Nine positions subject to council approval, eight ratified without a single dissenting vote, and a glaring omission. Ascension’s Parish Council signed off on every one of President Clint Cointment’s appointees except for the Director of the Utilities Department, Gavin Fleming whose name did not come up for vote on Thursday. According to a high-ranking member of the Cointment administration discussions with “council leadership” could result in a replacement for Fleming.
Before those appointments were taken up, (soon to be official) Chief Administrative Officer John Diez presented the administration’s proposed Organizational Chart during the “President’s Report” portion of the program. Including several recommendations by SSA Consultants dating back to the moribund Kenny Matassa administration, implementation of technology/data-driven performance metrics with clearly defined chains of command were depicted by Diez’ slide show. It also recommended additional departments with corresponding department heads subject to ratification; Transportation and Facilities Management most prominently.
Openly seeking council participation, a far cry from the last administration loathe to conduct its business in public, it will be interesting to see how this attempted leap into the 21st Century proceeds.
Chairwoman Teri Casso was a vocal supporter of SSA’s work product in 2017-18 when she chaired the Council Finance Committee. Among the sweeping changes proposed by SSA was an Org Chart suggested for codification in the form of an ordinance. The vote was 5-4 in favor of SSA’s proposal on February 15, 2018 spurring Matassa to promise an unnecessary veto since it takes six votes (a majority of the full council) to enact an ordinance.
Only Casso and Councilman Aaron Lawler remain from that five-vote pseudo-majority, three others having been ousted by voters on October 12, 2019. The same goes for the minority with Councilmen Dempsey Lambert and John Cagnolatti the survivors. Two members were absent that evening, only one of whom (Travis Turner) was reelected.
Another SSA recommendation; the hiring of qualified department heads, especially over Utilities as the parish operates water plants on the west bank and prepares to tackle sanitary sewer on a grand scale east of the Mississippi. Gavin Fleming may not be the guy.
What about the other appointees?
- Chief Administrative Officer John Diez
- Chief Financial Officer/Treasure Gwen LeBlanc
- Infrastructure Director Ken Dawson
- Human Resources Director Randy Watts
- Planning Director Jerome Fournier
- Public Works Director Ron Savoy
- Lamar Dixon General Manager Kyle Rogers
- Parish Council Secretary Cinnamon McKey
Nary a harsh word was spoken about any of them, though Councilman Lawler would point out that Ron Savoy lacked certain of the codified qualifications to be the Public Works Director, necessitating a super-majority (eight votes instead of the normal six).
“I can think of no one better,” President Cointment came to Savoy’s defense. “His actions and performance speak for themselves.”
Lawler would also express his preference for an expanded search when a candidate lacks certain of those qualifications. Why he did not bring up the argument when the CFO/Treasurer appointment was considered is a mystery since certain of the qualifications are not satisfied by that appointee.
Leave it to Councilman Corey Orgeron to confuse the issue with erroneous information. He proposed a potential delay, while lauding Savoy:
“You have 120 days, right now, from the date that you take office until the date the names have to be submitted. So that gives us enough time to move forward with that.”
In keeping with his brief tenure in office, dead wrong.
Ordinance 2-11, Ratification of Positions reads in its entirety:
(1) An interim appointment is an appointment made by the president to a position requiring ratification. Interim appointments will expire if they have not been ratified, as required by Charter and ordinances, as of the one hundred and twentieth (120th) day following interim appointment. No reappointment of the same individual shall then be made for the same position.
(2) Evaluation of temporary appointment. The president shall submit an evaluation of the interim appointment prior to ratification.
(1) Positions subject to ratification shall be in accordance with section 3-03(B) of the Ascension Parish Charter and the Code of Ordinances and shall include any position, except the parish president, that has a ratified employee reporting to that position.
(2) When a new administration takes office or an existing administration is re-elected from the four-year election cycle, all positions subject to ratification shall be considered filled by current personnel as interim appointments.
(3) The president may replace current personnel at any time with interim appointments.
(4) In case of a vacancy in a ratified position, the president may submit a interim appointment for ratification.
(5) If a candidate for ratification fails to obtain the necessary votes for ratification, then the candidate can no longer hold the position for which he/she was appointed and the position shall be declared vacant.
How this buffoon was tabbed to chair the Council Utilities Committee is a question that only Chairwoman Casso can answer.