Thursday, May 24, 2012

Kenner Fire Chief In Hot Water Over Supplemental Educational Pay

Kenner Fire Chief John Hellmers, who has made a series of controversial decisions including purchasing expensive fire trucks from a politically connected vendor, is in hot water over a decision that he made which effects himself.
ClickJefferson has learned that an internal audit of the Kenner Fire Department’s Supplemental Educational Compensation will show that for several years Chief Hellmers has claimed educational compensation that he was not entitled to receive.

The Kenner Fire Departments has three levels of Supplemental Educational Compensation that each pay $600 annually to those who qualify.  Chief Hellmers has filed, and received, 2 of the 3 levels of compensation for several years although he only qualified for 1 supplemental payment.
Acting upon information received from multiple sources, ClickJefferson filed a Public Records Request to view Chief Hellmers’ payroll stubs for recent years. We then followed up with the Kenner Civil Service Department and the Kenner Fire Department to get a specific explanation as to the different levels of compensation and what qualifications were required to receive each level of compensation. The Kenner Civil Service Department was unaware of the supplemental compensation and the Kenner Fire Department failed to respond to multiple requests.

ClickJefferson then attempted to contact Chief Hellmers directly via telephone and email to ask the Chief to explain the Supplemental Compensation requirements and to show proof that he was entitled to receive the extra compensation that he claimed. Chief Hellmers did not respond to our requests.

According to sources close to the Kenner Fire Department, Chief Hellmers has been given an ultimatum: prove you meet the requirements for the additional compensation before Friday, 5/25/2012, or the Yenni Administration will take further personnel action.
ClickJefferson has also learned that a personnel complaint was filed against Chief Hellmers by a KFD applicant who was denied the opportunity to join the KFD. The applicant was told by Chief Hellmers that the applicant had failed a pre-employment medical test. The applicant discussed the test results with the Doctor who administered the test and was told that the applicant had passed the test and that Chief Hellmers was mistaken.

ClickJefferson will keep you posted on the continuing drama surrounding Kenner Fire Chief John Hellmers.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Citizens For A Better Kenner Statement On Kenner Budget

The following statement was read at the Kenner City Council meeting on Thursday, 5/17/2012


Citizens For A Better Kenner has reviewed the 2012/13 proposed budget submitted by Mayor Yenni. While time constraints do not allow us the opportunity to fully discuss our issues with the budget, there are several items that Citizens For A Better Kenner has significant issues with.

Employee perks including car allowances and professional development fees for politically-appointed Directors and Assistant Directors are included in the 2012/13 budget. Last year, Louisiana State Attorney General Buddy Caldwell issued an opinion that the car allowances being paid to some Kenner employees are illegal.

In April, several tv stations reported on the continuation of the illegal car allowances. In one report, the Mayor stated that he would take action on the car allowances upon his return from military reserve training. The fact that Mayor Yenni did not take action last year, and still has not taken action to abolish the illegal car allowances is an affront to every Kenner taxpayer.

Citizens For A Better Kenner respectfully asks that the Council take immediate action to eliminate all unnecessary car allowances and any professional development fees that are not directly related to an employee’s continued responsibilities with the City of Kenner. This will save Kenner taxpayers over $100,000 annually.

While agreeing with the Council and the Mayor that salary increases for City of Kenner employees are long overdue, CFABK believes that the increases should be limited to the rank-and-file employees and not include Kenner’s highly paid, politically appointed Directors and Assistant Directors.

The 3% proposed salary increase will amount to thousands of dollars for each politically-appointed Director, the average City of Kenner employee’s salary will only increase by less than $15 per week. While Directors receive thousands in additional salary, car allowances and other benefits, the average Kenner employee won’t be able to afford a tank of gas with their salary increase.

CFABK respectfully asks that the Council use the funds budgeted for employee raises exclusively for non-political employees.

CFABK is also disappointed that the City of Kenner is continuing to participate in a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with JEDCO which costs Kenner taxpayers $75,000.

Since JEDCO is primarily funded by Jefferson Parish, and, as such, should represent all of Jefferson Parish, we question why Kenner needs to make an additional payment for representation that it already pays for.

CFABK is also concerned with the annual subsidizes provided to the Pontchartrain Center and Center Manager, SMG.

CFABK appreciates that the annual subsidy is projected to be reduced to $443,900, however we fail to understand why Mayor Yenni has not been more proactive in negotiating a better deal for the city with SMG or securing another company to manage the Center. Clearly the City has more pressing needs than to spend $400-500,000 or more annually to subsidize SMG’s management.

While SMG may be filling more days at the Pontchartrain Center, Metairie Dog Shows are not the type of events that bring overnight and weekend visitors to Kenner and fulfill the mission of the Pontchartrain Center.

While unrelated to the budget, CFABK overwhelmingly supports a Charter change to eliminate all political activity for all City of Kenner employees including the Police Chief. City employees should be judged upon their performance for the residents and business owners of Kenner and not on their political views. In addition, the Kenner Police Chief should be apolitical and focus on enforcing laws not influencing those that may be elected.

Jindal, JP Delegation Approve Capella’s Money Grab

Jefferson Parish Assessor Tom Capella’s proposal to increase his budget by 58% at the expense of Jefferson Parish Schools and other government agencies, was signed into law by Governor Jindal. The entire Jefferson Parish legislative delegation except for Representative Pat Connick, who voted “NO”, and Representatives Cameron Henry and Tom Willmott, who were “Absent”, voted to approve Capella’s money grab.

The bill will increase Capella’s budget from $2.73 Million to $4.32 Million with about $500,000 of the increase coming from the Jefferson Parish Public School System.

Capella maintains that he needs a larger budget to add staff to handle the 2012 property reassessment. Every four years, each property in Jefferson Parish is reassessed. Capella has not said why the budget increase should continue in the 3 years after the property reassessment or why the bill says that the increase will be used for for "clerical and other expenses."
State Senator John Alario sponsored Senate Bill 140 and State Representative Robert Billiot handled the bill on the House side.

The increase in the Assessor’s budget will continue until the Legislature changes it.
Capella was elected in 2011 after longtime Assessor Lawrence Chehardy announced his retirement.