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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Firefighters Union Donates More Than $90,000 to Defeat Mehlville Fire District Chairman

By Phil Sutin > > 314-863-2812 | Posted: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 11:22 pm 

From Washington, D.C. to St. Louis County, the firefighters union has raised more than $90,000 to defeat Aaron Hilmer, chairman of the Mehlville Fire Protection District.
The union's money is going to Michael Klund, a small business owner from south St. Louis County who is challenging Hilmer's bid for a second six-year term in next Tuesday's election. Hilmer has raised $10,370 thus far.
Campaign finance reports filed Monday with St. Louis County and the Missouri Ethics Commission said Local 1889 of the union, which represents Mehlville firefighters, has contributed $67,000 to Friends of the Mehlville Fire District which is supporting Klund. Mike Pollihan of Lemay, the group's treasurer, donated $100 to the group.
Klund has collected $26,305, almost entirely from firefighting groups, including those in the Maryland Heights and Fenton fire districts. The International Association of Fire Fighters, based in Washington provided $14,700 in three donations in the early part of the month. The Missouri State Council of Firefighters has contributed $1,200. In addition to its donations to the Friends group, the Mehlville local gave $6,000 to Klund.
All of the fundraising and spending for Klund occurred from Feb. 1 to March 24. The group has spent $66,583 thus far, mainly for mailings. The Friends also conducted a poll.
"For the last six years, Aaron Hilmer has lead the Mehlville Fire District in the wrong direction," Ed Rhode, the spokesman and campaign manager for the Friends Group, said in a statement. "We are going to use our money to communicate directly with the voters on where Aaron Hilmer stands on the issues, " he said.
Hilmer said the amount the firefighters have raised "is no surprise. It's what they do. They want control back. It just shows how badly they want power; how effective I've been." He said, "the numbers speak for themselves."
Among donors to Hilmer in the reporting period were former State Rep. Cathy Enz, R-south St. Louis County, several individuals and the Tesson Ferry Republican Club.
Hilmer spent $12,774 thus far, all in the reporting period. Most of his spending went for a mailing.
Hilmer's six years on the board of the district that serves much of south St. Louis County have been controversial. He has changed the district's pension and disability plans to lower costs despite vehement objection by firefighters. He persuaded voters to lower the district's tax-rate ceiling.
He published last year a chart that compares the 2009 average wages and benefits for firefighter personnel with more than 15 years of service of his district and those of the Creve Coeur, Pattonville-Bridgeton Terrace and Metro West districts, angering other fire officials in the county.
R.L Praprotnik of south St. Louis County also is on the ballot for the position.
In the Monarch Fire Protection District, which serves Chesterfield and nearby areas, Rick Gans, the district's board chairman, and Steve Swyers of Wildwood have raised and spent similar amounts.
Gans has raised $20,343 and spent $11,438. Swyers collected $21,158 and spent $11,851 thus far. Gans raised $4,340 and spent $9,539 in the reporting period. All of Swyer's fundraising and spending was in that time.

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