It’s Good to be the Parish Manager! (What would government by Chamber of Commerce look like?)

Its Good to be the King: Mel Brooks-History of the World, Part I

A Travis Turner/Aaron Lawler-chaired Committee of the Whole has been tasked with “publicly vetting the charter amendment proposed by A Better Ascension.”  The Committee’s composition is the Ascension Parish Council which will consider abolition of the parish presidency; and abrogation of its own authority delegating vast powers to a Parish Manager nominated by a committee dominated by the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Deeming itself a “Non-Profit Corporation” is deception because A Better Ascension’s raison d’ etre is a complete overhaul of Ascension Parish’s founding governmental document; and nothing else.  Its spokesman is a political consultant called J Hudson who was brought on by the manager of LABI’s five political action committees, for what that’s worth.

As to its charter revisions…(for comparison’s sake current charter provisions and text appear in bold font, proposed changes in italics) .

ARTICLE III. EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Is replaced in its entirety since it sets requisite qualifications to run for the Office of Parish President, sets compensation, and establishes such president’s Powers and Duties…including a Presidential Veto.  It is replaced by…

ARTICLE III. PARISH MANAGER

Section 3-01 requires the appointee to hold a Master Degree in either Public Administration or Business Administration, with at least five-years’ experience in government administration at a managerial or executive level.

Section 3-02.-Appointment, Contract, Compensation and Removal

  1. The parish manager shall be appointed by the governing authority only from candidates presented to the governing authority by the nominating committee, which appointment shall require a favorable vote of not less than a majority of the members thereof. Such appointment shall be subject to the approval of a written contract of employment with a term of not less than twenty-four months but for a term that may not extend more than eighteen months beyond the term of office of the membership of the governing authority making such appointment…

The governing authority, i.e. the Parish Council may reject candidates presented by the nominating committee but ONLY when accompanied by a request that the nominating committee continue its review and make recommendation of alternative candidates.

So, elected representatives of Ascension citizens, may NOT appoint a parish manager unless and until the nominating committee recommends him/her.   Just who are the nominating committee members?

It is called into being by the chairman of the governing authority whenever there is a vacancy or anticipated vacancy in the office of parish manager.

  1. The nominating committee shall be composed of five natural persons (actual human beings?).

The Council gets to choose two of the five; one MUST come from a pool of managerial or executive employee(s) from one of Ascension’s ten largest employers…and another from a list of candidates put forward by Ascension’s recognized Rotary organizations…

According to Baton Rouge Area Chamber those ten largest employers include four petro-chemical industry companies, Walmart Stores, and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.  Executives with three plants, and the hospital sit on the Board of Directors for Ascension’s Chamber, which is noteworthy because…

The Board of Directors of the Ascension Chamber shall appoint two persons…to the nominating committee.  The fifth member is Superintendent of Ascension Parish Schools, or his designee.  Care to guess on whose Board of Directors Superintendent David Alexander sits? ….Wait for it… that’s right, Ascension Chamber of Commerce.

If Alexander is unable to serve the Board of Directors of the Ascension Parish Chamber shall make a third appointment.

Pelican Post has emailed the Chamber to see if it has anything to add.  We’ll keep you posted.

From among the applicants, the nominating committee shall, upon the favorable vote of not less than three members thereof, recommend one or more applicants for consideration for appointment by the governing authority. 

Any way you slice it, the Chamber of Commerce gets to choose Ascension’s parish manager whose proposed authority cuts into that of the Council.

Section 3-03 Powers and Duties of the Parish Manager

The parish manager shall:

  • Have the power to appoint, discipline or terminate any and all parish employees and department heads (The governing authority may remove department heads by a favorable vote of at least two-thirds of its member; see Section 4-09)(At present terminated employees may appeal to the Council; which may overrule disciplinary decisions by a two-thirds vote; see Section 5-04); and
  • Establish the salary for each parish employee (the governing authority may fix the compensation of all employees; see Section 4-15).

Proposed amendments abolish two departments along with the Parish Presidency; Finance and Human Resources are established in Section 5-01 and 5-04 of the existing charter, and both are deleted in A Better Ascension’s proposal (along with 5-02 which creates the position of Chief Administrative Officer).

Currently the Council authority is found at:  ARTICLE IV. GOVERNING AUTHORITY

Proposed amendments would not abolish the Parish Council; but would severely curtail its powers.  Section 4-12- Powers in General includes 11 subparagraphs in the current Charter.  At present the governing authority may:

(e) Create parish departments, offices, or agencies in addition to those created by this charter, by ordinance adopted by a two-thirds majority vote of the governing authority….

(f) By ordinance, abolish or consolidate any parish department, office, agency, board or commission or provide for the consolidation and transfer of any of the functions of such departments, offices, agencies, boards or commissions.

Paragraph (e) would go the way of the parish presidency if A Better Ascension has its way, i.e., it would be deleted from existence.

New Section 4-12(e):  The governing authority may: Upon recommendation of the parish manager establish, merge, reorganize, consolidate, or abolish parish departments, offices, or agencies, by an ordinance adopted by a majority of the governing authority.

The Chamber of Commerce-nominated Parish Manager would be vested with powers no parish president elected by the people of Ascension has ever enjoyed.  Aside from adopting the Parish Manager’s budget the Parish Council would be reduced to supernumerary functions.  Which is not to discount the power of the purse.

Even that power is limited under A Better Ascension’s proposal.

Section 4-15 Compensation of Parish Manager, Parish Officers and Parish Employees, tasks the Council with setting the manager’s salary but mandates appropriation of funds.

The governing authority shall fix the compensation of the parish manager and appropriate funds therefore.  The governing authority shall appropriate funds to be used to fund the compensation of all employees and officers of the parish except as otherwise provided by this charter.  The governing authority shall have discretion in the amount of the aggregate appropriation for all other employees or officers of the parish BUT the determination of the compensation of an individual employee or officer shall remain within the authority of the parish manager…

ARTICLE V. ADMINISTRATION

Section 5-01 Administrative Departments, Agencies and Office. (currently establishes Parish Treasurer position)

  1. The administrative departments, agencies, and offices of the parish shall be those established BY RECOMMENDATION OF THE PARISH MANAGER and approved by the governing authority;
  2. The head of each parish department, agency or office shall be appointed by and report to THE PARISH MANAGER, except to the extent the parish manager delegates such authority.

Section 5-02 Administrative Officers.  (currently establishes Chief Administrative Officer position)

  1. The parish manager may appoint and set the salaries of those administrative officers that are determined by the parish manager to be necessary or reasonable for the effective, efficient and proper administration of parish government, subject to appropriation of the governing authority;
  2. The parish manager may delegate duties to the administrative officers appointed in any manner that is necessary or reasonable for the effective, efficient and proper administration of parish government, and otherwise in compliance with applicable state and federal law.

IT’S GOOD TO BE THE PARISH MANAGER

Also from History of the World, Part I; What about the rest of us?

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