Saturday’s cancellation of the much-touted Flambeau Festival was another in a long line of public relations gaffes courtesy of Ascension’s version of the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight, the administration of President Kenny Matassa.  The cancellation, probably not Matassa’s call, may very well have been the right decision but all involved appear ridiculous after a Friday presser where Kenny and the Gang assured Flambeau was a go…as scheduled.  What would you expect from a guy who mucks up something as simple as an election-rigging bribe?

July 27, 2016

But this time he was accompanied by Council Chairman Bill Dawson, OHSEP Director Rick Webre, Sheriff Jeff Wiley and Sheriff-in-waiting Bobby Webre who all have exhibited enough political and PR-savvy to avoid embarrassing public proclamations like Friday’s assurances.

The parish president, on the other hand, not so much.

As comical as they are, Matassa’s ham-fisted attempts at spin doctoring are nothing more than attempts to cover up the hemorrhaging of tax dollars with no tourniquet large enough to stem the flow.  And with little to show for the expenditures.  To recap (the following list is not exhaustive):

The most egregious squandering of taxpayer dollars was Matassa’s failure to acquire necessary right-of-way to make the St. Landry-Edenborne Connector truly “shovel ready” and the state yanked more than $5 million of already appropriated funding away…

State legislators and parish elected officials at December 2015 St. Landry/Edenborne groundbreaking ceremony

So Matassa and the Gang simply ignore the fact and…

take credit for the first new parish road in decades.  At last count the connector road cost the parish $2.6 million out-of-pocket but that was before Ascension ponied up the cash for temporary improvements on Edenborne Parkway within Gonzales’ city limits.  It had to be passable in order to access the new connector road and, thus, Lamar Dixon from Hwy 44.

When was that money appropriated by the governing authority?  Maybe Chairman Dawson can answer that question in between photo ops with his president.

The FLAMBOOZLING goes all the way back to Inauguration Day, January 4, 2016 when Matassa declared…

“We will not point fingers to the past.  That’s over and done with.  It is our task to begin where we are, currently are, and become as great as we are capable of becoming…

It’s not about blame, but boldness.  These are trying and demanding times, demanding change.  Please understand that there will be chaos because there is no change free of strife…

The parish leadership team is committed to serving citizens, not feathering our political hat for the next election.  We will always do what is right; not what is self-serving…

(To those who opposed his candidacy) I was elected to serve everyone and to forget about political paybacks…

My expectation of all employees is they serve the taxpayers and each other in a productive manner… Cooperation…and moving all actions from the dark to the light of day

You will always know where we are, and where we are in the process.  Secrets are now, effectively, outlawed…

A few days later Matassa started with the “political paybacks,” firing then Utilities Director Bob Horner.  Two months later he would drop the ax on Planning Director Ricky Compton, having former HR Director Cheryl Kinchen do the dirty work while he was away at a conference.  Then Matassa groped for reasons…

Matassa’s multiple reasons for Compton termination defy comprehension

none of which made any sense because they were all lies.  Three months later and another administration toady, Jerome Fournier, was appointed to replace Compton.

Remember when he consolidated parish departments promising to save millions of dollars.  On April 26, 2016  Matassa issued a press release that promised:

Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa announced today the unification of Parish Government’s roads, drainage and fleet operations into a single Department of Public Works. Previously, these operations were divided among three different departments with different management on each side of the Mississippi River.

“Public works is at the heart of Parish Government, and as long as I’m Parish President, public works will be about public service,” said President Matassa. “This unification ends duplication of effort among employees and enhances customer service.  We have the potential to realize millions in savings that could be reinvested into roads and drainage, with the priority placed on having available funds to jump start major transportation projects in Ascension Parish.

Drainage/Public Works Director Bill Roux said this in early May 2016:

“My goal for this coming year is $4 million savings from reorganization.  The budget for road overlay is $6…6.5 million.  We’re gonna’ budget $4 million every year for our overlay projects, so right there I’m looking at saving $2 million off of that.”

Four months later he would offer:

“There has been some comments made, various people, about a savings of $4 million, or $3 million, or something like this.  That was never the intention when we were talking about it before…I don’t want anybody to get the idea that, because of reorganization, the way we’re re-prioritizing, all of a sudden the general administration is gonna have $4-5 million to put into something else, be it recreation or whatever the case might be.

And what was that “something else” where $4-5 million would be put?

HNTB’s Atri Sen (file photo) at left with h

Well there was the $3 million and change wasted to certify Ascension’s levees.  HNTB, Inc’s Atri Sen, after his firm pocketed the money of course, broke the bad news at the June EA Drainage Board meeting:

“Based on analysis, and in discussion with FEMA on the final presentation, the LAMP method, the approach that we put in will not provide any benefit in terms of flood protection or risk,” Sen summarized a 30-month (and counting?) effort at Levee Certification/Accreditation.  “So we paused in that, and all the data and all the studies we have available if y’all want to move forward towards the 100-year accreditation process.”

Squandering a cool $3,000,000 with nothing to show for it didn’t slow Matassa and the Gang from writing checks to the firm.  HNTB was awarded a $2 million, plus Transportation Master Plan job that was initially touted as the panacea to cure all that ails Ascension for the next five decades at a comparatively paltry, $750,000.  The original plan was scrapped, or delayed if one believes the narrative pitched by the Council’s Transportation Committee, in favor of Move Ascension’s five or so actual road projects…

Why 11 other firms were hired to work on designing those projects, $35 million worth, is sort of a mystery.  Guess its unseemly to give all the engineering contracts to two firms (CSRS, Inc. is the other recipient of the parish’s largesse) when so many wrote checks to one’s campaign.  Not to worry, there are plenty of other pots of money.  Take drainage for instance…

With upwards of $40 million in EA Drainage’s bank account it’s enough to activate any engineer’s salivary gland.  Bill Roux promised a Floodplain Management plan in early October…2016 and got around to it in May 2017 seeking to pay HNTB another $300,000 or so.  But the council, at Bill Dawson’s insistence, balked and issued an RFQ instead.  Of course, HNTB would get the contract anyway, but with an assist from CSRS.

Chairman Dawson, a de facto member of the Matassa administration, happens to be very fond of CSRS.  It was Dawson (Bill, not CAO Ken) who pushed for CSRS to receive $45,000 for (merely) writing an RFQ and Kenny Matassa was only too happy to oblige.  What do you wanna bet Roux’s original $300,000 estimate is increased with another engineering mouth to feed?

Planning and Development Director Jerome Fournier (file photo)

All those other firms need not worry, though.  There’s plenty to go around.  At Planning Director Jerome Fournier’s urging the Council recently signed off on a $450,000 Land Use Plan.

And the parish president knows how to take care of loyal employees (and those to whom he offers a job in return for withdrawing from Gonzales City Council elections), i.e. the ones who helped him get elected…

Parish President’s brother pockets $15,000 raise

The rest of us are being…


And the real money has not kicked in yet.  Just wait for Ascension’s next foray into east bank sanitary sewer.  It was no mere coincidence Matassa and the Gang launched a four-day “national search” for the new Infrastructure Division Director (much more on that to follow).

From left: President Matassa, CAO Ken Dawson, and newest administration sycophant, un-ratified HR Director Taleta Wesley