At budget hearings, community meetings and to the media, Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni has always patted himself on the back for refusing to take an auto allowance like Kenner City Councilmembers. And, while that is noble, it is also deceptive.
According to City of Kenner fuel records received by ClickJefferson.com through a Public Records Request (Note to Greg Buisson, Mayor Yenni’s Political Consultant: This was my first PRR of 2013), during his term as Mayor, Yenni has racked up some pretty hefty auto expenses on the city’s taxpayers dime.
Yenni, who has access to several city vehicles and was criticized for spending thousands of dollars to rehab a 1992 SUV that was driven by his uncle that was added to Kenner’s fleet, has averaged almost as much as the auto allowance that Kenner City Councilmembers receive in fuel and maintenance alone. If you factor in depreciation, insurance and the cost of the vehicles that Yenni drives into the mix, Yenni’s auto bill dwarfs what the Councilmembers receive.
From July 2010, when he was inaugurated, to July 2013, Yenni charged $12,549.82 in fuel and another $4,280.52 in maintenance to city taxpayers. The combined bill of $16,830.34 means that Yenni’s use of city vehicles (again, excluding depreciation insurance and vehicle cost) averages $454.87 per month that he’s been in office.
Please note that these figures are for fuel and maintenance on only 1 vehicle that is routinely used by Mayor Yenni, a 2006 Ford Expedition, and do not include the money that the City spent to rehab the 1992 SUV that Yenni claims he didn’t know was driven by his uncle and which he denied was used by his uncle to the web site Slabbed.org. It also does not include money that is spent weekly for outside auto detailing or for the labor used by city employees for maintenance.
In another contradiction to Mayor Yenni’s claims on Slabbed, the Mayor claims that he only drove the 1992 SUV to a meeting in Baton Rouge with the State Bond Commission because his primary vehicle was in the shop, however the City has no records of any maintenance work done on the 2006 Ford Expedition during June or July of 2013.
Last month, Mayor Yenni was critical of the charges incurred by Kenner Councilman Gregory Carroll, the only Councilman to not accept the auto allowance and instead opt for the use of a City of Kenner pool vehicle. Yenni claimed that, by commuting to New Orleans for Councilman Carroll’s day job, the Councilman was abusing the use of a municipal asset for the Councilman’s personal gain.
During the time that Councilman Carroll has had a city pool vehicle, a 1999 Crown Victoria, the Councilman has averaged $190.16 per month in fuel and another $188.51 per month in maintenance for the 14-year-old vehicle. The combined total of $378.67 per month is still considerably less than Mayor Yenni’s auto tab especially when you factor in the maintenance that Carroll’s car needed just to be drivable and that Yenni drives much newer and more fuel efficient models than the vehicle he gave Councilman Carroll.
Had Councilman Carroll accepted the $500 per month auto allowance afforded to Kenner City Councilmen, he would have received $8,500 in cash payments versus the $6,437.84 that was charged in fuel and maintenance costs for Carroll’s use of the city vehicle, saving taxpayers over $2,000.
If you assume that Mayor Yenni’s vehicle(s) averages 15mpg (the 2006 Ford Expedition is EPA rated at 14mpg city and 17-19mpg highway) and that the City of Kenner’s wholesale cost for fuel averaged $3.00 per gallon over the past 3 years and 1 month (because they buy in bulk through a government contract, the City doesn’t pay retail like you and I do at the gas station), the Mayor’s fuel cost is the equivalent of driving 62,749 miles during that period, or an average of just under 1,700 miles per month. Considering that Kenner is only 11 square miles, that’s some pretty heavy driving for someone who spends most of his days sitting in an office, or in the case of his Television interview about Councilman Carroll’s vehicle, sitting in a rocking chair.
In fact, it seems highly unlikely that $12,549 in fuel went into only 1 vehicle as Mayor Yenni claims or that Mayor Yenni could have possibly driven that many miles. A city the size of Kenner can only have so many ribbon cuttings.
So, for Mayor Yenni to criticize Councilman Carroll for his fuel and maintenance charges and mileage when Yenni’s are substantially more is hypocritical.
The only other City of Kenner gas guzzler that comes close to Mayor Yenni’s fuel bill is KFD Fire Chief John Hellmers. Hellmers averages $378.68 in monthly fuel and maintenance charges, or $.01 more than Councilman Carroll, despite driving a much newer vehicle than Carroll. Evidently, Mayor Yenni does not have an issue with the Fire Chief dropping off his child in New Orleans daily for school and charging those miles to City of Kenner taxpayers.
Again, using similar cost assumptions for Hellmers ($3 per gallon, a combined 14mpg for the 2006 Ford Excursion driven by Hellmers), the fuel consumed by Hellmers equates to 64,786 miles or over 1,500 miles per month. Again some pretty hefty driving.
Why wasn’t Chief Hellmers also cited for his abuse of a municipal asset for personal gain? Why hasn’t Mayor Yenni alerted the media, the Legislative Auditor, the State Attorney General, the U.S. Justice Department about Chief Hellmers’ abuse? Since Mayor Yenni still hasn’t contacted any law enforcement officials about Chief Hellmers misappropriation of thousands of taxpayer dollars that Hellmers claimed for certifications that he hadn’t received, it is unlikely that Mayor Yenni took any action against his own political appointee.
And why doesn’t the city vehicle that Hellmers drives have any Kenner Fire Department markings?
Perhaps Fox 8 will trail Chief Hellmers as he makes his daily run to New Orleans and ambush him in the parking lot like they ambushed Councilman Carroll.
In fact, the City of Kenner allows 2 employees who live outside of Jefferson Parish to have take-home vehicles and they spend less in fuel and maintenance than Mayor Yenni.
Emergency Management Supervisor Doug Dodt averages $292.22 in monthly fuel and maintenance costs while Assistant Director of Public Works Jerry Dillenkoffer averages $282.59 in monthly fuel and maintenance costs. Both live outside of the City of Kenner and Jefferson Parish and drive take-home vehicles.
Dillenkoffer is on call 24-7 while Dodt is on call during emergencies only.
Three other City of Kenner employees also drive take-home vehicles. All are in the Recreation Department, use the vehicles daily to visit playgrounds, and average between $144.60 and $212.91 per month in fuel and maintenance costs, again, far less that Mayor Yenni’s fuel and maintenance costs.
While on the surface it appears that Mayor Yenni is making a sacrifice for City taxpayers by not accepting an auto allowance, just like The Wizard of Oz, when you peel back the curtain, Yenni’s true hypocrisy and deception are apparent.
Hopefully, more and more Kenner residents will keep looking behind the curtain and learn that the Wizard of YenniVille is no Wizard at all.