Oh, the irony! Report on Efficiency/Effectiveness two months late

Dr. Christel Slaughter (courtesy of Channel 21)

A Special Finance Committee meeting was held on May 17 when SSA Consultants delivered preliminary findings of its Efficiency and Effectiveness Study on Ascension Parish Government.  The final narrative report was promised within a week but the committee is still waiting for the final product.  The irony was lost on SSA’s Dr. Christel Slaughter who was back before Finance on Tuesday and evading the direct question put to her thrice:

Where is the SSA final narrative report?

Barking citizen watchdog, Jeff Pettit was first to pose the question on Tuesday though it was not the first time he’d asked it.

“I stood right here (at the public speakers’ podium) on May 17 and asked Dr. Slaughter when that final narrative would be produced and she said ‘within a week.’  Our Chief Administrative Officer, un-ratified CAO Ken Dawson told this very same committee the report would be produced by June 16,” Pettit recounted.  “Where is the SSA final narrative report?”

Pettit also inquired as to the amount paid SSA Consultants for two studies (the firm also conducted a Compensation Study at the administration’s behest).  But that question was ignored by Dr. Slaughter and committee members alike.

He noted that requisite ratification of five department heads by the Council was deferred in November in order to await SSA’s report.  Ken Dawson, DPW Director Bill Roux, CFO/Treasurer Gwen LeBlanc, and Planning Director Jerome Fournier have yet to be ratified due to “SSA’s failure or refusal to produce the work product paid for by Ascension’s taxpayers.”  A fifth department head, over Human Resources, is also subject to Council ratification but, since Cheryl Kinchen voluntarily vacated the position several months ago HR has been without a director.

“She can answer the questions about the detailed follow up documentation that was gonna follow up the Efficiency and Effectiveness (Study),” Ken Dawson introduced Dr. Slaughter to Finance in lieu of (and sounding very much like) President Kenny Matassa.

“What about that final report?” Councilman Bill Dawson inquired of Slaughter.  “Is that something you are going to address?”

“I’ll be happy to address that,” responded Slaughter.

She claimed SSA “received some additional information” at the May 17 Special Finance Meeting which “caused us to look into some other things; which caused us to look into some other things. We now believed that you have some opportunities for savings on workers’ compensation.”  Which failed to answer the question:

Where is the SSA final narrative report?

“Some of the staff was on vacation shortly after that (May 17 meeting), Fourth of July,” Dr. Slaughter alibied the delay.  “Nothing’s changed (in the report).”

Seven weeks elasped from May 17 to July 4.  If nothing changed why hasn’t the final product been delivered?  SSA Consultants is, apparently, only studying Efficiency and Effectiveness.

SSA was the subject of another agenda item on Tuesday:

(11) Amendment No. 2 to Master Contract for Professional Services between SSA Consultants and the Parish of Ascension to renew the original agreement for an additional year through June 20, 2018 and to also include Exhibit C with additional scope of work for an additional amount of $40,000.00 (Ken Dawson, Chief Administrative Officer)

Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee took up the question a third time when it came up.  He expressed reluctance to support another $40,000 paid to SSA until Mr. Pettit’s main question is answered:

Where is the SSA final narrative report?

Dr. Slaughter took some offense, claiming the Master Contract Amendment “relates to the Compensation Study” for which SSA was initially hired by the Matassa administration.  She conceded it was the Council that wanted the Efficiency/Effectiveness Study, declining to answer the question for a third and final time.  Maybe she and her team have been too busy to finalize the report given that SSA is assisting Matassa in hiring a new Human Resources Director.

Satterlee was alone in voting against the contract amendment paying SSA the next $40,000.

48 applicants responded to the parish’s advertisement before SSA weighed in to identify “ten as applicants of interest.”  Telephone interviews and short video presentations were accepted before SSA whittled the list down to three, all of whom are qualified and one more outstanding than the others according to Dr. Slaughter.  But that applicant was not offered the position and SSA is recommending expanding the search.

“The parish president makes that choice,” Councilman Oliver Joseph stressed that Kenny Matassa can ignore any recommendation, assuming one is ever made.  “He can appoint No. 1 or No. 40…It has to be someone he can work with.”

Which Dr. Slaughter confirmed saying Matassa “can go out in the parking lot and pick somebody” if he so chooses.  None of which sat well with Finance’s chair, Councilwoman Teri Casso who expressed disappointment that none of three admittedly qualified candidates was offered the position, worrying that such candidates may not be interested any longer.

“Good people do get picked up,” Dr. Slaughter recognized the chair’s concern.  “I do think that that is a reason to move with haste,” Slaughter transitioned from irony to oxymoron.

Where is the SSA final narrative report?  When will it be produced?  When will Ascension’s next HR Director be hired?  Your guess is as good as Dr. Christel Slaughter’s.