Apparently what’s been missing from Ascension Parish Government, the panacea to cure what ails the parish where woefully inadequate traffic/sewer/drainage/water infrastructure threaten our sacred quality of life, is an Infrastructure Division Director. That’s why Parish President Kenny Matassa and his gang have launched a “nationwide search” to fill the all important position which does not exist…yet. It’s so important that the search is being fast-tracked.
Or has the inaugural Infrastructure Division Director already been identified and this is another in a long line of subterfuge perpetrated to dupe the voting public? Word is that William Daniel, IV, formerly of Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden’s administration will be offered the job. Assuredly the word can be delivered to Baton Rouge during a four-day national search which began on Monday (but was not posted until Tuesday) and ends on Friday.
When Item (9), Resolution to establish the position of Infrastructure Division Director. Salary range shall be from $104,000 to $135,000/yearly (Market Range), appeared on the September 21 Parish Council meeting agenda newly-appointed (and still un-ratified) Personnel Director Taleta Wesley was on hand to create a veneer of legitimacy. Wesley, the administration’s choice after an actual “national search” to fill the long vacant Human Resources slot, informed the Council that SSA Consultants participated in drafting a scope of work and other details.
Of course, that information was withheld from the Council as it considered the requested resolution, which made perfect sense since there was no resolution included in those Council members’ meeting packets either. This Council is not one to stand on formality; nor adhere to the strictures of Ascension’s Home Rule Charter, its own bylaws, and pertinent ordinances.
Matassa’s administration jumped the gun (again)…
creating a brand new position in usurpation of an exclusive governing authority power. The Charter reserves that power to the “governing authority,” i.e. the Parish Council at Section 4-12(e).
According to SSA Consultants there were nearly 50 applicants for the position landed by Wesley whose presidential appointment must be ratified by the Council. Section 2-126 of Ascension’s Code of Ordinances reads:
“The parish governing authority hereby creates the department of human resources. This department shall be headed up by the parish’s personnel director. The personnel director shall be appointed by the parish president, subject to ratification by resolution by at least a majority of the members of the governing authority…”
But there she was, the un-ratified personnel director, assuring the Council:
There will be a national search.
Councilwoman Teri Casso wondered why the phantom resolution had been placed on the agenda as opposed to the requisite ordinance to create this all important position.
“In order for us to move forward with the search, and be able to offer the position, the position has to be established,” CAO Ken Dawson tried to reason (the position can only be established by ordinance). “If we didn’t have a dire need for someone to handle the vast amount of responsibility in the Utility Department dealing with water and wastewater, we probably would be waiting on this.”
Utilities has been without a director since Matassa and Dawson fired the latter’s close personal friend Bill Depew on October 4, 2016. Depew had little experience in Utilities and was only shifted there from Fleet Management after Matassa fired Bob Horner as his first official act in January of 2016. CAO Dawson cited “the vast amount of tasks associated” with the new position; envisioned comprehensive east bank wastewater treatment, current wastewater improvements along Hwy 22 in Darrow.
“We gotta have that person in place to be able to assist with that, and also to assist with a permanent position that will deal with the vast amount of transportation projects associated with the Move Ascension (project),” added Dawson.
What about delivery of potable water to west bank Ascension residents after the parish purchased Peoples Water just over a year ago? Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee made that inquiry.
“And anything else we task him to do…in infrastructure,” clarified the hapless parish president. “We want to hire a person that’s knowledgeable ’bout all the infrastructure. We will craft it out and put him on the flow chart. At this time we don’t know exactly who he’s going to be over or what.”
But they do know how important the position is. So vital, in fact, that Councilman Dempsey Lambert questioned whether a qualified applicant could be enticed for the paltry “Market Range” salary; $104,000 to $135,000.”
“Me and Mr. Todd Lambert have been here a good while. Believe me, this position, we have been looking for and searching for a long time,” he said, noting the new Infrastructure Division Director is “going to be an unpopular person” without elaboration. “We need to be careful, especially dealing with water. Oliver (west bank Councilman Joseph) here, he’s had some close calls over there in Donaldsonville. We have to watch what we’re doing with this.”
President Matassa has “been talking with SSA about this position” and Dr. Christel Slaughter who heads up the consulting group “put some feelers out…to a couple of (respondents) who indicated” the salary range is appropriate. Sounds like they already have their man.