Received by non-participating council members on or about August 2, President Clint Cointment’s administration countered the Council-proposed Intergovernmental Agreement between East Ascension Drainage District and the parish a few days later. On their respective faces the competing versions have much in common, but there is one glaring divergence. The Council draft contemplates an heretofore unmentioned Chief Operating Officer (COO), while designating the Parish President as Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
What’s in a name?
What matters is the assignment of powers and authority corresponding to the respective titles. There are none manifest with the COO title. Which begs the question; what duties, obligations, authority will the prospective Chief Operating Officer enjoy?
The Cointment version does not include the position, while recognizing the Council’s (convened as EA Drainage District) 7-3 vote to create the new CEO position on June 28.
Many operative clauses in the competing versions have only nominal differences, because the Council’s draft invests the CEO with all the duties, obligations and powers. The anonymous drafter(s) attempts more trickery, a subterfuge designed to divest the Parish President of all power while granting titular authority over drainage operations. This contractual slight of hand is found in the first three provision under Council version’s OBLIGATIONS OF THE PARTIES.
- EACGDD does hereby appoint the Parish President, its heirs, successors, and assigns, the title of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of EACGDD.
- Ascension Parish Council, through the Parish President, shall adopt the Intergovernmental Agreement passed by the majority vote of EACGDD on June 28, 2021 at the first Council Meeting following the execution of this agreement.
- EACGDD does hereby grant unto the CEO initially, and COO once hired, the complete right to use servitude rights including, but not limited to, the right to construct, maintain, inspect, operate, repair, alter, remove and relay the drainage system and ditches and canals using EACGDD equipment and appurtenances as may be necessary and convenient to such operations, together with all rights of ingress and egress to and from said drainage systems, ponds, canals, etc. for the purposes for which EACGDD was created subject to the advice and consent of EACGDD.
The COO, once hired, becomes one of the Parish President/CEO’s “heirs, successors, and assigns” and assumes all those powers vested in the Parish President/CEO. Contractual adoption, in No. 2 above, of the June 28 Intergovernmental Agreement is the tell, revealing exactly what the anonymous council drafters are up to. That agreement includes numerous mutually exclusive provisions in conflict with the Council’s latest draft.
It also conflicts with Cointment’s proposed agreement, which includes the following terms:
OBLIGATIONS OF THE PARTIES
- EACGDD does hereby grant unto the office of the Parish President, its heirs, successors, and assigns, the exclusive right to administer the maintenance of, operation of, repair of, and provision for drainage for the Parish of Ascension and any and all appurtenances pertaining thereto.
- EACGDD does hereby grant unto the Parish, through the Office of the Parish President the complete right to use servitude rights including, but not limited to, the right to construct, maintain, inspect, operate, repair, alter, remove and relay the drainage system and ditches and canals using EACGDD equipment and appurtenances as may be necessary and convenient to such operations, together with all rights of ingress and egress to and from said drainage systems, ponds, ditches, canals etc. for the purposes for which EACGDD was created subject to the advice and consent of the EACGDD.
- Parish President shall hire SSA Consultants to create an organizational structure, delineate search criteria for a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and perform a national search for a CEO to be presented to EACGDD for ratification with in 60 days.
- The Ascension Parish Council shall vote to establish the new position with a salary pay range of 135,000 to 155,000 to provide a reasonable pay range for this position and have SSA adjust the employee chart to reflect this new position.
- EACGDD does hereby agree that the CEO will be nominated for appointment by the Parish President to the Ascension Parish Governing Authority, and that once ratified, the CEO shall be appointed by the Parish President and report to the Chief Administrative Officer.
- EACGDD agrees that the Drainage District staff will function as a Department of Parish government and that the CEO of EACGDD and all employees thereof will comply with all policies and procedures of the Parish Government, in accordance with the Home Rule Charter.
- The PARISH agrees that drainage personnel and equipment will only be used for drainage purposes.
- EACGDD agrees to follow all Parish Louisiana State statues in regard to procedures for entering into any new or renewal contracts for Professional Services.
- EACGDD further agrees that the Parish President has the exclusive right to administer the maintenance, operations, repair and provision of drainage for the Parish.
- The Parish President will submit a contract within 60 days of the signing of this contract to the EACGDD for approval to do a forensic accounting audit to determine the division of assets between Ascension Parish Government and EACGDD.
- The Parish President shall have no objection to the contracting of a drainage liaison to EACGDD in the capacity of drainage consultant to EACGDD and liaison between the Parish President and EACGDD Board of Commissioners.
- A State of Emergency declaration that involves EACGDD must be brought by a special meeting or at a regular scheduled EACGDD meeting before the EACGDD Board of Commissioners within ten days of the declaration for review. If a quorum is not achieved, another special meeting will be called until a quorum exist.
ESSENTIAL DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
- Prepares, presents and suggest adjustments to the annual budgets as required by State Law and the EACGDD Board.
- Attends or designate appropriate personnel to attend Drainage Board meetings to (a) present activity and project status reports; (b) provide substantive answers to Commissioners’ concerns asked at those meetings, unless answers are unavailable at that time. Under such circumstances substantive answers shall be provided at the following EACGDD meeting or sooner; (c) recommend and get Commission approval for new future projects and activities.
- Within 90 days of hire, the CEO of drainage shall prepare short term and mid term plans for drainage projects, including vegetation, fleet and equipment maintenance, routine maintenance and other immediate needs.
- Prepares a long term capital projects plan and budget for EACGDD review and approval within 90 days of the completion of the HNTB contract study Final Floodplain Management Plan, Task Order #3 contract date February 24, 2021.
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
- The Parish President, CEO and EACGDD shall meet to establish long goals and objectives for annually prior to the fiscal budget.
- Established goals and objectives shall be both in report form and supplemented by Gantt chart format providing the projects, timeline goals and budget allocation for each to be presented to EACGDD in the months of June and December.
For all the posturing on both sides of this negotiation, the central bone of contention remains. Who is going to exercise ultimate authority over EA Drainage? We see little movement toward resolution of that paramount issue.