Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Even In Victory, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni Continues Pattern of Personal Attacks and Lies

I’m certain that if you asked most people who know me, they would tell you that I’m a pretty tolerant guy. I get attacked on a fairly regular basis from politicians that I disagree with, anonymous emailers and posters on the forums, and even some people who I thought were my friends but disagree with my strong opinions on an issue. But, because I’m attacked as often as I am, I’ve developed a pretty thick skin and I don’t let a lot phase me.

Over the last three years, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni has done his best to try to demonize me, personally attack me, and, in the media and at public meetings, call me almost every name and adjective in the book. From “vengeful” and “sinister” to “bitter” and “a self-proclaimed vigilante” with a personal vendetta against him. Mayor Yenni seems to take pleasure in coming up with new and entertaining ways to describe me, a citizen he allegedly represents.
And, let’s not forget “constant complainer” and puppet whose strings are being pulled by “sinister forces”.

Two year ago, when a Civic Association wanted to hold a debate between Mayor Yenni and myself regarding the Mayor’s plan to double property taxes in Kenner, Mayor Yenni told me that “I wasn’t on his level” because I wasn’t an elected official and he was.
Despite his name-calling, all the while I’ve called Mayor Yenni one thing: Mayor Yenni.

I don’t even call him “Mike”.  We’re not at that level in our relationship, nor will we ever be.
On the John Osterlind Show Tuesday afternoon, John (yes, I can call him “John” – he told me it was OK), asked me if I had a personal issue with Mayor Yenni.

And that’s what the Mayor of Kenner, a city of 66,000 residents, wants you to think. Mayor Yenni wants you to believe, and he’s made it his mission to keep saying it in the hope that the people of Kenner will believe it, that I have a problem with him personally and that everything that I do and with every waking breath, I am plotting against him.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

I don’t know Mayor Yenni well enough to determine whether I like him or not as a person. And, again, our relationship will never be at that level and that’s ok.
But, the fact is, when Mayor Yenni took office, I was encouraged, hopeful even. Yes, I know that was wishful thinking on my part since Mayor Yenni was promoted from sitting at the right-hand of Ed Muniz and owed his allegiance (as well as his employment for several years) to Aaron Broussard.

Unfortunately, my hope and optimism died a fairly quick death.
From Mayor Yenni’s justification for expanding and continued defense of the Executive Pay Plan, which cost Kenner residents Millions, even after I and many others told him it was illegal, to all of the other actions that he’s taken as Mayor that I disagree with: attempting to double property taxes; attempting to close playgrounds and limit recreational opportunities for our youth and families instead of consolidating departments and eliminating political appointees; “legalizing” raises for his political appointees in the form of fake auto and cell phone allowances; the Mayor’s opposition to two good government charter changes that were approved by Kenner voters by 70-30% margins; and now, trying to borrow $47 Million without a public referendum, I’ve tried to discuss and debate the issues without it getting personal, despite Mayor Yenni’s persistent attacks on me and his name-calling.

I can deal with Mayor Yenni’s personal attacks and his name-calling. In fact, I welcome them. You see, the more time he spends thinking about me, the less he can screw up our city.
But, when Mayor Yenni blatantly continues to lie, that goes beyond mere name-calling.

I shouldn’t be surprised though. Even the Times-Picayune called then-Candidate Yenni a “fibber” and, coming from a newspaper that endorsed him, those are almost fighting words.

Why Should I Answer Questions? I’m The Mayor – Call My “Official Press Release Writer”
After Tuesday’s dismissal of my lawsuit against the city to invalidate the bond sale until there was a voter referendum, a reporter from The Advocate was waiting in court and asked me for a statement. I gave him a statement and we discussed the case.

The court case ended just before 10am and I drove back to Kenner. At about 12:30, I emailed a press release to several members of the media and I was called by a reporter from the Times-Picayune. She asked me some questions and I discussed the case with her. At 1:27pm, she posted a story. Here’s a link.
You will note that it says “Updated July 09, 2013 at 6:56pm”. It was also updated earlier at 2pm and 6pm. (NOTE TO SELF: Get a new photo)

The original story, and the 2pm update, did not include any comments from the attorney employed by the city (and why exactly did they not use the City Attorney when he was there lurking in the Courthouse hallway?) or from Mayor Yenni.
I didn’t ask the City Attorney why he was there in the hallway of our court. Perhaps he had a personal injury trial or a bankruptcy case that he needed to attend to.

The City also issued a press release several hours after the original story appeared, thus the updates at 6pm and 6:56pm. I don’t know why Mayor Yenni couldn’t simply answer the reporter’s questions when she called, as I did. Perhaps the Mayor, his Political Consultant or his “Official Press Release Writer” were detained. I don’t know that answer. I do think it’s funny though, that Mayor Yenni chooses to respond to the media primarily in the form of written statements instead of just talking to them and needs to wait for hours to release a statement when he has a several city employees and political consultants at his beck and call when I wrote our press release in about 15 minutes and was more than willing to talk to the newspaper reporters and live on the radio with John Osterlind without a script or a teleprompter.

They’re Not Lies – They’re Just A Series Of “Untruths”
But, let’s get back to the City’s press release.

A portion of the original headline of the press release said: “Citizen’s Group Told to Pay City’s Legal Fees”.
This headline is completely untrue and misleading and Mayor Yenni knows it. But, he still sent it out.

How do I know that Mayor Yenni knows it was a lie? Because when the city was called on it and told that it was untrue, the city issued a revised press release with a new headline. This one states: “Citizen’s Group Told to Pay Court Costs.”
As anyone who has ever sued or been sued knows, there’s a significant difference between “Legal Fees” and “Court Costs”.

Trust me, no one who doesn’t have the resources of the tax payers of Kenner, wants to pay the city’s “Legal Fees” particularly when the city already employs several allegedly competent attorneys already on our dime, but in this case, hired outside attorneys.
But, while the city corrected the headline and issued a revised Press Release, that’s not the only untruth the release contains.

The city’s Press Release says, “Judge Mentz ruled from the bench that the lawsuit filed by Bennetti and his organization, Citizens For a Better Kenner, was filed in violation of state law and district court rules.”
In fact, Judge Mentz never said or wrote anything close to that in his order granting the dismissal.

Judge Mentz did say that my responses to the city’s exceptions to the lawsuit were not filed timely. But, he never mentioned any violation of state law or district court rules. We were not fined and there were no penalties involved.
Here is the actual wording of the body of Judge Mentz’s order verbatim:

“It is ordered, adjudged and decreed that Defendant’s Exception of Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Exceptions of No Cause of Action and Peremption are hereby granted.

It is further ordered, adjudged and decreed that any and all costs associated with said Motions are assessed against Plaintiffs, Citizens for A Better Kenner, Inc. and Walter Bennetti.

It is further ordered, adjudged and decreed that this Court’s Judgment in favor of defendant, the City of Kenner, Mayor Mike Yenni and Kenner City Council, is hereby designated as a final and appealable judgment after an express determination that there is no just reason for delay pursuant to Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure article 1915.”

Did anyone read “violation of state law and district court rules”? Me neither.
Not content with simply lying, in typical Yenni fashion, the Mayor has to give his own spin on things:

“This frivolous and politically-charged lawsuit delayed the bond refinancing by six weeks and cost the city millions of dollars.”
Again, untrue.

Judge Mentz did not say that our lawsuit was “frivolous” or “politically-charged”. Those are Mayor Yenni’s words and, while he claims to have been employed by Jefferson Parish as a “Paralegal”, I don’t think he’s qualified to deem our lawsuit as “frivolous” and it’s certainly not “politically-charged” and there's no conclusive evidence that the lawsuit cost the city anything other than the amount that their attorneys charge them. Since the attorneys employed by the city to contest this lawsuit also stand to get a cut of the $600,000 in bond fees that will be assessed (about 10x the normal amount of similar bond issues by the way), I'm sure they can give the city a discount.
Also, in the release, Mayor Yenni continues to defend his bogus statement that his 2030 Plan will not cost taxpayers more money.

Again, untrue.
While it may not increase the yearly amount of our debt payments and it will not cost new taxes, how can anyone possibly think that this “will not cost any additional taxpayer dollars” when Mayor Yenni’s plan calls for 15 more years of debt service? Are these payments not tax dollars?

The $3.2 Million dollars that Kenner will pay on this debt could be used for other projects that might be more relevant to Kenner like infrastructure, streets, drainage, police and fire protection, etc. if the debt were not extended and increased. Instead, every year the city will need to allocate $3.2 Million dollars to pay for Mayor Yenni’s pet projects which still have not been approved by the City Council or even had a traffic or engineering study initiated.

What’s Next On Mayor Yenni’s Agenda – Tripling Property Taxes? A Kenner Mini-Mt. Rushmore?
So, to whoever is reading this to Mayor Yenni, please let him know to keep up the personal attacks and keep trying to demonize myself and group of citizens who are trying to protect the rights of Kenner residents.

As I said, the more time he spends thinking about me and CFBK, the less time he has to work on his next brainchild. Perhaps if he’s re-elected, Mayor Yenni will unveil his plan to triple property taxes; build a Kenner mini-Mt. Rushmore monument with the busts of Ed Muniz, Aaron Broussard and Greg Buisson; or add more departments and political appointees to city hall.  
I guess we’ll know in the spring if Mayor Yenni is re-elected or needs to get his first ever job in the private sector. I’m sure Mr. Buisson can find him a job making coffee or as a “clerk/typist” or, perhaps Mayor Yenni can finally be "Director of Communications with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office".

After all, that's what he tried to make us believe that he was years ago.