BY PAUL HAMPEL • email@example.com > 314-340-8242 | Posted: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 12:05 am
BRENTWOOD • An agitated crowd of Brentwood residents grilled city officials Monday night about hundreds of thousands of dollars the city's firefighters collected for overtime they did not work.
About 40 people attended the regular meeting of the city's Board of Aldermen at City Hall, among them John Geppert, the chairman of the city's Planning and Zoning Commission.
"I had always spoken with great pride about being from Brentwood," Geppert told the board. "But now, I'm embarrassed."
The Post-Dispatch disclosed Sunday that estimates of the unjustified overtime ran as high as $28,000 a year over more than two decades. The overtime involved routine maintenance on the department's firetrucks and ambulances.
Firefighters got paid for full, 10-hour shifts of overtime at an average of $50 an hour, but only worked some of the shift.
The payments came to light in March when police were investigating allegations that city administrator Chris Seemayer had been stealing from the city. Seemayer pleaded guilty to embezzling about $30,000.
After the meeting, Mayor Pat Kelly confirmed that federal authorities assisted Brentwood police in the investigation.
Brentwood negotiated a settlement with the firefighters to recoup some of the money, but officials have declined to disclose terms of the agreement.
Sources have said that the settlement entails withholding raises from the firefighters for two years.
City officials also forced the department's three highest-ranking officers — Chief Bob Niemeyer, Assistant Chief Bob Kurtz and Deputy Chief Dave Berkel — to accept retirement over the payments. Two firefighters, Capt. Brian Hagedorn and Lt./Medical Officer Matt Stoverink, were demoted.
Another resident, Karen Smith, made reference to the firefighters' salaries, the highest of the 18 municipal fire departments in the county.
Salaries last year ranged from $77,476 to $87,954 for rank-and-file firefighters. On top of that, overtime pay for each firefighter ranged from about $1,600 to $6,800.
Niemeyer's salary last year was $130,000, Kurtz's was $108,000 and Berkel's was $90,500. On top of that, Berkel got paid $8,000 in overtime.
Each retiree will get 80 percent of their salary as pension upon retirement.
Said Smith, "Brentwood's firefighters should have been gratified without expecting extra pay through fraudulent activity."
After residents had their say, Alderman Andrew Leahy apologized to the crowd for the scandal. "I have a reputation for asking questions and looking into things, but I missed it."