Below is Councilman Aaron Lawler’s social media depiction of the January 23 meeting of Ascension’s Parish Council. President Clint Cointment announced two personnel decisions, John Diez as Chief Administrative Officer and Randy Watts to direct the Human Resources Department.
Last night was a mixed bag at the Council.
On the downside, the new administration has rejected hiring best practices for top positions. I and several others on the council pushed the old administration to use best practices as a way to stop political hires, increase transparency and find the best employees for Ascension Parish. Eventually, the old administration did this. To take a step backward is very disappointing and surprising based on the campaign promises. I will continue to urge for hiring best practices.
Additionally, the vote on the sewer plan was rightfully delayed as more negotiations will take place and as the administration seems to be pushing another plan (Ascension Sewer, the administrations first plan and now this one). This plan seems to be a reincarnation of an older plan regarding the Hillaryville sewer plant. Regardless, more discussion in the sewer plan is needed. I moved that the administration take the lead in holding public meetings, which they said they would.
Hiring best practices? We could not find a consensus as to its meaning in our inexhaustive (actually a 10-minute Google) search.
“With the last administration we made a big push that, when we do hire higher level employees, that we go through at least a regional search, preferably a national search,” Lawler declared during the council meeting, claiming it “was big with the public…Was that followed with Mr. Watts?”
We do not recall a single member of the public clamoring for regional/national personnel searches during Kenny Matassa’s presidency (2016-19). It is not the policy of Ascension Parish Government and, when tried, the results were somewhere between disastrous and embarrassing. Lawler’s implication that “the old administration” found “the best employees” by implementing his “hiring best practices” is hypocrisy of the purest strain.
A brief review would seem to be in order.
Much of this hiring best practices talk originated with SSA Consultants’ Efficiency and Effectiveness Study, costing a couple of hundred thousand dollars and delivered nearly a year late (the jokes write themselves). Dr. Christel Slaughter and her SSA team were brought on to assist in the first “national search” which ended up with the hiring of Randy Watts’ predecessor…
in August 2017. Taleta Wesley lasted 13 months and then…
SSA, back in 2017, was paid to assist Wesley in filling two more vacancies (over Recreation and Utilities departments). Slaughter was present (so was Aaron Lawler and Recreation Committee Chairman Travis Turner) during three interviews which resulted in the hiring of BJ Romano as Recreation Director.
No effort was made to identify Ascension’s next Utilities Director because former president Kenny Matassa created a brand new position, Infrastructure Division Director which subsumed the duties of Utilities chief, temporarily. It would be codified by a complicit council several months later. Slaughter and her council cohorts conducted a sham “national search” that lasted all of four days which resulted in the hiring of…
Wesley commenced a “national search” for Ascension’s inaugural Infrastructure Division Director which was scheduled for September 26-29. Pelican Post accurately reported that William Daniel, IV had already been chosen on September 27 and it was officially announced on October 10. SSA Consultants and Dr. Slaughter went along with the farce though working from a different script.
Dr. Slaughter’s reply to a Pelican Post email in 2017:
We did agree to help Ascension with three key hires (there was no HR director in place at the time) – HR, Recreation and originally the Utilities Director which eventually morphed into the Infrastructure Division Director. We have done a significant number of executive searches in both the public and private sectors. Since we had recently done six searches for EBR as they split up the Department of Public Works, we had dozens of fairly current resumes and did talk with some of the top candidates. Candidly, the best one would not apply because the salary was too low.
If my memory serves me, I think William had served on a transition team between the Martinez-Matassa transition and had mentioned to someone that he might be interested in a position in AP. I think Ken Dawson told us that he might want to be considered and I called him myself.
William Daniel did not serve on the Martinez-Matassa transition team. He would though (if one believes his story), seek out Bernhard Capital Partners to jam Ascension Sewer down the collective throat of east bank Ascension citizen rate and tax payers. Daniel enjoyed ample assistance from the former council which scheduled an up/down vote on Ascension Sewer four times.
Even Lawler was forced to concede (see his social media offering above) “the vote on the sewer plan was rightfully delayed (on January 23) as more negotiations will take place.” Then why was an up/down vote on Ascension Sewer’s proposal ever scheduled?
It was Lawler’s December 20 Special Meeting motion to have another vote on January 23. It would be the fourth council meeting in which Ascension Sewer’s proposal was scheduled for a vote:
- November 21, 2019 (agenda item amended to avoid vote due to fierce public criticism)
- December 16 Special Meeting (delayed by the court’s grant of a TRO)
- December 20 Special Meeting (agreement rejected 7-2 only to see Lawler’s motion to reschedule vote for January 23)
- January 23 (referred back to Utilities Committee)
New year, Same old Lawler