NOTE: Pelican Post first ran this piece, in March of 2017 but recent events make it timely to re-publish. Last week members of the Parish Council’s Personnel Committee lambasted the hiring/firing of employees, granting hefty raises based on political support for presidential administrations. Among the most egregious political hires/salary increases was that afforded the girlfriend of Matassa campaign supporter Dempsey Pendarvis (see below), who recently accused Planning Director Jerome Fournier of assaulting her.
Pendarvis attempted to explain away the incident by accusing Fournier of harassing the girlfriend. We have a hard time believing Fournier capable of such conduct. More likely, Pendarvis was miffed over being held to any development standard at all, and took it out on Fournier.
Pendarvis has assailed another Ascension department head for refusing his girlfriend an unearned raise before.
If you work for Ascension Parish government and seek career advancement, i.e. a salary increase, your prospects seem to be enhanced by supporting President Kenny Matassa’s political agenda and, more specifically, his election. Your prospects are even brighter if you have some special, familial connection with the parish president who knows how to spread the love. And by love we mean money since Kenny Matassa doled out an extra $15,038 of taxpayer dollars to Ascension’s Director of Mosquito Control who, incidentally, happens to be his brother.
American history is replete with colorful presidential brother’s who have embarrassed the chief executive with their antics. Bill and Roger Clinton…Jimmy and Billy Carter (who’s old enough to have taken a sip of Billy Beer?).
Ascension does things in reverse.
We have no reason to think that David Matassa fails to perform his duties competently, but his brother is an embarrassment who, if you haven’t heard, was indicted on bribery charges recently.
Unforgettably, President Matassa introduced his brother at a May 2016 Council meeting in their native Donaldsonville:
“I’m gonna’ call up our Mosquito Control Director, my brother David is going to give y’all a little run by on Ezekiel virus.”
Old Testament mosquito-borne viruses are the worst, everybody knows that. During David Matassa’s tenure as Mosquito Control Director no one in Ascension has contracted the ZIKA Virus, that we know of, so he must be doing a good job; but a $15,000 raise on the heels of a $7,000 bump (I killed two mosquitoes since beginning to write this piece)? It’s not like he eradicated the species.
According to a July 11, 2016 roster of parish employees provided in response to a records request, David Matassa’s salary was $72,883. (Coincidentally President Matassa was recorded offering Wayne Lawson a bri..,er, loan, and his pick of parish job’s not to include Director of Mosquito Control, etc. on July 27, 2016). The roster produced Tuesday lists his salary as $87,921. In the middle of former president Tommy Martinez’ last term he earned, $65,436.
To put that into context consider the salary of Ascension’s Director of Emergency Preparedness Rick Webre who, as much as anyone, led the parish through the most critical week in its history during August’s flood event; $86,195.
David Matassa’s salary now exceeds that of anyone in the Department of Public Works/Drainage except un-ratified DPW/Drainage Director Bill Roux and all but one engineer on the payroll. Matassa makes more than department heads over Zoning, Building, Mental Health, Recreation, Grants, Fleet, and Public Information.
President Matassa’s munificence is not restricted to immediate family but it does pay to work in Ascension Mosquito Control. Former Mosquito Control Specialist Shawn Sevario (he hails from one of the parish’s most political of families which supported the president’s electoral bid for all it was worth) was promoted since July 2016 to Senior Project Manager and Sevario is one of six to hold the title (under Martinez the parish employed one).
Maybe he’s “Senior” to clear the way for three mere “Project Managers” (up from zero under Martinez). Where are all these projects being managed, anyway? We know of one, soccer fields at Lamar Dixon but Ascension is also paying $75,000 to an outside Construction Administrator (Quality Engineering & Surveying).
Sevario’s meteoric rise up the pay scale began at $39,700 under Tommy Martinez. He received a $6,300 bump by Kenny Matassa’s second month in office, another $6,000 by July 2016 when his salary was $52,000 as Supervisor, Mosquito Control. Sevario is now a Senior Project Manager garnering $64,480 per annum.
Then there are instances of pure political patronage (P3) handed out by the new (does 14 months on the job still qualify) parish president. Kenny Matassa created a new position and filled it twice:
There was no more rabid a supporter of his quest for the Governmental Complex corner office than…
Thomas “Moose” Pearce and Don Hysell. Maybe SSA Consultants, the firm hired to perform an organizational study of parish government can alert the taxpayers of Ascension what they do (we can’t figure it out) to earn their salaries. In the case of Pearce, $102,918, augmented by the fact his spouse was added to the parish payroll. He was an Executive Assistant (salary of $77,022) during Tommy Martinez’ last term.
Hysell was named General Manager by the parish president early in 2016 with a corresponding salary of $78,000. By July he’d gotten a $22,000 boost and his current salary is $91,811. Less than Pearce but evened out when his spouse was promoted from Concession Stand Worker to Secretary III at $37,128. Who knew the necessary skill sets translated?
Judging the raise based on percentages one of the top parish employees is…
Melissa Sullivan. Sullivan, a social media attack dog for Kenny Matassa’s campaign, was hired as a Clerk some time prior to July 2016 with a $26,000 salary. She may have earned another bump since but, as of March 7, her salary was $36,129. That’s a 39% hike with less than a year on the payroll.
We’re told she answers the phones at Lamar Dixon Expo Center, the basket where the Matassa administration seems to be putting all of Ascension’s nest egg(s). Considering Matassa already lost $5.2 million of allocated state funding for a connector road serving Lamar Dixon what’s a few more thousand?
Wonder what the mosquito situation is like at the new soccer fields?
- NOTE: As of March 23, 2018 Sullivan’s salary remained at $36,129