SSA Consultants was back before Ascension’s Parish Council on Thursday to update its efforts toward establishing an Efficiency Plan for parish government. For the past three years+ Dr. Christel Slaughter and her SSA team have intermittently worked towards this lofty goal, past efforts hamstrung by an administration and the majority of a council happy to maintain the status quo by which friends and family suckled at the parish teat. With a new parish president and six new council members (out of 11), it seems that SSA’s mission has backers among Ascension’s elected officialdom.
The firm has begun interviewing employees in Public Works, Mental Health/Health Unit, and Finance after surveying all employees. Focus groups will be conducted and, eventually, SSA will “finalize recommendations and implementation plan.” Still early in the process, Dr. Slaughter’s team has already identified deficiencies particularized to Public Works (the largest department by far).
- Lack of communication
- Training not readily available
- Lack of preventative maintenance
- Problems in communication with purchasing/processes breakdown
Dr. Slaughter advocated for a formalized training program for employees, especially computer training, while noting the lack of metrics to gauge employee performance. These are all problems of longstanding. SSA is singing the same tune it did in 2017 when its efforts were largely wasted.
It produced a $200,000 (approximately) 80-page Organizational Efficiency and Effectiveness Study that never had a chance of adoption by a council entrenched in the old ways. It was that kind of thinking that got a majority of the council unelected.
The 2017 study was supposed to “provide the Parish the opportunity” to:
- Reduce the cost of government;
- Improve the level of services provided to residents; and
- Improve managerial oversight and ability to communicate “the quantity and quality of services” to the public.
Parish President Clint Cointment campaigned on much the same message. On Thursday he lauded SSA’s efforts to date, conceding there is much more to do.
SSA did have council support three years ago, just not enough. Chairwoman Teri Casso, at the time chairing the council Finance Committee, ardently supported Dr. Slaughter’s efforts and was visibly upset when she could not even get an organizational chart approved. Former president Kenny Matassa authored a veto after a 5-4 council vote to approve, unnecessarily as it happened because enactment of any ordinance requires six votes.
Councilman Aaron Lawler, whose reelection bid was successful when a majority of his former colleagues were ousted, also supported SSA’s work product with some vigor. He joined Casso and President Clint Cointment in saying all the right things in support of SSA Consultants’ current efforts, along with a few other council members.