Taking a bite out of the ABA Elephant: Part II (selecting a Parish Manager)

With A Better Ascension scheduled to take center stage at Monday’s Home Rule Charter Revision Committee meeting we continue to take a bite out of the ABA elephant.  Its method of appointing, or anointing, a parish manager in lieu of an elected parish president will be difficult to digest for a few members of the governing authority if a recent post-Council meeting discussion is an accurate barometer.

NOTE: For comparison’s sake ABA’s proposal will appear in red text.  There is no corresponding language in Ascension’s current Home Rule Charter.  Paragraph A under Section 3-02 was addressed in Part I of the series.

Section 3-02.  Appointment, Contract, Compensation and Removal

B.  The governing authority shall either engage the services of a national search firm or empanel a nominating committee to develop a pool of candidates for appointment as parish manager.

1. Search firm-The firm shall be a professional organization with experience in coordinating and operating a search for an executive level position.

The last time Ascension’s governing authority engaged “a professional organization” to coordinate and operate a “national search” it was SSA Consultants that was hired, and…

“National Search” for new Infrastructure Director to last 4 DAYS

Maybe that faux-search got the right guy though the jury is still out on William Daniel.  One thing is certain, the result was predetermined.

ABA revised its original charter revision draft to add the search firm option to parish manager selection.  Initially it offered only…

2. Nominating Committee:

 a. The nominating committee shall be composed of seven natural persons.

i.  The governing authority shall appoint five persons.

  • Is it a good idea to have the Parish Council appointing five persons under any circumstance; the same body that appointed the current Planning Commission?
  • While ABA’s plan would limit the potential pool of appointees, are you okay with giving the council any more authority than it has now over local governance?

aa. One appointee shall be a managerial or executive employee with a company doing business in Ascension Parish that is recognized as one of the ten largest employers in Ascension Parish by               the Louisiana Workforce Commission.

  • We could not find Louisiana Workforce Commission’s list of top employers so we resort to Ascension Economic Development Corporation’s list (we’ve included the top 15 since multiple employers identified are governmental entities and we’re unsure if ABA is suggesting the School Board/Ascension Parish Government should have a spot on the nominating committee or if that would be legal).  1-Ascension Parish School Board; 2-BASF; 3-Walmart; 4-Shell Chemical; 5-St. Elizabeth’s Hospital; 6-CF Industries; 7-Ascension Parish Government; 8-Smith Tank & Steel; 9-Huntsmans Chemical; 10-Rouses Supermarket; 11-Volks Construction; 12-Cabelas; 13-Almatis; 14-St. Elizabeth Physicians; 15-Honeywell.

bb. One appointee shall be selected from a pool of nominees, one provided by each recognized Rotary organization operating in Ascension Parish.  In the event that none of the Rotary                                organizations provides a nominee, then both appointees shall be select (sic) in accordance with subparagraph (aa).

  • Rotary Code of Policies (April 2018); 26.020. Rotary and Politics “Because its world-wide membership includes persons of many facets of political opinion, no corporate action or corporate expression of opinion shall be taken or given by Rotary on political subjects.” (April 2016 Mtg., Bd. Dec. 157)
  • Multiple local Rotarians have indicated discomfort at the prospect of participating in this most political (notwithstanding ABA’s propaganda) of activities.  So a second appointee comes from the list of employers above?
  • Apparently, ABA did not consult the various Rotary Clubs before including them in the plan.

cc. One appointee shall be either the Superintendent of Ascension Parish Schools or the Chancellor of River Parishes Community College.  In the event neither is able or willing to serve, the                     Board of Directors of the Ascension Parish Chamber shall make a third appointment.

  • For what it’s worth, Superintendent David Alexander is already a member of the Chamber’s Board of Directors (see below) though, according to the School Board PIO no one from ABA ever contacted the Board or Alexander before including him in its proposed charter revision.  The second option, RPCC’s Chancellor was not included in ABA’s original proposal.

dd. Two appointees shall be Ascension Parish residents selected from a pool of applicants developed from a public solicitation by the Council of applications.  Any resident of Ascension Parish  may apply.

  • Would these applicants be vetted by the Council’s Personnel Committee, sham that it is?  If ABA’s amendment becomes the law we nominate Matt Pryor and Julio Dumas since that would get them off the Planning Commission where they are doing a lot more damage to Ascension Parish.
  • At least the 7-member nominating committee requires two Ascension citizens.

ii. The Board of Directors of the Ascension Chamber of Commerce shall appoint two persons, who should be persons qualified to evaluate and make recommendations for the appointment of a             parish manager.

Inexplicably, ABA did not consult the Chamber before assigning its role.  What if the Chamber doesn’t want to participate (as unlikely as that is)?  To our knowledge the Chamber has taken no public stance though, in response to an August 2017 email request, then Chamber President Sherrie Despino wrote:

The Ascension Chamber of Commerce did not participate in drafting A Better Ascension group’s proposed amendments to the Ascension Parish Charter.
The Ascension Chamber Board of Directors has been approached by ABA with a presentation and copy of the proposed charter amendments which are under review.  At this time, the Ascension Chamber of Commerce does not have a position either for or against this proposal and welcomes all input on this issue.”
The current Chamber Board of Directors:

Overlapping with (aa)’s top 10 employers, vesting such power in the Chamber Board of Directors is rife with conflicts of interest.  Ronnie Daigle (of R.J. Daigle & Sons Contractor) is the most disturbing given that his brother (and partner) is Vance Daigle, one of ABA’s loudest proponents.  How’s that 2015 Road Maintenance contract with the parish coming boys?  Another ABA stalwart, Brandon “2-PAC” Trosclair (Ralph’s Supermarket) also does business with Ascension Parish, contracting to provide meals during emergencies the last two years.

  • Chairman Michael Buturla and his Domain Architecture is a frequent bidder on parish jobs.  Domain did the Bluff Rd Fire Station and just lost out on the new courthouse job;
  • Treasurer Jacob Waguespack (Faulk & Winkler) has prepared his share of annual parish audits; his company ran the numbers to justify Ascension’s purchase of Peoples Water Company in 2016;
  • Three petrochemical plant managers sit on the Chamber’s Board: Tom Yura of BASF (see list of top ten employers above), Mark Dearman of Rubicon, and Glynn Fontenot of Methanex.  Having a friendly parish manager can’t hurt when you come calling for that next ITEP tax exemption;
  • Barbara Irwin of Pujol, Pryor & Irwin-The Litigation Firm.  Irwin’s partner is the Planning Commission chairman.  Enough said;
  • Paul Salvant of The Bug Man, another contract recipient of Ascension Parish.
  • The Chamber’s Board of Directors overlaps with the list of employers in (aa) above and also includes School Superintendent David Alexander.

b. None of the appointees may hold elective office or be employed by the Ascension Parish Government at the time of appointment, nor have held elective office or been employed by the Ascension Parish Government within the preceding 12 months prior to appointment.

c.  The membership of the nominating committee shall include at least one person who is a member of a recognized racial minority and at least one person who resides in that portion of the parish lying west of the Mississippi River. Nothing shall prohibit a single member from meeting both criterion (sic) set forth in this paragraph.

Diversity (just so long as that one west-bank minority is answerable to the business interests of the parish).

d. The membership of the nominating committee shall meet initially at a date, time and location called by the chairman of the governing authority. At the initial meeting, the nominating committee shall select from its membership a chairman and vice chairman.  The parish governing authority shall provide staff and fiscal support, as needed, to the nominating committee.

e. The nominating committee shall determine the method of soliciting applicants for the office of parish manager.

Of course it will.  While we have no confidence in the Council’s undertaking the task, in theory council members are accountable to a constituency which could vote its members out of office.

f. From among the applicants, the nominating committee shall, upon the favorable vote of not less than four members thereof, recommend one or more applicants for consideration for appointment by the governing authority.

g. After the appointment of the parish manger (sic) by the governing authority, the nominating committee shall cease to exist until such time as recreated by the chairman of the governing authority.