OVERVIEW: Cointment appointments up for ratification tonight

CAO appointee, John Diez (file photo)

Ascension’s Home Rule Charter and corresponding ordinances require the quadrennial appointment of nine personnel positions by the parish president, subject to ratification by the council.  President Clint Cointment, by and large, opted for continuity in appointing seven holdovers from his predecessor’s administration though one individual was shifted to a new position.  Unsurprisingly given the level of acrimony between Cointment and certain of the council, two new appointees have been the subject of some controversy.

Cointment’s designated Number 2, his appointment as Chief Administrative Officer, is John Diez who has never held a government job though his familiarity with the halls of power and politics is undisputed.  Diez’ resume’ leads with:

For the past 25 years, John has utilizing data and Key Performance Indicators to drive business decision to align with organizational goals, objectives and initiatives. He has extensive experience working with political and business leaders across the State and Nation in identifying problems, developing solutions and implementing a communication strategy to achieve objectives

Scion to one of Ascension’s most venerable political families, Diez most recently was employed as Volkert Engineering’s Business Development Director.  Before that he was the Political Director and Lobbyist for Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI).  He’s got the necessary political skills required by for the job; for the practical aspects Diez can point to ownership of Magellan Strategies BR where data crunching and analysis was its stock-in-trade.

A late arrival to the Cointment for Parish President campaign standard, Diez and his new boss forged what appears to be a close relationship in a very short time.  There have been some rumblings on the council about his appointment, though.

If ratified Diez would succeed a council darling, Ken Dawson, who was tabbed by President Cointment for Infrastructure Division Director.  Chief among Dawson’s roles, assuming ratification, is seeing regional wastewater treatment to fruition.  He would succeed William Daniel whose two-year tenure began when the council created the position just for him, conducting a sham 4-Day National Search in the attempt to legitimize the charade.

Speaking of national searches, none was performed when Cointment appointed Randy Watts as Human Resources Director, the title he held with distinction for Ascension Parish School Board for the last decade.  That was after a half-decade as the Principal at East Ascension High School which followed a lengthy tenure as EA’s Head Baseball Coach/Physical Education Teacher.  Like Diez and Dawson, Randy Watts’ experience and education check most, if not all the boxes for their respective job qualifications.

NOTE:  Anyone who wants can review each appointee’s resume’ and job descriptions/qualifications in the packet included with tonight’s council agenda.  Visit the parish website, dropbox under “Government” and then to “Meeting Agendas and Minutes.”

Watts’ appointment has been questioned by a certain council member (District 7’s Aaron Lawler) who has criticized the lack of a national search.  Aside from William Daniel’s, the last national search settled on HR Director Taleta Wesley whose tenure ended badly…

Wesley accuses parish president of race/gender discrimination, retaliation in failed appeal

and with multiple lawsuits.

The remainder of Cointment’s appointees are all holdovers from the last administration:

  • Parish Secretary-Cinnamon McKey
  • CFO/Treasurer-Gwen LeBlanc
  • Public Works Director-Ron Savoy
  • Planning Director-Jerome Fournier
  • Utilities Director-Gavin Fleming
  • Lamar Dixon GM-Kyle Rogers

None have resulted in much controversy, none that we’re hearing anyway.  Multiple of the appointees lack educational specifications for the respective position, though abundant experience and convivial relations with the council is likely to overcome any misgivings.

CFO Gwen LeBlanc’s tenure with Ascension Parish Government goes back to 1973.  She has spent the last two decades in the position after five years as former president, Tommy Martinez’ CAO (according to her resume’).

Public Works Director Ron Savoy has risen through the ranks for two decades and has shown himself capable in an interim capacity.  Following long-time DPW/Drainage Director Bill Roux, Savoy was a real improvement in day-to-day operations and communicating with all concerned.  How much involvement will he have if/when multiple major drainage capital improvements are undertaken is unknown, and something President Cointment will have to decide (assuming ratification, of course).

Parish Secretary Cinnamon McKey is a veritable wonder worker dealing with a dozen or more sometimes petulant personalities at any given time.  We cannot envision anyone having it out for Ms. McKey.

Planning Director Jerome Fournier seems a competent administrator, though severely hamstrung taking orders from the disgrace of a parish president who hired him in June 2016.  He has not been a mover or a shaker when it comes to affecting policy in the Planning Department, especially when compared to his predecessor: the inimitable Ricky Compton.

Kyle Rogers took over operations at Lamar Dixon Expo Center in 2016.  Garnering heaps of praise and no discernible criticism, his ratification seems a formality.

Gavin Fleming was the last of former president, Kenny Matassa’s ratifiable hires, coming on board as Utilities Director in August 2019.  Scofflaw that he is, Matassa never bothered to place Fleming’s name before the council for ratification even though a 2018 ordinance requires it within 120 days.  With William Daniel sucking the oxygen out of every room while leading the cheers for parish-wide sewer, it has been impossible to assess Fleming’s job performance.

NOTE:  If you’re counting days for all appointees, Governor John Bel Edwards’ COVID-19 Emergency Declaration stopped the clock from tolling.