10% of Ascension employees paid more than parish law allows (and there’s more of them)

Kenny Matassa with District 10 Councilman John Cagnolatti (file photo)

On March 27, pursuant to a records request, Ascension Parish produced an Employee Master Roster listing 743 names, which would be an 82% increase during President Kenny Matassa’s tenure if the list were accurate.  Excluding 228 “Sports Officials” at $5954 per, that leaves 515 total employees; still an outrageous increase in manpower of 28% under Matassa’s reign with many more hires coming before he exits the political stage.  And 9.7% of those employees are paid more than Ascension’s law allows.

On January 4, 2018 a unanimous Parish Council adopted a “Title and Pay Plan” which went into effect on August 30, 2018.  The document establishes official titles (though Matassa’s administration cannot seem to provide actual “Job Descriptions”), each with Salary Ranges corresponding to Labor Grades.  For instance, the title “Parish President” comes with a Labor Grade of “138” with a salary range between (Annual Minimum) $127,456.13 and (Annual Maximum) $179,667.08.

President Matassa falls comfortably in the middle “earning” $148,000 per year; still necessitating the high-end can shake…

We digress.

50 employees, including Matassa’s inner circle, are paid in excess of Annual Maximum salaries for applicable job titles.  Inheriting a $17.5 million payroll, Matassa hires and raises boosted the number to $21,988,358 as of March 27.  Even considering Ascension takes in a little over $100 million of annual revenue it is “a recipe for disaster” according to one Parish Council candidate.

“Factoring in retirement obligations and insurance, committing over 20% of revenue to salary is an unsustainable model,” assessed District 10 hopeful Jeff Pettit who spent nearly four decades in retail sales management.

“Has the Parish Council ceded all fiscal oversight to this administration?  If we are serious about the future of our children and grandchildren we’ve got to rein in spending because boom times never last,” Pettit reserved particular criticism for the District 10 incumbent who chairs the Council’s Personnel Committee.

Noteworthy among the recipients of pay in excess of the Maximum Annual salary are…

Vote-counting is the only qualification needed to advance in Matassa’s administration

Thomas “Moose” Pearce and Don Hysell have enjoyed lengthy tenures on the parish payroll.  Initially hired by the current administration as  “General Managers” before the position was abolished, Pearce and Hysell were converted to “Executive Assistant to the Parish President” after August 30, 2018.  The Labor Grade for the position is 124, the salary range between $64,374 and $90,744.

Pearce “earns” $104,977 as of March 27; Hysell comes in at a relatively paltry $93,641.

How Matassa justifies Pearce’s salary, $14,233 over the max, is anyone’s guess.  Pearce was employed by former parish president Tommy Martinez as “Chief Executive Assistant to the Parish President” for $77,022.

Hysell did a stint as Personnel Director after the Taleta Wesley debacle when he made $107,640, but the Council never ratified him.  So, Hysell must content himself with pay in excess of the max by “only” $2,897.  We still challenge anyone to explain what Hysell does on a daily basis.

Then there’s…

Parish President’s brother pockets $15,000 raise

David Matassa whose salary as Mosquito Control Director, $92,372, exceeds the maximum allowed ($90,744) by a meager $1,628.  The presidential brother shouldn’t feel too bad since he got a $15,000 bump in 2017.  Since then the first brother has only gotten Cost of Living raises, barely enough to boost him over the Mosquito Control Director maximum.  Matassa’s pal Michael LeBlanc also makes a few thousand dollars over the limit as Animal Control Director.

Cheryl Kinchen, the former HR Director who was not going to be ratified by the Council in mid-2017, was stashed in the position of “Project Manager, Professional” (PMP for short).  Another staunch campaign supporter, Kinchen’s $101,192 salary exceeds the maximum ($90,744) by $10,448.

Lester Kenyon used to be Matassa’s “Public Information Officer” before egregiously misstating the number of households damaged by the August 2016 Flood.  That’s when Kenyon became a “Video Production Specialist” which comes with a Labor Grade of 116 and a max salary of $61,419.  Kenyon’s loyalty outweighed his boner which did not merit termination; and did not prevent his cap-shattering salary of $68,806.  That is $7,387 in excess of the codified maximum for the position.

“I’m astounded by these numbers,” said Michael Mason, declared candidate for Parish Council District 11.  “It’s a lot to wrap your head around.”

“Should I have the honor of serving as District 11’s councilman I promise to assess where every dollar is being spent, and inform every citizen who wants to know,” he assured.  “Complete and utter transparency…so we stop making the same fiscal missteps over, and over, and over again.”

Matassa’s largesse is not reserved to political hacks who helped him count votes in 2015.  William Daniel, hired after a sham (4-day long) National Search, is the parish Infrastructure Division Director with a Labor Grade of 133.  That lofty grade is reserved for a select few positions, Chief Administrative/Financial Officers being two.  The corresponding salary range is $99,865 to $140,773.

William Daniel came on board in October 2017 with a starting salary of $134,992.  Before that year was out he had received a raise to $139,048 before receiving another boost earlier this year to $141,835, a comparatively miniscule number which shoved him $1,062 over the maximum for his position.

HONORABLE MENTION:  Chief Administrative Officer Ken Dawson’s salary falls within the applicable range.  But he did receive a $17,077 raise this year.

Then there’s the case of Mike Enlow, a big fan and supporter of Chris Loar, thought to be heir to the throne after Tommy Martinez decided not to run in 2015,  Initially, Matassa relegated Enlow to the purgatory of Stormwater Management in what seemed a move to “counsel out” the Loar acolyte.  But Enlow played ball and received $14,935 raise since the end of 2017.

His title, “Assistant Director, Public Works” comes with a 122-Labor Grade and corresponding salary range of $58,389 to $82,307.  Enlow’s current salary, assuming he hasn’t gotten another raise since March 27, is $95,035.

Lifers in the parish’s employ, dutiful employees who do the administration’s bidding no matter how distasteful, also reap the benefits.  Lance Brock used to be titled, “Zoning Officer” until the overhaul.  Rising through the ranks, Brock earned steady increases until, as “Assistant Director, Planning and Development” he makes $88,441.  By no means an atrocity, but the title comes with a Labor Grade of 121 and a maximum salary of $78,388.

That $10,053 anomaly pales in comparison to the case of one HVAC Technician whose salary exceeds the statutory maximum ($50,529) by 47%.  Formerly designated “Supervisor, Jail” that air condition man enjoys a salary of $74,505.

“Maybe he deserves the salary…maybe they all do,” District 5 candidate Brandon Golson responded.  “But I’d sure like to see some actual analysis performed to justify these salaries when we are paying an outside contractor $2,250,000 to clean and clear our roadside ditches.  It’s hard to fathom when we allow an unsafe parish road, like Devall Road, to pose a constant danger to the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens every day.”

According to the District 5 candidate Devall Road is “a main outlet for Keystone Subdivision that’s so narrow two cars can’t pass without taking their lives in their hands.”  Reflector paint and road-striping of Devall Road is high on his list of things to accomplish.

President Kenny Matassa and his council cronies are leaving quite a mess to clean up.