Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ho-Hum…Another Day, Another Embarrassment For Kenner And (As Usual) Mike Yenni Knows Nothing About It

When I was a youngster, I loved the TV Show “Hogan’s Heroes”. I didn’t really understand the show (I mean, I was 9 years old when it stopped airing original episodes), but I loved how Col. Hogan would always pull the wool over the German’s eyes, especially Sgt. Schultz.

When Sgt. Schultz went into his “I know nothing…I see nothing…I wasn’t even here…I didn’t even get out of bed this morning”, it would make me laugh out loud. In fact, it still does.
In the world of YenniVille (formerly known as Kenner), Mayor Mike Yenni would have you believe that he is Sgt. Schultz and he knows nothing about anything (and everything bad in Kenner is my fault).

Whether it’s not knowing that a “donated” 1991 SUV just happened to be driven by his late uncle; not knowing that District 1 Councilman Gregory Carroll was still driving a city vehicle (despite approving fuel and maintenance purchases on the 14-year-old car for months and Councilman Carroll not getting the cash auto allowance); to now claiming to not know that a city employee in the Code Enforcement Department is a convicted felon and handles cash, Mayor Yenni sure claims to not know a lot.
And, that’s just what the news media has reported in the past few weeks.

Well,  I guess feigning ignorance is better than lying. Or is it?
Kenner’s latest embarrassment is the disclosure (by the media, of course), that a City of Kenner employee intentionally failed to complete her job application when she was hired by former Mayor Louis Congemi. In fact, in the Nola.com article, the employee claims that Congemi told her to leave the section blank dealing with whether you were ever convicted of a crime.

The employee was convicted of embezzling almost $43,000 from a prior employer. I’m not going to mention her name. The woman made a mistake and it’s in the past.
Now, Mayor Yenni didn’t hire this woman but he is just as responsible as former Mayors Congemi and, Yenni’s mentor, Ed Muniz.

Prior to 2006, all City of Kenner employees were hired (and fired) at the discretion of whoever was Mayor at the time. During the Muniz Administration, with Yenni as CAO, that policy changed as Kenner instituted a Civil Service program for the majority of city employees.
The Mayor is still allowed to hire (and fire) Department Directors, Assistant Directors, along with some clerical and legal staff and the Fire Chief.

When the City changed to a Civil Service program, Muniz and Yenni said that all employees would be subject to background checks and evaluated to determine if they would be allowed to remain in their positions.
Obviously, those background checks and evaluations were either not undertaken or were improperly done.

For her part, the City employee claims that she just did what she was told by former Mayor Congemi. Congemi claims to not recall instructing the woman to lie or even hiring her in 1999.
"He told me to leave the area blank," the employee said. "I went forward and did as I was told. I did not lie."

Obviously, she doesn’t believe in lies of omission or the fact that every job application contains a signature line where you say that you truthfully completed the job application.
Now, I don’t believe that anyone should lose their job over a crime that happened over 20 years ago or a lapse in judgment that occurred 14 years ago when she was hired. But, something does need to be done.

Clearly, you cannot allow an employee, any employee, who was convicted of embezzling to be around cash. No matter how great an employee you may be now, you succumbed to temptation at least once, and why have that temptation under your nose every day when you’re at work, especially when it is taxpayer dollars.
So, if Mayor Yenni doesn’t want to fire her, I say fine. But, move her somewhere so that she’s not handling city dollars.

However, for Mayor Yenni to say to Nola.com that “he is uncertain” whether the employee handles money, is a blatant lie. In the first place, this information was brought to his attention by a citizen months ago. Now, before Mayor Yenni stomps his feet and blames me or Citizens For a Better Kenner, we had nothing to do with this. It was uncovered by a citizen. So, while I’m sure that it makes Mayor Yenni feel better to try to blame everything wrong with Kenner on me, this isn’t on me Mayor.
But, to continue to claim ignorance is not working either, Mayor Yenni.

When the reporter asked Yenni if the employee handled money, couldn’t the Mayor have picked up the phone (if, in fact, he didn’t already ask someone months ago when Yenni received the information), and asked the Code Enforcement Director so you could give the reporter an honest answer?
Or, as is usually the case with Mayor Yenni, you could have asked one of your assistants to call the Code Enforcement Director.

So, just own up Mayor Yenni: you did a poor job with background checks when you were CAO; a citizen brought this to your attention and you did nothing until Nola.com got involved; you lied to a reporter who is too new to see through your B.S.; and, now that you know, you still aren’t going to do anything because this employee is “one of the city’s best employees”.
Yeah, let’s put her picture right up there next to the Fire Chief who gave himself an interest free loan courtesy of Kenner taxpayers and the City Attorney who earns $100,000 a year in salary and benefits and still moonlights as a Personal Injury Attorney for a law firm owned by your friend and political contributor.

I’m sure they are both great employees too.
But, don’t worry Mayor Yenni. There’s room enough on that wall for one of your pictures too.