Two Brentwood aldermen, resident criticize paying benefits to embezzler

2011-10-15T00:00:00Z 2013-02-18T08:44:05Z Two Brentwood aldermen, resident criticize paying benefits to embezzlerBY PAUL HAMPEL • phampel@post-dispatch.com > 314-340-8242 stltoday.com

BRENTWOOD • Two aldermen and the Brentwood resident who petitioned for a state audit of city finances have criticized the payment of benefits to a former city administrator who stole from the municipality.

The ex-official, Chris Seemayer, pleaded guilty on Wednesday in federal court of stealing $30,000 from the municipality and gambling it away.

He was sentenced to five years of probation with six months of that to be spent in house arrest.

Seemayer, 52, paid about $30,000 in restitution from his personal funds. But he also negotiated a deal that netted him about $34,000 from the city for sick leave and vacation time he had accumulated working there for 18 years.

The city said it paid Seemayer to avoid potential litigation over the matter.

Maureen Saunders, who led the call for the audit, said Brentwood surrendered the cash too easily.

"Maybe the city should have fought to not pay the benefit," Saunders said Friday. "They may have risked getting sued, but they would have sent a strong message to cheaters."

Aldermen Keith Robertson and Anthony Harper also criticized the payment.

"It certainly doesn't seem right," Robertson said Friday. "But maybe we didn't have a choice and were legally bound to pay him.

"Sometimes there's the right way, the wrong way and the legal way."

Harper described the payment to Seemayer as "ridiculous."

"He's convicted of stealing from the city and we're paying him tens of thousands of dollars? We shouldn't give him one more cent."

Neither Mayor Pat Kelly nor the city's eight aldermen ever voted on the deal to pay Seemayer.

Kelly said Friday that a labor attorney for the city, Chris Hesse, negotiated the settlement with Seemayer's attorneys.

"What I was told by our attorneys is that that was his accrued money and he had it coming to him," Kelly said. "We couldn't technically take all the money and keep it just because he resigned."

Hesse could not be reached for comment. He had also negotiated for the city in an effort to recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars that Brentwood's firefighters had collected over more than two decades for overtime hours that they did not work.

The overtime payments came to light when officials were investigating Seemayer's thefts.

In August, Saunders turned in a petition along with 946 signatures seeking the audit to the state auditor.

Brentwood's new city administrator, Bola Akande, said Friday that information on how many sick days Seemayer had taken over the years was not immediately available.

Bola said that city employees may accumulate up to 120 days of sick leave and 25 days of vacation — the exact amount of time that Seemayer asserted Brentwood owed him.

Seemayer, whose annual salary had been $130,000, asked the city to pay him $68,000 for the accrued time, his lawyer, Michael McAvoy, said.

The city balked.

"They said his figures did not gibe with their records," McAvoy said.

"Ultimately, (Seemayer) agreed to take half the sum in order to put the matter to rest. Everybody wanted and needed to move on and get this behind them."

When Seemayer turns 60, he will begin collecting another benefit for his service to the city of Brentwood: A monthly pension of $2,991.

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