Is Bill Dawson going to carry Matassa’s water? Committee assignments due soon

Prominently displayed by Matassa’s campaign, Bill Dawson endorsed Matassa along with seven colleagues.

Recently returned to Ascension’s Council chairmanship by acclimation of his colleagues, District 2 Councilman Bill Dawson faces important decisions manning five standing committees.  The real work (and expenditure of nine-figure parish budgets) happens in those monthly committee meetings and not in twice monthly meetings of the governing authority when bloated Consent Agendas dispense those millions with minimal, if any, discussion.  President Kenny Matassa added his two cents, for what that’s worth, and Bill Dawson has to decide if he’s going to be Matassa’s water boy.

Matassa targeted one committee chairman, Strategic Planning’s Daniel “Doc” Satterlee, for ouster in a January 12 email to Dawson.  It was a long time in coming.  Satterlee rankled the president and administration members by pushing a Council resolution for Matassa’s “immediate resignation” in a 6-4 vote of “No Confidence” six days after Matassa’s indictment.  Ascension’s Grand Jury charged Matassa with violation of  Louisiana Revised Statute 18:1461.5  Election Offenses involving bribery on March 10, 2017.

Of eight Matassa endorsers four voted “No Confidence” as Dawson, Randy Clouatre, Teri Casso, and John Cagnolatti abandoned the SS Matassa on its way to the bottom.  Two Lamberts, Todd and Dempsey, along with west bank-proud Oliver Joseph stayed aboard with Travis Turner, a non-signatory of Matassa’s endorsement.  Councilman Benny Johnson, the eighth supporter, was AWOL for that controversial vote.

Who supports Matassa, and how often?

Since January 2016, when Randy Clouatre chaired the full council and issued committee assignments, several initiatives emanated from Strategic Planning which certain council members preferred to avoid.  Satterlee led the charge toward Transportation Impact Fees, adopted unanimously even though certain of his colleagues found them odious (Todd Lambert needed a hug from Billy “the Builder” Aguillard, and assurance that all was forgiven, after the April 7, 2016 meeting in Donaldsonville).

Councilman Todd Lambert (r) with Councilman Dan Satterlee after the impact fee vote.

Strategic Planning consistently pushed the envelope, with varying degrees of success, since Satterlee assumed the chair…

Strategic Planning pushes back against development (and Matassa administration)

Initiating a “Discussion of having all regularly scheduled meetings” in Gonzales, as opposed to Donaldsonville, was more than Kenny Matassa could bear.  In a January 12 email to Chairman Dawson he wrote:

“You know as well as I that Strategic Planning finds it difficult to maintain a quorum for its meetings because your fellow council members do not want to serve with Satterlee and be subjected to his temper tantrums and grandstanding.”

To which “fellow council members” did Matassa refer?  We’ve heard of two offering to sell their vote for Council chairmanship in return for a guarantee that Doc Satterlee would be removed as Strategic Planning’s chair:

Neither possess the cognitive acuity or intestinal fortitude to take Doc Satterlee head on.

As the January 4 vote to elect 2018’s chairman neared, Todd Lambert and John Cagnolatti offered support to any colleague who would promise to oust the Ole’ Chicken Doctor; Lambert’s name was even bandied about as an alternative to Bill Dawson’s, having been passed over for the chairmanship in 2017.  Talk was that Lambert would succeed Clouatre, to be followed by Benny Johnson and Oliver Joseph.  Matassa’s status as felony criminal defendant queered the deal for them all, leaving Bill Dawson as the least objectionable alternative.

While Dawson has ruffled some feathers, he retains that distinction.  Still council chairman, he remains non-committal.

“Oliver (Joseph) and I have to take into account many factors when we decide how the chairmanships and positions on the committees will be allocated,” Bill Dawson responded to Pelican Post overtures.  “We still have more council members to interview as part of the process and once those are completed the committee assignments will be made.”

Does he kowtow to Matassa in order to retain control of the checkbook; at least until an Ascension Parish jury decides the parish president’s fate (trial is scheduled for February 21)?

$50,000 to WRITE an RFQ? Who’s really running things at Governmental Complex?

One year on the job and Councilman Bill Dawson ascended the governing authority throne on January 5, 2017, and proceeded to shake things up.  Already passed over as council chair, Todd Lambert suffered the indignity of losing the Transportation Committee he had chaired since 2015.  Dawson tabbed his fellow newbie to the council, Aaron Lawler to head up the committee which ushered in the Move Ascension initiative and we cannot envision Lawler being removed.

His committee approved the connector road to Lamar Dixon Expo Center which was finalized with $2.6 million of parish taxpayer money; after Matassa’s administration managed to bungle away $5.2 million of already allocated funding from the State of Louisiana.  Lamar Dixon is the centerpiece of Recreation Committee spending under the chairmanship of Travis Turner.  Turner is sure to retain his chairmanship over Recreation, the right call by Dawson since nobody else wants it.

Teri Casso has chaired every Finance Committee meeting she’s ever attended as a member of the council, going back to 2012 when Chris Loar, then council chair, appointed her.  Recent Finance meetings centered around adoption of new personnel structure and compensation, as political a battleground as there is (made more so since every Council member serves on Finance).  Matassa has twice substituted his own organizational chart and created new positions in which to stash six-figure salaries for his henchmen. It resulted in another fractured council.  Five supported the candidate they had endorsed…

With Matassa:

Six, including three endorsers, went:

Against Matassa:

Even hotter than Finance is Utilities which is supposed to oversee such multi-million dollar expenditures as the $5.9 million acquisition of Peoples Water Company in September of 2016; and the potential mega million dollar foray into east bank Ascension sanitary sewer.  Re-branded Parish Utilities of Ascension, the water company servicing the City of Donaldsonville exclusively has, to put it mildly, not gone well.

Sanitary sewer negotiations have gone even worse…

Why is Matassa paying $306,200 to private sewer treatment company?

Councilman Benny Johnson’s five-years in the Utilities chair ended when Bill Dawson opted to appoint Randy Clouatre last January.  Johnson is still smarting over the slight and Clouatre does not seem all that appreciative.  Utilities is, in terms of dollars and cents, the most important committee aside from the full Council.

Bill Dawson and Oliver Joseph have some important decisions to make.