Friday, September 13, 2013

33-Year KFD Firefighter Claims Chief Intentionally Misappropriated Funds And City Is Not Living Up To Previous Agreements

As a 33-year veteran of the Kenner Fire Department, whose career culminated as Assistant Chief, Randy Guilmino thought he’d seen almost everything. But, he never thought he’d see a Fire Chief intentionally misappropriate money for training that the Chief wasn’t qualified to receive and then try to cheat Guilmino himself out of seniority pay that he has received since it was authorized by then Mayor, and now convicted felon, Aaron Broussard.

In May 2012, brought you the story of Kenner Fire Chief John “I’m just here to get a pension” Hellmers’ deception in granting himself almost $3,000 in Supplemental Educational Pay that Hellmers was not entitled to receive. 

A few weeks later, Travers Mackel of WDSU-TV filed a report on Chief Hellmers and the Supplemental Pay issue. Hellmers refused an on-camera interview with Mackel but said in a telephone interview that the allegations I described were false.

Also in June 2012, I wrote about a multitude of issues and questioned Hellmers’ leadership of the Kenner Fire Department.

This May, Hellmers lost his appeal and was told by Judge Ray Steib of the 24th JDC to repay the City theill-gotten Supplemental Education Pay that he gave himself. According to a source in the City of Kenner, this repayment still has not occurred.

In fact, a year and a half later, Hellmers still does not have the required certifications that many Kenner Firefighters have. 

Now newly-retired Assistant Chief Guilmino has stepped forward and confirmed what we reported last year along with more allegations of Hellmers’ mismanagement and abuse and personal information of how Hellmers, and the Yenni Administration, are withholding funds from Guilmino.

“I asked Chief Hellmers not once, but twice, if he had the certificates that he claimed to receive the EIP (Educational Incentive Pay),” Guilmino told “He said he did and that he wasn’t worried about it.”

All the while, Hellmers knew that he didn’t meet the requirements to receive the Supplemental Pay but approved it for himself anyway.

“Any other Civil Service Employee would have been terminated for less than what he (Hellmers) did,” Guilmino said.

“Cheating” Your Way To a 2 Rating

Guilmino also verified the allegations that Chief Hellmers ordered KFD firefighters to move equipment and “load up” fire trucks to deceive the State Fire Rating monitors so Kenner could receive a higher fire rating than Kenner deserved.

“One truck had 10 air packs for 3 firefighters,” Guilmino said. “He (Hellmers) purchased equipment specifically to ‘load up’ engines to cheat the PIAL (Property Insurance of Louisiana) rating.”

While some Kenner residents might applaud Hellmers for his efforts in keeping the City at a 2 rating, the deeper question is why didn't Chief Hellmers and the Yenni Administration adequately equip the KFD so this deception isn’t required?

1,500 Miles Per Month Driving Around Kenner?

 Last month, looked at the fuel and maintenance costs for City of Kenner take-home vehicles. We discovered that the biggest spender after Mayor Yenni was Chief Hellmers. According to fuel records, we estimated that Hellmers drove approximately 1,500 miles per month.

We knew that Hellmers made a daily run to New Orleans at taxpayer expense to drop off his child at school however, that alone couldn't account for him driving twice the miles that Kenner Councilman Gregory Carroll drove - and we all know the issue Mayor Yenni made of Carroll's average of 864 miles per month.

Now, we know another possible reason why.

"Chief Hellmers would come in to work for a couple of hours a day," Guilmino said. "This has been going on for years."

33 Years = $28

In an email to Chief Hellmers, with Mayor Mike Yenni and CAO Mike Quigley copied, Guilmino also claims that Hellmers has withheld additional compensation that was due Guilmino when he retired.

The compensation, called “Seniority Incentive Pay”, calls for Kenner Firefighters to receive an annual payment of $4 for every month of service as an additional incentive to continue with the KFD. Originally, under then-Mayor Aaron Broussard, after litigation, a consulting firm proposed a $3 per month plan. That was increased in 1998 by then-Mayor Louis Congemi to the current $4 per month.

Guilmino explained the Seniority Pay.

“In 2012, I received $1,152. Since I retired in July of 2013, I should have received the pro-rated amount of $688.33 in Seniority Pay ($1,152 plus $28 - $4 times the 7 months of 2013 = $1,180 divided by 12 months = $82.60, then multiplied by the 7 months of 2013 = $688.33).”

“Chief Hellmers paid me $28.”

“I’m also owed the pro-rated amount of my EIP, which comes to an additional $350.00”

In an email reply to Guilmino, Hellmers agrees that Guilmino is due the $350.00 for the EIP but denies that Guilmino is owed more than the $28.

“In regards to Seniority Incentive Pay, it is a discretionary reward and was instituted to provide an incentive for firefighters to continue their service with the City,” Hellmers wrote. “It has never been litigated nor is it mandated by State law. It is City policy that firefighters leaving the City are compensated at the rate of $4 per month for the months in which they worked that year. However, they do not receive any compounded compensation, as credit for the previous year is not earned until January when the previous year has been completed. As such, the $28.00 you received was not erroneous.”

As Guilmino points out, according to Chief Hellmers, if a firefighter retires on December 31st, they would receive $48.00 (12 months at $4.00 per month). However, if they retired on January 1st, they would receive the compounded amount of their entire service which, obviously, makes no sense.

No one within the City of Kenner or the KFD could confirm the “City policy” that Hellmers described as the basis for his denial of Guilmino’s claim.

The bottom line is, after 33 years of faithful service to the City of Kenner and the Kenner Fire Department, Guilmino is seeking what he feels he is rightfully owed. In the grand scheme of things, with an $8 Million + KFD budget, clearly Chief Hellmers could have found $688.33 to make Guilmino whole instead of waging a verbal battle trying to justify a poor decision.

Perhaps Mayor Yenni should have taken the $688.33 owed to Guilmino from the $2,900 that Hellmers was ordered to repay the City for Hellmers’ interest free loan of taxpayer dollars.

That is, if Hellmers ever repays the City.