Since Kenny Matassa was inaugurated to Ascension’s presidency 177 new employees have been hired, increasing the parish’s annual payroll from $17.5 million to just under $21 million. Attrition rates resulted in a net personnel increase of 99 positions.
That is according to a Master Employee Roster produced by Ascension in response to a records request on September 20, 2018. On February 10, 2016 Ascension employed 403 individuals compared to 502 three weeks ago, a number which very well could have changed given the dizzying pace at which the roster changes. Those changes occur at the top and the bottom of the parish’s pay scale, and everywhere in between.
At the bottom are 94 new “Maintenance Technicians” (Graded I-IV), a brand new personnel designation though without any official job descriptions. Matassa hired 55 Maintenance Technician-I since taking office; along with 20-Grade II, 11-Grade III, and 8 Grade-IV. Grade I includes employees formerly classified as Laborers, Event Technicians, Grade Technicians…
Grade II Maintenance Techs see some overlap, including those same positions with Lubrication/Tire Specialists being reclassified along with former “Operators.” Deciphering patterns for the re- classifications is an exercise in futility as no patterns emerged to the untrained eye. Grade III and IV Maintenance Techs include former “Drivers” and “Operators” too.
17 new Administrative Specialists (Grades I-III) have been added to the employee roster since Matassa took over the hiring/firing which includes former “Clerks” and “Secretaries.”
There are six new “Mosquito Control Specialists” along with four new “Night Sprayers;” six more Custodians and four new Student Workers.
The vast majority of new hires fill out the lower end of the Labor Grade pay plan adopted by the Council earlier this year. There are enough of them to see an annual payroll increase well over $3 million.
Average compensation of employees when Matassa took office was approximately $43,500, falling under $42,000 with a 25% increase in number of employees. And there has been quite a lot of turnover at the top.
Infrastructure Division Director William Daniel is the highest paid parish employee, save Matassa ($148,000) himself. Last October, after a four-day national search, Matassa brought Daniel on to “direct” a department that would not officially exist for another four months, until the council created the Infrastructure Division by ordinance in early 2018.
Daniel’s starting salary, $134,992, was near the ceiling for Infrastructure Division Directors…
codified by the Council after his hiring. Daniel received a raise to $139,048 (which leaves another $1,700 before he maxes out) since March. Chief Administrative Officer Ken Dawson comes in at $120,203.
Another new top position was created and filled when Kyle Rogers ($99,985) was hired as Director of Lamar Dixon Expo Center.
Gwen LeBlanc’s ($118,580) tenure over Finance has never been challenged.
Ricky Compton was replaced as Planning Director by Jerome Fournier ($94,556). Fournier seems to have survived a recent scrape with Dempsey Pendarvis…
who took credit for having Compton fired in March of 2016.
Fournier filed a complaint with Ascension’s sheriff who “admonished” Pendarvis without making an arrest two months ago. In the aftermath Pendarvis alleged that Fournier “harassed” his girlfriend, a parish employee who just received another substantial raise herself. Hired as a Clerk in 2016, Melissa Sullivan’s salary increased from $26,000 to $36,129 by March of 2017. Re-designated “Administrative Specialist-III” Sullivan’s current salary is $43,180.
That’s a 66% raise, pretty good considering her alleged harasser has only received a 5% bump since his June 2016 hiring. Fournier came on as Planning Director at $90,001.
Former DPW/Drainage Director Bill Roux exited under the cover of darkness, taking his $107,806 salary off the books. No official announcement having been made, Ron Savoy appears on the latest roster as “Director, Public Works” with a $94,016 salary, without going before the Council for ratification as is required by the Home Rule Charter/Code of Ordinances.
Matassa fired two Utilities Directors without replacing the last one. The ax fell on Bob Horner within days of Matassa’s inauguration (January 4, 2016); Bill Depew would last until October 2016 when he voiced concerns over the parish’s acquisition of Peoples Water Company publicly.
Recreation Director B.J. Romano ($72,113) oversees a department recently made subject to Council ratification.
Human Resources Director Taleta Wesley was fired after another cringe-inducing performance during the September 6 meeting of the Parish Council. While Wesley’s inability to produce job descriptions for, or provide an accurate number of, parish personnel inspired little confidence, she could be forgiven since President Kenny Matassa hires (and fires) employees with alarming rapidity.
Pinch-directing for Wesley is administration stalwart, Don Hysell. Hysell was a General Manager ($91,811) until taking over as “Director, Human Resources/Personnel (Temporary Appointment)” with a boost in pay to $107,640. That’s an increase from Taleta Wesley’s $104,499 salary though Hysell has not been ratified by the Council, a requirement in the Home Rule Charter.
Maybe he can write those job descriptions.