Ascension Sewer: Why the rush (and who’s pushing it)

A gleeful Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee getting his way after years on the outside.

A cursory review of the latest draft of the proposed contract between Ascension Sewer, LLC and the parish reveals numerous changes to the Construction and Operating Cooperative Endeavor Agreement (“the Agreement”) since the Parish Council Utilities Committee last met.  That is a good thing since the first draft was so one-sided in favor of Ascension Sewer that the parish’s continued solvency relied upon the generosity of Bernhard Capital Partners, the money behind (and decision maker for) Ascension Sewer.  The Agreement can still be improved from the parish’s perspective.

Unfortunately, there is a faction on the Parish Council “heck-bent” on having an “up or down vote” before year’s end even as a six-member majority will not make it to January 2020, five having lost reelection bids and Councilman Randy Clouatre opting for voluntary retirement.  Utilities Committee Chairman, Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee (one of the five members voted out of office on October 12) has been less than forthcoming about those contractual provisions so important to the long-term financial well-being of his adopted parish.

It is Satterlee who, at November 12’s committee meeting, declared his “heck-bented(ness)” to bring the Agreement to a council vote as part of some vow he made to Clouatre.  Why is Clouatre so adamant about getting the opportunity to vote (the St. Amant representative did not seek reelection and he has already declared his intention to approve the Agreement)?

Most disturbingly, Satterlee and Clouatre are perfectly willing to rig the process along with Infrastructure Division Director William Daniel (and, possibly, others).  The only member publicly urging caution and patience is another lame-duck, Councilman Bill Dawson, whose November 12 motion conditioned consideration of the Agreement by the full council on five points.  Amended by Chairman Satterlee, the motion was approved 4-1 with Dawson the lone negative vote.  (Satterlee was joined in the majority by Council Chair Teri Casso, Aaron Lawler, and Oliver Joseph).

It’s final iteration:

Send agreement to the full council with additional language to protect against overruns within the cost of design and construction projects that are proposed; including if costs are below budget, such costs would be invested back into the system.  To include:  (a) a timeline; (b) a schedule of construction and operation; and (c) identification of package plant/treatment plants to be connected to the system.

  • Have a 3rd-party, possibly Ernst & Young, prepare a rate-generating model that is done according to a specification agreed to by both parties;
  • Include language in the C & O agreement specifically outlining how rates will be adjusted or set in accordance with rate-generating model.  Rates to increase (if costs increase) or decrease (if costs decrease);
  • Address Ernst & Young’s recommendations regarding transparency, require annual or quarterly reports by amending the C & O agreement; and
  • After all of the above is completed, send modified C & O agreement, and rate-generating model back to Ernst & Young for review; then for public comment, then to the Utilities Committee.

Fast forward nine days and the full council took up the issue even as numerous of those conditions had not come to pass.  The “rate-generating model” had yet to be produced, neither had a timeline or schedule of construction been added to the Agreement with treatment plants identified.  There was no model for Ernst & Young to review, so no public comment or Utilities Committee consideration could occur.  Even so, the initially noticed agenda called for that “up or down vote” until Chairwoman Casso amended the pertinent item to call for “discussion only.”

When the fifth and final item was brought up…

the approved motion’s language mandating “public comment; and then to the Utilities Committee” was gone, with “the November 21, 2019 Council meeting” substituted.  Councilman Dawson demanded to know why, insisting “that’s not what the motion said.  The motion was that it would be heard and then it would go back to the Utilities Committee.”

William Daniel orchestrates another subterfuge.

Ascension Sewer’s cheerleader-in-chief, Infrastructure Division Director William Daniel’s tortured explanation should give every tax and rate paying citizen pause and alarm (if not their elected representatives).

“That was the motion that the Secretary of Utilities thought was the motion,” Daniel (William, not Satterlee) told an outright lie as he threw the Utilities’s secretary under the bus.  “Uh, y’all changed that, uh, since then?”

Councilman Dawson assured Daniel (William, not Satterlee) that nothing had been changed, producing a written copy of the motion which he had provided every Utilities Committee member on November 12.  Which led to the following discourse.

William Daniel (WD):  Well, Councilman, there was a disagreement on what…

Bill Dawson (BD): Well, did they go back to the tape?  Because I have a transcript of the tape.

WD:  We’re not arguing.  We’re not arguing that it wasn’t the motion.  But, that was the motion we gave them (Breazeale Sachse & Wilson).  We’re not arguing with your interpretation of the motion.  We’re just, I’m saying that’s the motion that the secretary sent…and that’s what we sent to them (BSW).  And, I guess, the last day or so it got corrected so, but that’s what they (BSW) were working off.

BD:  It got corrected?  What do you mean, ‘it got corrected?”

WD:  Well, it was initially on the council agenda for consideration.  And then it got changed to discussion.

BD:  That wasn’t in the motion.  I don’t know what the solution is but that’s an incorrect representation of the motion.

Enter Daniel (Satterlee, not William).

Daniel Satterlee (DS):  I, respectfully, disagree with my colleague and fellow Utilities Committee member, Councilman Dawson.  As the Chairman, if you look at the 2-hour and 57-minute mark…of the YouTube video you will clearly see, before the Ole’ Chicken Doctor slapped the gavel down, I turned to my left to recognize chairwoman of the full council, Chairwoman Casso, making the comment; ‘so this is going as a recommendation to the full council at their meeting next Thursday.  At which time I auto correct myself because there was a Thursday in between, and said ‘the next one after that Thursday.

And that occurred before I slapped the gavel down.

BD:  I had a written motion…That’s what the committee voted on.  The chairman can’t change that.

DS:  (Dawson) should’ve objected.  Look at 2:57:00.

NOTE:  Check out Pelican Post’s Facebook page for excerpts of the November 12 Utilities Committee proceeding.

Daniel (Satterlee, not William) reiterated that his post-vote explanation trumped the actual motion voted upon and approved by himself, Teri Casso, Oliver Joseph, and Aaron Lawler.  Bill Dawson argued that consideration by the full council, while envisioned, would only happen after coming back to Utilities.  Casso is well aware of the battle, and the depths to which certain of her membership sank (threats and expletives aimed at parish personnel by her colleagues), to rig the November 21 council agenda.

We challenge Chairwoman Casso to rein in these council excesses, recognizing that she will never speak publicly.

Strangely enough, Daniel (Satterlee, not William) failed to invoke Roberts Rules of Order, something he’s done on countless other occasions on the wrong side of innumerable votes.

Roberts Rules-Motions.  Section 9.  Putting the Question and Announcing the Vote.

“In putting the question the chair should make perfectly clear what the question is that the assembly is to decide… The vote should always be announced, as it is a necessary part of putting the question. The assembly is assumed not to know the result of the vote until announced by the chair, and the vote does not go into effect until announced. As soon as the result of the vote is announced the chair should state the next business in order.”

Prior to the November 12 vote Chairman Satterlee claimed his amendment to Dawson’s motion only changed “the first two sentences of No. 1,” with the remainder “intact.”  Only after announcing the vote did Satterlee mention that any item would be forwarded to the November 21 council meeting, whether or not the motions five conditions were fulfilled.

Since last Thursday, November 21’s council meeting the question of Casso calling a Special Meeting has dominated discussions.  Parish President-Elect Clint Cointment has urged that he be included in any ongoing negotiations with Ascension Sewer, LLC.  Why any current council member resists Cointment’s overtures should tell their respective constituents all there is need of knowing.