Dawson moves from executive assistant to top position
GONZALES — Ascension Parish President Tommy Martinez has hired his first chief administrative officer in more than three years.
Ken Dawson, who has been Martinez’s chief executive assistant and his point person on sewer and major projects for about a year, has accepted the top administration job with Parish Council backing.
The CAO spot, a parish post in the home rule charter that needs council ratification, has been vacant since former CAO Cedric Grant left in May 2010. Grant left for a deputy mayor position in the administration of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
In the years since, Martinez shouldered the extra duties for a time and then had two- and three-person teams of deputies, known as chief executive assistants, to pick up some administrative management functions.
Dawson will now take on the top management job under Martinez.
“He’s done an excellent job, and I think it’s time to reward him with the position of chief administrative officer,” Martinez told the Parish Council before it unanimously voted to hire him earlier this month in Donaldsonville.
The former president of the West Feliciana Police Jury, Dawson was hired in spring 2012 and is a mechanical engineer.
Dawson told the council that his wife said Ascension seems to be a dream job and a good fit for him.
“And it is. Ascension is a wonderful place, an incredible opportunity with a great team,” he said.
Dawson’s promotion follows other shifts in the upper echelons of Martinez’s second-term administration.
Former Chief Executive Assistant Thomas “Moose” Pierce, who is a parish School Board member, has become the parish’s Department of Public Works director after the June retirement of longtime parish employee Ronnie Fairchild.
Kim Braud, who was Martinez’s longtime chief of staff, has become a chief executive assistant.
Dawson has seen a salary increase from $79,000 to $89,000 per year, Martinez said.
Pierce has seen a salary increase from $79,000 to $84,000 per year, Martinez said.
The council’s support of Dawson came despite an ethics charge from his time as president of the West Feliciana Police Jury.
In a March 2012 consent judgment, the state Board of Ethics fined Dawson $500 over a business relationship he had with Rural Broadcasting Services, a rural broadband television network. The company was also providing services to the West Feliciana Parish government in late 2009 and early 2010.
State law prohibits public servants from receiving anything of value from a company that does business with the government entities those servants oversee.
The charge and fine came to light after Dawson was hired last year by Ascension Parish. The issue did not come up when the council ratified Dawson as CAO on Sept. 5, but several parish officials have since said that they were satisfied with his explanation of what happened and his work for Ascension Parish.
Martinez said when he learned of the complaint, he investigated it to his satisfaction and believes Dawson is a loyal and dedicated employee.
Councilman Daniel “Doc” Satterlee, who had concerns last year about the ethics charge, said he met with Dawson before the recent council vote. Satterlee commended Dawson’s work on the sewer effort, which Satterlee helps oversee from his position on the council Utilities Committee.
Councilman Chris Loar also commended Dawson’s work with the parish.
“I don’t think there is anyone that has doubts about his capabilities and his qualifications, and I think he has proven himself to be a hard worker and a big-picture thinker, and I think everyone has full confidence in him,” Loar, the council’s chairman, said.
Dawson did not return messages left with the parish for comment over the past two weeks.
According to the ethics consent judgment, Dawson argued that a West Feliciana IT administrator entered into the contract with RBS without the knowledge of or a vote of the West Feliciana Parish Police Jury between October 2009 and January 2010.
At about the same time, he consulted for DePew Enterprises, which also did business as RBS, a fact Dawson claimed he did not know.
The ethics board could have fined Dawson up to $12,000 but chose the lesser amount in light of the facts, the consent judgment says.