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Covington Firefighters: End pumper brownout

COVINGTON, Ky. (Angenette Levy) -- The union representing Covington's firefighters called for an end to the brownout of Pumper One in the wake of a state audit which showed the city's former finance director embezzled more than first thought.
Pumper One has been browned out nearly every day since September 2011. IAFF Local 38 president Jimmy Adams said he wants the pumper put back into service. He has questions about budget cuts made during the tenure of former finance director Bob Due. He's accused of embezzling nearly $800,000 from the city.
"At that time he was the only person that was in charge of the finances. And that's been our argument since the report's come out is that we now have this evidence that shows he was not truthful," Adams said.
Last week Kentucky's Auditor said Due embezzled $793,000 over 12 years.   
"They're very confident that they caught everything that Bob Due did, but there was such a lack of oversight in the city's financials there could be more problems. I read that and that makes me very nervous," Adams said.
But City Manager Larry Klein said Monday night the city's budget issues and the embezzlement by Due are two separate issues and the brownout was not part of the scheme.
"It was not impacted by the money Bob Due was embezzling," Klein said.
Klein said the city faced a $1 million deficit at one point. He said Pumper One cost the city $600,000 in overtime every year. Due's alleged theft breaks down to roughly $66,000 per year. Klein said declining revenues coupled with rising health care and pension costs created a budget deficit. Some city employees were laid off. No firefighters lost their jobs.
The money used to pay for Pumper One's operation is still in the budget paying for things like road repairs, sewer work, new police cars and ambulances. Klein said annual audits by independent accounting firms showed the city had budget problems.
"Bob Due's reporting was verified by outside auditors year after year. Unqualified opinions  that the city's financial statements saying that it was having a budget issue were accurate," Klein said.
Meanwhile, firefighters said they made concessions to help the city. Now they want Pumper One back on the street.
"We feel that we were made to be the scapegoat on why the city was broke - the labor unions in the city of Covington. And, I have not heard anyone apologize for that," Adams said.
Browning out Pumper One reduced the fire department's minimum staffing level from 30 to 27 firefighters per day. Adams said that violated the contract the union had with the city. The city and the union have been fighting over the issue since 2011 by appealing to courts and labor boards. Kenton Co. Judge Patricia Summe is expected to rule on whether the city can reduce the staffing levels in a month or two.
Bob Due is in the Kenton County Jail awaiting trial.




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