Zurik: No more "Playing With Fire" for Richie Hampton - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Lee Zurik Investigation: No more "Playing With Fire" for Richie Hampton

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New Orleans, La. -

"I'm not interested in doing any interviews on film," Richie Hampton told us at one point during a series of meeting with him in 2012.

Taxpayers gave Hampton a $150,000 annual salary as chief executive officer and secretary-treasurer of the board of the New Orleans Fire Fighter's Pension & Relief Fund. But after a series of our stories on the fund, he had had enough of our questions.

"Because the board doesn't want me to give any more interviews," Hampton told us.

After Wednesday, Hampton won't be in the position to answer any pension board-related questions - he's been voted out.

Last week, active and retired firefighters voted out all four incumbents running for re-election, including Hampton.

Retired firefighters elected Martin Gaal and Angelo Marchese, the top two vote-getters. Hampton lost by three votes; his brother, another incumbent running for board re-election, finished fourth.

Active firefighters also elected two new members, Nicholas Levene and Thomas Meagher. The incumbents, Nick Felton and Darryl Klumpp, both lost by more than 100 votes.

Our series of stories showed how Hampton received a $70,000 pay raise in one year. He told us, "That raise was long past overdue."

Starting this week, Hampton won't be receiving any money - he's out of a job. New board members say they'll form a committee to review the compensation and the duties of board members and employees.

Our series showed Hampton served as a board member and a board employee at the same time. When we raised the issue with him, Hampton said, "We don't believe it's against the law."

The pension board brushed aside our question, but the ethics board saw problems too and charged Hampton with violating the ethics code.

But the most significant discoveries from our stories involve the investments, the money set aside for retired firefighters.

The firefighters lost millions in bad investments and have a large amount of money put away in real estate, relying on advice from a controversial investment advisor, Joe Meals.

"I think Joe Meals is an outstanding consultant," Hampton told us. "I think he's done a phenomenal job."

But Wednesday, we learned Joe Meals is no longer the fund's investment advisor. They've already hired a new company, the Bogdahn Group.

Some people connected to the board, whom we spoke with off camera, say both active and retired firefighters sent a message with their vote - they were unhappy with the salaries, management and investments at the board. Now it's up to four new board members to help turn around a fund that firefighters need to rely on, for the rest of their lives.

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