Taking a bite out of ABA’s Elephant: Part VII (appointed manager or dictator?)

The Home Rule Charter Revision Committee was created by Ascension Council’s February 15 resolution which set a deadline of May 31.  That deadline was extended indefinitely but retained as the last opportunity to recommend amendments to the Council in time for placing any amendment on the ballot this year.  The worst kept secret in local politics was the pretense that this committee was not about A Better Ascension’s proposal to replace the parish president with a parish manager so much time was wasted.

We’ve progressed to Article V: Administration of ABA’s new charter.

For comparison’s sake ABA’s proposed changes will appear in red text. Where corresponding language to ABA’s proposal exists in Ascension’s current Home Rule Charter exists, it will be included in italics, with commentary when deemed appropriate.

Section 5-01: Administrative Departments, Agencies and Offices 

A.  The administrative departments, agencies and offices of the parish shall be those established by recommendation of the parish manager and approved by the governing authority, except as mandated by state or federal law.

B.  1. The head of each parish department, agency or office shall be appointed by and report to the parish manager, except to the extent the parish manager delegates such authority.  However, the delegation of such authority shall not absolve the parish manager of the responsibility for the performance, actions, and conduct of such departments, agencies, offices or employees thereof.

     2.  The parish manager shall make an appointment to fill each department head position within 90 days of taking office, or, within 90 days of the creation of a department head position by the governing authority, or shall present a status report on the appointment to the governing authority.

(NOTE):  ABA’s version of Paragraphs C (language concerning handling of monies by personnel) and D (imposition of criminal sanction for breach of fiduciary duty) retains, essentially, existing charter language.

  • No department unless recommended by the parish manager?  (And approval by the Council appears mandatory).
  • What is procedure for governing authority approval of a department? Two-thirds majority or simple majority?
  • Governing authority is divested of all authority “to ratify” department heads as is the case with parish presidential appointments.

-compared to-

Section 5-01: The Secretary and the Treasurer

The secretary and the treasurer shall be appointed by the president subject to ratification of a majority of the members of the governing authority, who shall thereafter serve at the pleasure of the president.

  • The remainder of current 5-01 enumerates duties of “the secretary” and “treasurer” which would not exist under ABA’s proposal unless an unelected parish manager recommends the positions.
  • Also abolished from the current charter is the “Chief Administrative Officer” which is found in Section 5-02 of the existing document.
  • The CAO is, currently, subject to Council ratification along with other department heads (Infrastructure Division, Human Resources, Utilities, Lamar Dixon, Planning Department, Department of Public Works).

Section 5-02:  Administrative Officers.  

A.  The parish manager may appoint and set the salaries of, those administrative officers that are determined by the parish manager to be necessary or reasonable for the effective, efficient and proper administration of parish government, subject to appropriation by the governing authority.

  • Currently one Chief Administrative Officer is subject to Council ratification.

B. The parish manager may delegate duties to the administrative officers appointed in the manner that is necessary or reasonable for the effective, efficient and proper administration of parish government, and otherwise in compliance with the applicable state and federal law.

  • Who is final arbiter of “necessary or reasonable for the effective, efficient and proper administration of parish government?”

C. The parish manager shall appoint any administrative officers that are mandated by state or federal law.

-compared to-

Section 5-02: Chief Administrative Officer

A chief administrative officer may be appointed by the president subject to the ratification of a majority of the governing authority…(omitted are nine enumerated duties of the CAO).

(Section 5-03: Parish Attorney is unchanged by ABA’s proposal)

Section 5-04:  Administration of Human Resources. 

A. The parish manager shall be responsible for ensuring that the administration of human resources is carried out in such a manner as to to (sic) comply with applicable state and federal laws, including but not limited to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Family Medical Leave Act.

  • What happens if the parish manager fails to ensure compliance with state/federal law?

B.  The parish manager may recommend to the governing authority the establishment of a Human Resources Department or other similarly organized agency of the parish to facilitate the Administration of Human Resources.

C.  The employees of the parish shall be at-will employees as recognized under state and federal law, but having such protections as are provided for therein. 

(We omit the 11-paragraph procedure for an employee to appeal disciplinary action under the parish manager except to point out that the current appeals procedure, first to an Appeals Board and then to the Parish Council, is replaced by a hearing officer).

-compared to-

Section 5-04: Human Resources Department

There shall be a Human Resources Department consisting of a personnel director, who shall be the executive head of the department, and a review board, which shall be advisory in nature.

(We omit the procedure for employee appeals).