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Civil service opens investigation into Covington-area fire chief

Steve Krentel (FOX 8 Photo) Steve Krentel (FOX 8 Photo)
ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) -

For the first time since the death of his wife three-and-a-half months ago, the fire chief of a Covington-area district went back to work Wednesday.

At the same time, the civil service board of that district voted to launch a new investigation into the leadership of Chief Stephen Krentel, who has been on bereavement leave since mid-July.

The civil service board met to discuss allegations ranging from an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate to nepotism and theft.

Krentel is not happy and made his feelings known as he looked over the page full of allegations.

"If this is what it is, I don't know why we’re here,” he said.

"They are mandated to see if there's evidence to back up the allegations. How far they go remains to be seen," said civil service board attorney Harry Olinde.

Krentel admits he had a relationship with a subordinate, which he says is over.

"I have in the past, and my wife was aware of it," he said.

In a letter asking for the investigation, fireman Tom Williamson said such relationships could lead to litigation.

"If you look at the country and allegations of sexual harassment right now, it's not good," said complainant attorney Roy Burns. 

Underlying the new investigation is the ongoing investigation into the death of Steve Krentel's wife, Nanette, an investigation which now involves the FBI.

"I have not personally spoken to the FBI," said Steve Krentel.

At Wednesday's civil service meeting, Krentel sat near his late wife's relatives, but few words were exchanged.

"A woman was murdered. She did not take her own life and she would not take the life of her animals," said Nanette's sister, Amy Bernard.

Firemen worry about retaliation for asking for an investigation.

"We believe Tom (Williamson) is being  retaliated against even to the point someone put a bullet in or around his truck on premises," said Williamson's attorney, Roy Burns.

The civil service board pledges to move quickly if there are any signs of retaliation. The board will report back later this month regarding any progress in their investigation.

No arrests have been made in the death of Nanette Krentel.

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