Matassa’s illegal $27,456 raise (and other tales of pillage in parish government)

NOTE: We first published the following piece on December 15, 2019.  Since the current administration has weighed in at The Advocate’s prodding, we republish today.

The Corrupt Organization (we don’t think it’s Racketeering Influenced, RICO) that is Kenny Matassa’s administration has been a blight on Ascension Parish for four years.  With two weeks left before that cancer on the local body politic is excised, he’s not done pillaging parish coffers yet.  Matassa just doled out raises, in some cases the fourth in 2019, to pad the retirement of top employees/political supporters.

With Matassa on the way out we can only hope they go with him.

A review of the current Personnel Master Roster, focused on  25 highly ranked administration officials, paints a disturbing picture.  Matassa and his cronies continue to ignore the law, starting at the top.  On September 9 Matassa’s salary was $148,000, increasing to $175,456 in the Personnel Roster provided pursuant to a records request on December 11.

Oblivious to legal strictures since he took office, it should come as no surprise that such a raise violates Ascension’s Home Rule Charter, Section 3-02 of which reads:

‘The governing authority may change the salary of the president by ordinance but not during the last year of the president’s term in office.”

And that’s on top of paying off Matassa’s criminal defense lawyer in as disgraceful action as this council has mustered…which is saying something.

On January 4, 2018 a unanimous Parish Council adopted a “Title and Pay Plan” which went into effect on August 30, 2018.  The document establishes official titles (though Matassa’s administration cannot seem to provide actual “Job Descriptions”), each with Salary Ranges corresponding to Labor Grades.  For instance, the title “Parish President” comes with a Labor Grade of “138” with a salary range between (Annual Minimum) $127,456.13 and (Annual Maximum) $179,667.08.

At least Matassa’s new salary fits within the pay range.

10% of Ascension employees paid more than parish law allows (and there’s more of them)

That cannot be said of an even dozen of his 25 top lieutenants, five of whom have gotten four separate raises since last year.  The most egregious example is Executive Administrator Kemlyn Lomas who has benefited from seven pay bumps since June 2016.  Lomas is not alone.

She is one of 12 top employees whose salary is more than allowed by the pay scale, though a meager $54 more.  That pales in comparison to Executive Assistant to the Parish President Thomas “Moose” Pearce whose $107,077 salary exceeds the maximum by $16,303 (speaking of malignancies in parish government).  Assistant Director of Public Works Mike Enlow’s salary ($96,935) tops the maximum allowed by $14,628; Professional Manager, Projects Cheryl Kinchen’s ($103,216) is $12,442 over the limit.

All three campaigned for Matassa’s chosen successor.  That campaign was not successful, for which every Ascension taxpayer should be thankful.

Matassa’s brother, David, is the Director of Mosquito Control whose $94,220 salary exceeds the maximum by $3,476 after getting three 2019 raises.

Purchasing Director Joan Shivers’s salary is the maximum allowed, $90,744.08 after three raises since 2018 totaling $9,062.

Infrastructure Division Director William Daniel, on the job just over two years, has gotten three pay increases (from $134,992 in October 2017), coming in at $144,672 which is over the applicable pay range by $3,899.  CAO Ken Dawson is within the range, even after getting three increases since 2018, from $116,708 to his present salary, $140,026.

The Top Ten biggest gains within the current calendar year (since January 29, 2019), without a promotion, were received by:

  • CAO Ken Dawson-$19,823 (16.5%)
  • Recreation Director BJ Romano-$10,067 (14%)
  • Technology Director Patrick O’Deay-$9,836 (10%)
  • Deputy Building Official Bernie Capone-$7,142 (11%)
  • Purchasing Director Joan Shivers-$6,608 (8%)
  • Executive Administrator Kemlyn Lomas-$6,542 (8%)
  • Infrastructure Division Director William Daniel-$5,624 (4%)
  • Maintenance Technician Philip Matassa-$5,595 (16%)
  • CFO/Treasurer Gwen LeBlanc-$4,852 (4%)
  • Executive Assistant to the PP Thomas “Moose” Pearce-$4,159 (4%)

It appears that three separate raises were given across the board, to all full-time employees, 466.  With part-timers the total comes to 542 employees, actually down by six since September.