Clint Cointment was sworn into Ascension’s parish presidency on January 6, inheriting a bloated annual payroll created by his predecessor with 542 employees listed on the master roster (provided in response to a mid-December 2019 records request). Kenny Matassa (2016-19) added approximately 150 names to that roster he inherited from Tommy Martinez, actually reducing the workforce by six names from the 548-employee list produced last September. Seven weeks into the current administration and the most recent Employee Master List includes 522 names.
More importantly, in our estimation, is the annual cost savings from the force reduction attributable to an indeterminate number of terminations, combined with natural attrition. 32 names appearing on the December 2019 roster, with an aggregate salary of $2,009,701, do not appear on the February roster. Thus, those individuals no longer employed by Ascension Parish enjoyed an average salary of $62,803 (compared to December’s overall salary average in the low $40,000 range).
17 new names appear on the most recent roster, with an aggregate salary of $987,218 (a $58,072 average salary) which indicates that recently emptied positions are being filled by lower-salaried employees in upper level positions.
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 could not provide actual “Job Descriptions”), each with Salary Ranges corresponding to Labor Grades. Hopefully, the Cointment administration can get that done in a timely fashion.
In December we first published an article focused on Matassa and 25 of his top lieutenants. It concluded that an even dozen were remunerated in excess of the salary allowed for corresponding job titles.
Among the 2020 terminations were five individuals who fit that bill.
- Infrastructure Division Director William Daniel ($144,672 salary)
- Executive Assistant to the Parish President Thomas “Moose” Pearce ($107,077)
- Mosquito Control Director David Matassa ($94,220)
- Professional Project Engineer Cheryl Kinchen ($103,216)
- Executive Administrator Kemlyn Bailey Lomas ($86,476)
The last two on the list have appealed there terminations, with Lomas’ scheduled for hearing at tonight’s Parish Council meeting (one of four appeals on the agenda). According to Ascension’s Home Rule Charter, Section 5-04.C.(2), the termination “shall be final unless overruled by a two-thirds (⅔) vote of the governing authority members present at the vote of the employee’s appeal.”
Fraught with controversy since Lomas’ position entailed an awfully close working relationship with then President Matassa; will the council refuse to allow Cointment to choose his inner circle? Louisiana, as we heard ad nauseum during employee appeals of Matassa terminations, is an “at-will” employment state where no reason for termination is necessary. Compounding the potential chaos, Cointment already filled the position at a $16,576 salary savings.
Kinchen also appealed. The vacancy was not filled and, given the fact that no one can identify an actual project the $103,216/year PMP managed, why would it be? The same goes for the former presidential brother/Mosquito Control Director. That’s another $197,436 of taxpayer money saved (assuming the legislative branch does not overrule the chief executive).
Everyone else on the list has been replaced and, in every instance, at a salary savings. And there are others.
- A second Executive Assistant to the Parish President, Don Hysell ($95,514) succumbed to a lengthy illness (his replacement’s salary is $79,000).
- Formerly the Director of Human Resources, Wanda Guillera ($99,991) was demoted with corresponding salary reduction (her replacement’s salary is $95,000).
- Formerly the Chief Administrative Officer, Ken Dawson (new salary of $120,00) was shifted to head up the Infrastructure Division in place of William Daniel. That’s a $24,672 savings.
- Dawson’s successor as CAO, John Diez’ salary ($130,000) is another $10,025 savings.
Don’t forget the parish president whose salary ($165,870) is $9,586 less than Kenny Matassa’s, retroactive to August 2018 (if that’s not a crime it should be). All told, eight high-level positions are taking home $101,541 (collectively) less than their predecessors.