Friday, July 26, 2013

Yenni’s Political Attack On Councilman Shines a Light On Kenner's Hypocritical Auto Allowances (Again)

The Hall-of-Fame Baseball Catcher and Manager Yogi Berra once said, “It’s like deja-vu, all over again” and that’s what it feels like in Kenner due to Mayor Yenni’s political attack on City Councilman Gregory Carroll’s use of a City of Kenner vehicle to commute to the Councilman’s day job in Orleans Parish.

For several years, I have been an outspoken critic of auto allowances for City of Kenner employees and the City Council.
Mayor Yenni and the City Attorney had always stuck to their guns that auto allowances were “reimbursements” although there were no mileage logs kept by city employees to reimburse.

Mayor Yenni even tried to get the Attorney General to verify that these payments were “reimbursements”.
The AG saw right through Yenni’s smokescreen.

In response to several questions from the Mayor, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said:
“A threshold issue of this opinion request is whether a car allowance is “compensation” as understood by the Charter. Your opinion request takes the position that this is a reimbursement rather than compensation. However, nothing in your opinion request indicates that employees submit mileage or any other kind of evidence of actual expenditures related to the use of personal vehicles for which they are reimbursed. Rather, it appears employees are given monthly flat amounts, regardless of much use of their personal vehicles actually occurs on any given month. Also, as your letter indicates, the car allowance is reported as taxable income on the employees W-2 form for IRS purposes. These facts seem to contradict the assertion that the car allowance is merely a reimbursement of the employee’s expenses.” Attorney General Opinion 12-0136.

Last year, Mayor Yenni tried again to include the auto allowances, along with cell phone and data allowances, in the city’s annual budget.
After more citizen complaints and District 2 Councilman Joe Stagni telling the Mayor again that the auto and cell/data allowances were illegal, Yenni relented and put an ordinance before the council to “legitimize” the formerly illegal compensation.

In addition to “legitimizing” the illegal payments, Mayor Yenni also expanded the program to include additional employees and additional compensation, all while proclaiming to the media that he was saving Kenner over $125,000 a year.
We’ve already pointed out several times Mayor Yenni’s issues with math.

Mayor Yenni’s plan specified several Levels of Responsibility and doled out payments accordingly.
Level 1, “The Highest Level of Responsibility”, receives a $400 per month auto allowance, a $100 per month cell phone allowance, and a $50 per month data allowance. $550 per month or an additional $6,600 per year to commute from their Kenner homes to City Hall and for using their own cellphones on the job.

Level 1 is reserved for Yenni’s top and highest paid Political Appointees including CAO Mike Quigley, Deputy CAO Natalie Newton, Finance Director Duke McConnell and City Attorney Keith Conley.
Level 2, “The High Level of Responsibilty”, receives a $300 per month auto allowances, a $75 per month cell phone allowance, and a $50 per month data allowance. $425 per month or an additional $5,100 per year to commute from their Kenner homes to City Hall and for using their own cellphones on the job.

Level 2 is reserved for every City Director, the Clerk of Court, Deputy and Asst. City Attorneys, 1 of Mayor Yenni’s Executive Assistants, and 3 other Assistants to the Mayor.
Level 3, “The Moderate Level of Responsibilty”, allows for a $200 per month auto allowance, a $50 per month cell phone allowance and a $50 per month data allowance.

Level 3 includes all city Assistant Directors.
Not content with just spreading Kenner tax dollars to his Political Appointees, Mayor Yenni also spread the wealth among several Classified employees with auto, cell phone and data allowances of their own.

The ordinance approved by the council states, “Any position listed in this ordinance that is provided with a city vehicle to perform their assigned tasks will not be allowed a vehicle allowance.”
I guess I don’t understand how driving from your house to City Hall to do your job constitutes an “assigned task”.

So, if fake auto allowances are ok for Yenni’s highly paid Political Appointees, why the issue with a City Councilman, who by law is allowed to receive a $500 per month auto allowance or a city vehicle?
The ordinance that the Council approved last year doesn’t cover the Council. They have their own ordinance which allows them $500 per month as a car allowance or the use of a city vehicle.

That ordinance has been on the books for over 5 years through all of Mayor Yenni’s current term and even before that when he was the CAO.
Yet, Mayor Yenni had no issue with it then.

And, why does Mayor Yenni think it's ok for his Political Appointees, some of whom earn over $100,000 from Kenner taxpayers, to get auto, cell phone and data allowances or cars and simply commute back and forth to City Hall and make money on top of using their personal cell phones (who has a cell phone plan that costs $150 per month for one line?), but not Kenner Councilmen who earn less than $25,000 a year and actually use their vehicles to attend the Mayor’s Ribbon Cuttings, Press Conferences, “Listening Sessions”, meetings at City Hall and in other areas of the city; and report on street light outages, sewerage issues, code enforcement issues and street flooding, among other things?
So, why the issue with Councilman Carroll now?

Political payback, pure and simple.

Does anyone really believe that Councilman Carroll’s vote against Mayor Yenni’s plan to increase Kenner’s debt by $42 Million and his opposition to Yenni’s plan to sell streets and displace residents in Carroll’s District, isn’t the cause of Mayor Yenni mysteriously realizing that Councilman Carroll has a city vehicle and why Yenni is pushing this issue now in the media and with the Attorney General?
If you believe that Yenni’s motives are pure and not purely political, I have a former Mississippi River Toll Bridge that I can sell you.