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With New Chief, Communication Lines, Bromley Looks to Move on After Ex-Mayor's Arrest

Following his arrest on September 30, ex-Bromley mayor Donnie Jobe also stepped down as chief of the city's volunteer fire department.

Wayne Keller took over as fire chief and was introduced to the city council in his new role on Wednesday night.

With Jobe gone from both his city posts, the city now looks to move forward as the case against the former mayor and fire chief heads to the Kenton County grand jury for indictment consideration.

Jobe faces multiple charges related to alleged theft of city funds and documents.

"I'm glad it's being settled," said Mike Denham, who was elevated from his role as city councilman to mayor when Jobe resigned last year amid the investigation into his alleged theft. Denham is seeking a full term in November and is unopposed. "Our concern for the last two years now was, when is this going to be resolved?"

There was little discussion about Jobe's arrest at Wednesday's meeting outside of Keller's appointment as interim fire chief.

"It's a strain on certain council members that had to go through that for that long, but now that it's done, I think everybody is going to feel a lot better and we'll move on," Denham said.

The city is still without some computers and documents seized by Kenton County Police during a raid of the city building in February of last year. They may not have the property returned until Jobe's case is resolved.

In the meantime, the city is implementing reforms, Denham told The River City News.

There will be no more petty cash in the city building, and every purchase in need of reimbursement from the city must be turned in with a receipt. Anyone who deals with the city's finances will now be bonded, too, Denham said.

The city will also task itself with improving the strained relationship with its fire department, which is an independent entity governed by a board but funded in part by city dollars. 

Denham said the city is looking at different ways to fund the fire department. "Something that would be easier with more oversight of where the tax dollars and everything goes," the mayor said. 

The Bromley Fire Department is all-volunteer, and residents in the city in need of an ambulance or a fire truck are tended to by Crescent Springs-Villa Hills Fire Department through a contract with that department.

Wayne Keller and his father, former Bromley Fire chief Terry Keller, who is now an assistant chief, were present at the meeting Wednesday to answer any questions. That in itself was an improvement in the relationship, Denham said. "I think it started tonight with them being here," Denham said. "The council wants to have an openness policy."

What was unclear on Wednesday is whether any misappropriation or misuse of fire department funds took place while Jobe held the roles of mayor and fire chief at the same time.

"I think they're still investigating," Denham said.

"They have some work ahead of them because they have a lot of people to work on to get them back on the right track within their own organization. They got a lot more work than the council to get it back," Denham said of the fire department. "We grow from here."

The new fire chief said morale in the department is good.

"That was all personal stuff, he didn't bring it into the department," Wayne Keller said of Jobe. "We we do have to do as a fire department is get back in communication with the council, with council personnel, and the other fire departments in the area. Those are the two main things, the two priorities."

Keller assumed the unpaid chief's role last week following the resignation of Jobe. The fire department will accept nominations for chief and other officer and board positions next month for people to assume their new roles in January. Keller was introduced as interim chief for a three-month period but said that he will stand for the role of chief in December's vote.

His father, Terry Keller, said that he did not expect anyone to oppose his son.

Both Kellers are retired from the Covington Fire Department where they each spent 21 years in service. Terry Keller served as chief for two years in Bromley ten years ago.

Now another Keller wears the chief's hat.

"After I retired, I was ready to start another career at a small department, all-volunteer where there's not a lot of help these days," said Wayne Keller, who is a full-time real estate agent, too. "I just wanted to come down and get Bromley Fire Department back to where it used to be, try to get more members in here, and clean up some of that communication stuff."

The new chief was tasked with having the fire department work on removing some of the leftover old flagpoles around town that were once used to hang city banners. Councilman Dave Radford made the request so that the city would not have to hire a service to do the work.

"I can't say no to the first request I get," Chief Keller said, to laughs.

The city council faces an election on November 6 and Mayor Denham wants to see all its members re-elected.

"It's been great working with everybody here and I hope it stays status-quo," he said at the end of Wednesday's meeting. "I think I may be a little smarter in the next four years - or maybe a dumber or wish I wasn't here," he added, to laughs. "But it's been eye-waking to me."

"We've had hurdles. It's been an extremely tough year, especially for some of us more than others. They've held in there and I really appreciate everything we've been able to accomplish."

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher

Photo: Terry and Wayne Keller pose along the wall of fire chief photos that hang in the city building, including one of Terry Keller from his time in office (RCN)