Charter Commission finishes job

Wade McIntyre

The all-volunteer Ascension Parish Home Rule Charter Commission wrapped up months of work last week, and will present its recommendations to the Parish Council at the last regular meeting in April.

In the interim, parish attorney’s are to tweak the proposed changes and make sure the recommendations are legally in order.

The commission at its final meeting declined to recommend human resources department changes which Commissioner Teri Casso said were needed to update services to the staff of 363 parish employees.

Casso said the current system would lose its effectiveness as the number of employees grows, but commission members voted to leave the department functioning as it does.

An unrelated change made by the commission gives the parish president new authority to fire a department head without approval of the parish council.

A substitute motion by Commissioner Robert Poche was adopted giving the council an opportunity to reinstate other employees fired by the parish president by voting with a two thirds majority to do so.

In another matter, a bid by member Ted Dawson to increase the salary of the parish president by 15 percent was rejected by the commission, as was his suggestion that members of the parish council receive the maximum pay state law allows.

Dawson wanted the pay increases, he said, because lower pay often keeps highly qualified people from running for public office.

The commission also recommended that the council have authority to hire its own employees, and that the administration be able to hire its own parish secretary.

Members also made a change to the section regarding the official parish journal. The commission cleaned up the previous wording, recommending that the parish simply have a an official journal as required by state law, which requires that the official journal be published in the parish.

When the commission recommendations are presented to the council, they may be approved or rejected or changed by council members. The final package with the council approved changes then goes before voters for a ballot vote.