Parish President’s payroll padding (P4) does not include Department Heads (not officially anyway)

Former Utilities Director Bill Depew (fired in October of 2016)

Parish President Kenny Matassa’s unprecedented padding of parish payroll does not include three patronage plums near the top of Ascension’s un-codified organizational chart, or does it?  Our friend and former Utilities Director Bill Depew offered commentary on the state of that Department recently:

I didn’t know I would be irreplaceable! Two (2) years and they can’t find a suitable replacement!

As of February 15, 2018 there exist seven departments over which the president’s appointment is subject to ratification by the Council pursuant to Ordinance 2-121.

  1. Department of finance
  2. Department of public works
  3. Department of planning and development
  4. Department of human resources
  5. Department of utilities
  6. Lamar Dixon Expo Center
  7. Infrastructure division
  • Another position, Chief Administrative Officer is also subject to ratification.

Gwen LeBlanc‘s oversight of Finance has lasted about four decades (it seems, it’s hard to pinpoint her start date).   Kyle Rogers (Lamar Dixon) and William Daniel (Infrastructure Division) were appointed to head two new departments earlier this year.

Jerome Fournier was hired for Planning and Development in June of 2016 after Matassa’s unceremonious firing of Ricky Compton.  It would be a year before Fournier’s ratfication.

Matassa, not shy about adding personnel to the Master Employment Roster…

Matassa added 99 employees to payroll that increased by $3.5 MILLION

has failed to fill three of those lofty positions, or has he?

Utilities:  27 months and counting without a director.

Depew was fired in October 2016 after trying to raise concerns over Ascension’s inability to operate Parish Utilities of Ascension (PUA), the entity which came into being after purchasing Peoples Water Company on the west bank.  As it happened, Depew’s concerns were well-founded and the parish has received $17 million in loans/grants from USDA to undertake sorely needed infrastructure upgrades.  Hired to bring sanitary sewer to east bank Ascension,  Infrastructure Director William Daniel’s time and efforts have been devoted to PUA’s woeful shortcomings.

Daniel appears to be the outlier, willing and eager to take on the gravest challenge facing Ascension.  Wastewater Treatment has been discussed, considered, (never really) attempted for three decades.  In December 2013 Louisiana DEQ offered up a $60 million low-interest loan that the parish has yet to accept.  Spread paper thin, Daniel could probably use some help from a Utilities Director able to operate PUA without Daniel and two outside firms holding his/her hand.

Is there an individual capable of (1) handling the job and (2) willing to take his/her place among Matassa administration lackeys?

Even after SSA Consultants, paid nearly $300,000 all told, strongly recommended hiring a competent Utilities Director there has been no move by Matassa to find one.  No national search, sham or otherwise; not even another political hire by the chief executive.

Public Works:  Nine months without publicly naming a director.

Longtime director Bill Roux officially called it a career in April though he quit showing up several months earlier.

Listed as “DIRECTOR, PUBLIC WORKS” in the Employee Roster produced on September 20, 2017 pursuant to a records request, Ron Savoy seems to have succeeded Roux.  But there has been no announcement of his hiring/promotion and Savoy’s name has never been brought before the Council for ratification.  Therein lies a problem.

Section 2-11 of Ascension’s Code of Ordinances (also enacted February 15, 2018) is entitled Ratification of Positions.  It states:

“(a)(1) An interim appointment is an appointment made by the president to a position requiring ratification. Interim appointments will expire if they have not been ratified, as required by Charter and ordinances, as of the one hundred and twentieth (120th) day following interim appointment. No reappointment of the same individual shall then be made for the same position.”

120 days from September 20, 2017 (the latest Savoy could have been appointed if the employee list accurately reflects his status) falls on January 18.  Assuming Savoy was not hired on that very date, ratification is necessary even sooner.

Human Resources:  Taleta Wesley, not so great as the administration and a pandering council made her out to be, was fired on September 12, 2018.

According to the aforementioned Employee Roster the “DIRECTOR HUMAN RESOURCES/ PERSONNEL (Temporary Appointment)” was Donald Hysell as of September 20.  Again, no public pronouncement though it came with a $16,000 raise.  Temporary Appointment or no, the strictures of Section 2-11 apply.