The next important piece of parish council business is Chairwoman Teri Casso’s assignments to six Standing Committees, including appointment of respective chair/vice-chair to preside over same. Those committees, with 2019 chairs (and in order of perceived importance by the Editor given the current state of Ascension Parish), are:
- Utilities (Daniel “Doc” Satterlee)
- Finance (Bill Dawson)
- Transportation (Aaron Lawler)
- Personnel (John Cagnolatti)
- Recreation (Travis Turner)
- Strategic Planning (Oliver Joseph)
NOTE: East Ascension Consolidated Gravity Drainage District, along with its west bank counterpart, are free-standing boards comprised of council members whose districts lie on either side of the Mississippi River. Those autonomous bodies elect leadership each year, existing outside the purview of any Council chair. We will consider each committee in the coming days.
Given that three committee chairs were voted out of office in October 2019, there will be a shakeup whether Casso retains existing leadership or not. Configuration of Utilities is, given that a controversial agreement with Ascension Sewer, LLC looms…
the most consequential decision Chairwoman Casso has to make. The importance is not only in appointing leadership, but deciding which five council members will make up the committee.
Appointing the Ole’ Chicken Doctor in 2019, Casso will be hard pressed to find a colleague as “in the bag” for Bernhard Capital Partners (the power behind Ascension Sewer) as former Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee. “Doc’s Army” having gone AWOL on Election Day, who is the next chair of Utilities?
Satterlee’s “sewer at all costs” stance was irresponsible. Ramrodding the complex agreement through Utilities, without meaningful engagement much less solicitation of public opinion, was a betrayal of the transparency and adherence to “the peoples’ will” he claimed to hold sacred for seven years. Vanity satiated, his fragile ego inflated by Bernhard/Daniel/Casso/etc., Satterlee became a cheerleader slobbering adulation all over Tom Pertuit of Ascension Wastewater Treatment (the other key to Ascension Sewer), Bernhard, Daniel…he even started playing nice with the outgoing parish president.
So much for principles. Where is Chairwoman Casso going to find that level of shameless sycophancy?
The chairwoman has demonstrated little, in fact zero, willingness to engage Bernhard in actual bargaining. Former Infrastructure Division Director William Daniel headed up nominal negotiations in a subterfuge befitting the chief executive who hired him. Daniel and Kenny Matassa are both gone, addition by subtraction if ever there was.
Daniel, according to multiple (one, a former member) council sources, directed the activities of Breazeale Sachse & Wilson. BSW was/is the law firm supposedly representing the parish’s interests along with financial analysts, Ernst & Young. Those professional services have cost taxpayers $675,000 to date with dubious value in return.
William Daniel was let go by the new parish president, Clint Cointment, who attempted to extract beneficial concessions from Bernhard until Casso pulled the plug. Casso’s insistence that a lame-duck council be afforded the opportunity to approve the Ascension Sewer deal should have, in our opinion, excluded her continuation as the chair. The proposed agreement leaves much to desire if you happen to be a future rate payer of Ascension Sewer’s (or a taxpayer without vested interest in its financial success).
A December 20 (2019) Special Meeting of the Council was called (we’ve been told it was done at Matassa’s urging) to approve/deny the agreement. A 7-2 vote to deny was followed by an identical 7-2 tally that scheduled another vote for January 23. It was conditioned upon “at least one” public meeting being held to educate parish residents on the deal.
No such public meeting has been scheduled, at least not publicly noticed, yet.
Wherever it goes from here, the Utilities Committee will have a key role in the future of Ascension Sewer. Here’s hoping Chairwoman Casso gets this one right.