GONZALES — The head of a key Ascension Parish Council policy-making committee will remain in the position despite the parish president's request that Daniel "Doc" Satterlee not be reappointed due to what the parish leader said was the councilman's “reckless behavior and actions.”

The decision on Satterlee was part of Council Chairman Bill Dawson’s overall strategy not to make major changes to the leadership of the Parish Council’s committee structure. Made up of some of the 11 council members, the front-line committees vet most major policy changes, contracts and projects before they head to the full council.

Parish President Kenny Matassa had accused Satterlee of hosting a “personal attack forum” from the Strategic Planning Committee. Satterlee, who chairs the committee, is a frequent critic of Matassa, his election bribery indictment and his administration’s policies on new development.

The complaint to Council Chairman Bill Dawson came less than 24 hours after Satterlee had proposed in committee that the bimonthly council meeting now held in Donaldsonville, the parish seat, be shifted to Gonzales, where the other bimonthly meeting is already held.

Satterlee and some supporters argued the change would be more efficient, transparent and closer to most parish residents. The proposal, which failed, would also have meant, though, that western Ascension would lose its only council or other parish government meeting of any kind on that side of the Mississippi River, besides a drainage board specifically dedicated to western Ascension.  

The complaint also came as Dawson, whom the council had just re-elected council chair, was setting committee appointments for 2018, a power he solely controls as chairman.

In the end, Dawson kept a largely status quo lineup on the council's various committees, including Satterlee as head of Strategic Planning, according to a breakdown of his appointments. Dawson said he shared the breakdown with council members late last week.

In explaining his decision, Dawson provided an answer that hewed closely to his earlier, careful response to Matassa’s request.

“I took everything into consideration, and it didn’t turn out that, that was the best thing, I thought,” Dawson said of Matassa’s request.

Dawson added that there are six council committees, which means six chairs and six vice-chairs to appoint.

“So it’s a whole matrix of things that I have to … take into account, and when I took all of that into account — and there have been some things that have been accomplished on Strategic Planning — I decided more or less, if you looked at the whole committee structure, not to make a lot of changes,” he said.

Strategic Planning, for instance, was the origin of a recent change to the zoning code that ended what Satterlee and some development critics saw as a loophole around potentially politically tough zoning changes. The body has also played a role highlighting and sometimes pushing forward major growth policy changes like road impact fees.  

Satterlee welcomed the reappointment.

"I am pleased that Chairman Dawson chose to put the betterment of Ascension Parish above politics," Satterlee said. "Our indicted parish president would be better served by concentrating on his defense of the criminal bribery charges he faces than making ridiculous and unfounded claims against me."

The Matassa administration did not respond to requests for comment by Tuesday. Matassa and his co-defendant, Olin Berthelot, have pleaded not guilty to the bribery charge.

All other committee chairs also retained their positions, including Councilwoman Casso as chair of the key Finance Committee, Councilman Lawler as chair of Transportation Committee and Councilman Randy Clouatre as chair of the Utilities Committee.

Committee chairs hold significant power by setting the agenda and often what has a chance to end up before the council for a final binding vote, especially committees with a more open-ended, long-range focus like Strategic Planning. Often, much of the public debate happens at the committee-level.

Despite Dawson's attempt to maintain the status quo, some changes were made and they have displeased other members. Councilman Todd Lambert, for example, noted that for the last two years under Dawson, the number of committee positions has dwindled. Though Lambert was moved up as Transportation Committee vice chairman this year — a committee on which Lambert already had served and once was chairman — he lost a spot this year on the Recreation Committee. 

Also, while Satterlee remained chairman and Councilman Aaron Lawler vice chairman of Strategic Planning, Dawson replaced Councilmen Benny Johnson and John Cagnolatti with Councilwoman Teri Casso and Dawson himself.

Dawson explained that changed committee membership by pointing out that he tries to rotate people in and out of committees.

“And that’s a sensitive committee, and I decided to take one of the slots,” he said.

One of Matassa's complaints about Satterlee's chairmanship had been that Satterlee could not maintain a quorum because "your fellow council members do not want to serve with Satterlee and be subjected to his temper tantrums and grandstanding."

Satterlee said he looks forward to working with Dawson and Casso.

Council Vice-Chairman Oliver Joseph, who was critical of Satterlee's proposal to change council meeting locations, also remains on Strategic Planning.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.