Recently a Prairieville member of Ascension’s Parish Council accused President Clint Cointment’s administration of being “top heavy” during a discussion about adding two new personnel positions. Councilman Corey Orgeron defined the term to include those employees pocketing annual salaries over $80,000 under which, presumably, the new job titles (Deputy Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Information Officer) would fit. Orgeron erroneously put the number of employees between 40-60, overshooting the mark according to the parish’s most current Master Personnel Roster.
As of March 1, 2021 there are 35 Ascension Parish employees with a salary over $80,000, which is one more than the last month of Kenny Matassa’s parish presidency (December 2019). It is so even after 12 “top heavy” members of the Matassa administration (including the diminutive parish president) were excised from the roster through retirement/resignation (8), termination (2), and demotion (1); former Infrastructure Division Director William Daniel was not reappointed by the incoming parish president.
NOTE: The former president was included in the retirement/resignation category since he chose not to seek reelection.
Six of those Matassa-era “top heavy” employees were not replaced under Cointment.
A baker’s dozen of individuals enjoy salaries over $80,000 in the Cointment administration who did not in December 2019. Five of of them were employed under Matassa, and subsequently received a raise or promotion to join the “top heavy” set. Another five, including Cointment, were added to the current roster in place of Matassa and his stalwarts who left the parish’s employ.
Two of the current top heavies are employees who the Cointment administration attempted to terminate; both were spared by the Council. Word is they do very little to earn those hefty salaries.
Cointment added two new employees whose salaries fall under the “top heavy” designation; Ricky Compton who was hired as Ascension’s inaugural Director of Planning and Facility Maintenance. Jade Robin was recently added to oversee Ascension’s fleet with the title of Project Manager, Professional (to rave reviews from the council it should be noted).
The “top heavy” percentage has spiked because the overall employee roster has been trimmed by 13.5% (total)/9.1% (full-time). In December 2019 there were 537 names on the Employee Master Roster (466 full-time employees); compared to 469/426 at present. The reduction is attributable to attrition more than anything as a significant number of former employees opted for retirement.
The reduction in total payroll tops $1.3 million. Matassa left the parish with a $22,860,000 annual payroll which is currently $21,530,000.
“I don’t think you’re top heavy,” responded Dr. Christel Slaughter of SSA Consultants, the firm brought on in 2017 to make Ascension Parish Government more “efficient and effective” with varying degrees of success. “I don’t think you have as much capacity in your administrative team as we see in other places.”
An issue those new positions are aimed to remedy?
Urged by Dr. Slaughter, both positions would garner salaries likely in excess of $80,000. Deputy Chief Administrative Officer would come with a “Labor Grade” of 128, on par with current department heads with a salary range of $81,000 to $104,000 according to Slaughter. Chief Information Officer will, assuming enactment by the parish council, have a Labor Grade of 124 and range between $67,000 and $94,000.
“Do you think these positions are essential?” inquired Council Chairwoman Teri Casso. “Are they critical to the implementation of your (ultimate) recommendations?”
Dr. Slaughter assured that they were and anticipates “tremendous results from these positions.”
“You’ve invested quite a lot in your software,” she explained. “We don’t think it’s being utilized as effectively as it could be in a number of different areas.”
The new Deputy Chief Administrative Officer would report directly to the current CAO. The position will, assuming council adoption, be filled by a current employee as would the information officer position.
“We need both of these positions,” asserted CAO John Diez. “We are not doing things like they’ve been done for the last 30 years. But we still have to run day-to-day operations.”
Diez and Slaughter did not convince everyone.
“These positions is, for me, is basically…two positions that is politically hired,” offered up Donaldsonville councilman Alvin “Coach” Thomas whose expertise on the subject matter is unquestioned. “I don’t see where we need them.”
Which should have swayed any fence-sitters over to the administration’s side.