GONZALES — Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa has called for the removal of Councilman Daniel "Doc" Satterlee as a committee chairman after his failed attempt last week to consolidate council meetings in Gonzales and end them in Donaldsonville.
In an email to Council Chairman Bill Dawson, Matassa called the attempt a "purposeless attack on the city of Donaldsonville and West Ascension" and accused Satterlee of “reckless behavior” and of being “a lonely councilman who has shown nothing but contempt for Donaldsonville and her people.”
"I hope you will do something to correct this issue," Matassa wrote in the email. "Councilman Satterlee, with zero support from his fellow council members, hosted a personal attack forum — NOT a meeting to advance parish business or improve the lives of parish residents."
In a written response, Satterlee defended the idea as a sincere attempt at improving efficiency. He said it was in keeping with the Parish Council’s decision two years ago to spend a half-million dollars with SSA Consultants on efficiency studies of the parish’s overall organization. He added that several initiatives have emanated from his committee under his chairmanship.
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“The available public record speaks for itself,” he wrote.
Just this month, the council unanimously eliminated a redundant aspect of the zoning code that Satterlee championed from his committee and had said was a loophole for developers to avoid potentially tougher votes on zoning changes.
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But Matassa’s request comes as Councilman Dawson is making annual New Year decisions on council committee assignments and chairmanships after his recent re-election to the council leadership post. While the power rests with Dawson alone, newly re-elected council vice chairman, Councilman Oliver Joseph, is also assisting in the selection process. Both men represent western Ascension, including Donaldsonville.
Matassa wrote in his email to Dawson slamming Satterlee that Donaldsonville, as the parish seat, “deserves our continued attention and investment, not marginalization."
He noted that at the meeting Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan called Satterlee’s actions a “slap in the face” to the city. Councilman Joseph, who sits on the committee with Satterlee, called them “a charade” and “a joke.” Matassa added that the men were right.
“As a representative of West Ascension and Council chair, you have the power to stop Satterlee’s continued reckless behavior and actions,” Matassa wrote in the email. “You should remove Satterlee as the chair of Strategic Planning.
The email was sent to Dawson on Friday morning, less than 24 hours after Satterlee's Council Strategic Planning Committee met to discuss ending the long-standing practice of splitting full Ascension Parish council meetings between the cities of Gonzales and Donaldsonville, which are divided by the Mississippi River.
Satterlee and some east bank residents had argued Thursday night that Gonzales was more centrally located, so moving the Donaldsonville meeting there would improve meeting access to the parish’s most populous areas to the north and improve efficiency by avoiding the redundancy of manning and technologically supporting two meeting locations.
Amid opposition from Mayor Sullivan and some west bank residents, the idea died when Joseph and Councilman Aaron Lawler ended the meeting without further discussion. Joseph charged afterward the whole idea was Satterlee’s personal agenda.
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In an interview about Matassa’s email, Dawson said he opposes moving any meetings from Donaldsonville. But he added that he and Joseph are still in the process of meeting with council members about committee assignments, including possible chairmanships. Speaking Friday evening, he said does not expect that process to be finished until next week.
“We weigh all of the factors and see who sits best into what slot,” Dawson said.
Sattleree’s push for the meeting change, Dawson said, is just another thing to consider in the decision-making process.
“Whether Kenny sent me the email or not, it’s something that occurred, and it becomes a part of the record,” Dawson said.
Satterlee has been one of Matassa’s chief policy critics on the council, primarily in the area of growth controls.
He also successfully led the charge last year for a no-confidence vote and call for Matassa to resign after his indictment in March over allegations he and a Gonzales businessman tried to bribe a candidate to drop out of the race.
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Matassa and the businessman, Olin Berthelot, have disputed the charges and Matassa is set for trial next month.
Satterlee defended consolidating meetings when a reporter provided him with a copy of Matassa's email to the council chairman. In a written response, he made reference to the parish president’s indictment.
“I fail to see how conducting a monthly meeting in Gonzales affects ‘continued attention and investment’ in Donaldsonville and I invite Mr. Matassa to explain,” Satterlee wrote.
Striking back at Matassa, Satterlee said his first duty it to residents of his district in Prairieville "who feel betrayed and forgotten as (Matassa's) administration panders to every developer bringing more traffic and worsening drainage.”
Satterlee also addressed Matassa’s claim in his email that other members of the committee don’t want to serve with Satterlee because of his “temper tantrums and grandstanding.”
“If my colleagues wish not to participate in that effort, then that is their prerogative,” Satterlee said.
He said he hoped to be given the opportunity to continue his work on the committee and reminded Dawson and other council members of their votes last year to call for Matassa to resign.
“Mr. Matassa’s hypocrisy in accusing me of ‘reckless behavior and actions’ should give Chairman Bill Dawson and the rest of our council pause,” Satterlee wrote. “Need I remind my colleagues that six of them, including Mr. Dawson, requested our President’s ‘immediate resignation’ and voted NO CONFIDENCE in his administration after Matassa’s indictment for Election Offenses, Bribery in March of 2016?”
Dawson and Joseph were re-elected Jan. 4 to second terms in the top council posts. While Dawson was re-elected by acclimation after he had no other challenger, Joseph regained his post on the 11-member council, 6-5, over Councilman Randy Clouatre. Satterlee backed Joseph.
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