Taking a bite out of the ABA Elephant: Part III (hiring/firing a parish manager)

With A Better Ascension scheduled to take center stage at tonight’s Home Rule Charter Revision Committee meeting we continue to take a bite out of the ABA elephant.

NOTE: For comparison’s sake ABA’s proposal 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. Paragraphs A and B under Section 3-02 and Section-01 were included in earlier pieces of our ongoing series.

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

C. The written contract of the parish manager may be adopted at the time of appointment or within forty-five days after the appointment upon the favorable vote of not less than a majority of the membership of the governing authority. The contract shall include the length of the term thereof, the compensation, inclusive of salary and benefits, and such other terms as the appointee and the governing authority shall agree, not inconsistent with this charter or applicable law.  The contract shall provide for mandatory annual ethics training and professional development activities to be completed by the parish manager during the term of the contract.

  • This seems like an awful lot of latitude afforded the governing authority; i.e. the Parish Council.  Just how much would six police jurors, er, Council members be willing to pay their Parish Manager?
  • ABA’s plan (see Part I of our series) requires a 2/3 majority (8 votes) to appoint the parish manager, but a mere simple majority (6 votes) to set the terms of employment.

-compared to-

Section 3-02: Compensation 

A. The president shall receive a minimum salary of $55,000.  The governing authority may change the salary of the president by ordinance but not during the last year of the president’s term of office.

B.  The governing authority, by ordinance, may adopt a system of reimbursement, upon presentation of properly documented receipts, of reasonable expenses necessary to the performance of official duties of the president and in compliance with state law.

NOTE:  Currently President Kenny Matassa takes home $148,000 per year.  1/3 of that compensation is paid out of three accounts; West Ascension Drainage, East Ascension Drainage, and Ascension Consolidated Utilities District #1 (according to the current budget reproduced on the parish website).  Shrouded in mystery (just ask your council representative to explain how the president is compensated), this is an area where fiscal controls might make sense just like innumerable other parish budgetary matters.

D.  The contract may be terminated prior to the expiration of the term upon the vote of not less than two-thirds of the membership of the governing authority. In the event of such termination, the parish manager shall be entitled to the salary portion of the compensation provided for therein for the remainder of the stated term, unless the termination is for good and sufficient cause, stated at the time of the vote of the governing authority.  “Good and sufficient cause” shall include actions or inactions that harm the Parish and include the violation of any state or federal criminal law or a violation of a provision of the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics, other than for the late filing of a mandated report.

  • So, when seven members of the Parish Council disapprove of the Parish Manager that solid majority is helpless to do anything about it.
  • And the taxpayers would still owe the ousted Parish Manager his salary for the remainder of the contractual term; a term that could extend 18 months into the next Council’s term in office.

Cross-reference with ABA’s 3-02 (A) which envisions a manager’s term “that may not extend more than eighteen months beyond the term of office of the membership of the governing authority making such appointment.”  

  • Potentially, seven members of the next duly elected Parish Council could not fire the Parish Manager either.
  • A Council super-majority could terminate but only with an 18-month buy-out.

The governing authority has no power to remove a duly elected Parish President, thus, no corresponding language exists in the current charter.  As with any elected official in Louisiana, a parish president is subject to recall by the qualified electors of the parish.

E.  Notwithstanding contrary provisions of this Section, an interim parish manager may be appointed by the favorable vote of not less than a majority of the membership of the governing authority in the event of the incapacity of the parish manager or a vacancy in the office of parish manager, without the need for a formal written contract. However, no such interim appointment shall extend beyond twelve months and no person shall hold such interim appointment for a period in excess of twelve months in any twenty-four month period.

There is no corresponding provision in the current Home Rule Charter.