursday he didn’t pay for the lawsuit, but, regardless, the public deserved to know that it took Watson more than 600 days to file financial disclosures with the state.

“How’s he going to run our city if he can’t run his own life?” Piazza said.


Email Blake Paterson at bpaterson@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter @blakepater