Thursday, July 29, 2010

Davis' Muddy Thinking

"Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt" - Unknown

Fire Starter has previously discussed the many shortcomings of Village of Johnson City Mayor and Trustees.

There is the vindictive, self serving Mayor Hannon. No slight, whether real or perceived goes un-redressed. The “Sheriff” repeatedly seems to be overcompensating for some shortcoming known only to his honor.

There is Trustee Rick Balles. He is always on the winning side of every vote regardless of what is in the best interest of the Village. His number one instinct is self preservation. Regardless of his shifting positions, he always has the moral certainty of the simple minded.

There is board member Monica Silas. She repeatedly tows the company line no matter how ill informed or vacuous her statements are. We have yet to catch Mayor Hannon’s lips moving while it appears that Silas is speaking.

There is Trustee Cindy Novobilski. She campaigned as one who would take on the excesses of Mayor Hannon’s “reign”. Once elected, she developed severe laryngitis except when voting in support of Mayor Hannon’s latest folly.

Which brings us to Trustee Ron Davis. The retired former supermarket manager remains an enigma. He says little at work sessions and Board meetings. Outside of Board meetings, he seems to understand the destructive nature of Mayor Hannon’s policies. When one of these policies arises at a public meeting, he is nowhere to be found. He seems to have a moral compass but regularly leaves it at home when attending Board meetings.

There are several explanations for this odd behavior. Trustee Davis may just be another two-faced politician in the mode of Rick Balles. But Fire Starter has seen little evidence that Davis is insincere in his criticism of Hannon. Perhaps he is afraid of Mayor Hannon. Hannon has repeatedly shown that in his mind, intimidation is the “coin of the realm”. However, it is hard to believe that the former Manager would be easily bullied by Hannon. Perhaps he simply lacks the fortitude to stand alone for what he knows is right. It is not always easy to be the lone voice of reason.

It is time for Davis to speak up or be thought the fool.

 It has been suggested that silence is often a sign of contemplativeness. “Still waters run deep”. Time will tell whether in Trustee Davis’ case, the water is merely a small, muddy puddle.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reckless Allegations

“It seems to me to be a reckless and foolish act that is going to be very costly.” -Andres Perez

The "New Sheriff" was making headlines over the last two weeks touting his "internal investigation" of Johnson City Police Department evidence procedures.  What has been icreasingly clear is that there was no issue to investigate other than Hannon's own handling of drug seizure money.  As detailed here recently, the only unaccounted for funds were funds seized while Hannon was police chief and the funds were kept by Hannon in his office safe.

Hannon has become almost comical in his blatant demagoguing of the issue.  However, Hannon's clownish machinations have much more serious implications. Fire Starter has learned that due to Hannons absurd allegations, a local murder prosecution may be compromised. 

In June of 2009, a 46 year old women, Kelly Westcott was murdered in the Village of Johnson City.  Her 49 year old boyfriend, William Kenyon has been charged with Second degree murder.  By all accounts, the murder was thoroughly and expertly investigated by the Johnson City Police Department.

Fire Starter has been reliably informed that for much of last week, current and former Johnson City Police officers have been called to testify regarding evidence collection and retention procedures at the department.  This has apparently occurred in response to Hannon's false charges of irregularities in the department.

Fire Starter has no idea what Hannon's game is.  Whether political or personal, his unfounded allegations have had a negative impact on the department and the prosecution of Kelly Westcott's alleged murderer.

We have no information regarding the merits of the case against William Kenyon.  However, if he is guilty, Hannon's irresponsible charges will make it that much harder to bring him to justice.

Westcott left behind two daughters and two grandchildren.   Fire Starter sure hopes Hannon has an explanation for them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

UPDATE 7/22/2010 - Money Trail Leads To Top

"I suppose everyone tells little white lies. Quite often they're necessary to make someone feel better or prevent feelings from being hurt. Whoppers? No, that's dangerous and they'll boomerang". -Richard Chamberlain

Fire Starter has questioned the legitimacy of Mayor Hannon's "internal investigation". First, we noted previously that few internal investigations begin with the release of information to the press. Second, Hannon has been quite fond of withholding comment when it came to personnel and internal matters. One can only assume that Hannon saw some political angle in releasing information regarding this "investigation". Third, in the Press & Sun Bulletin, Hannon's hand picked "Joint Police Chief" Zikuski, confirmed that all money was accounted for.

However, Fire Starter has now learned that a there was cash inventoried that could not be tied to articular case. An envelope containing cash and labled "closed drug cases 1996-1997" was found which could not be tied to any particular case or cases. By no small coincidence, this is the time frame in which Hannon was police chief. Fire Starter has been reliably informed that under Hannon's reign as police chief, such money was kept by the chief in a safe in his office.

So Fire Starter appears to owe an apology to Mayor Hannon. Hannon has suggested sloppy bookkeeping and possible wrongdoing. It turns out that he may be right. And it appears that he is in the best position to know!

So now, the only question is what punishment he will be meting out to himself.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

UPDATED 7/20/10: Sound And Fury Signifying Nothing

"My Definition of a redundancy is an air-bag in a politician's car" - Larry Hagman

With great fanfare, Johnson City Mayor and "Sheriff", Dennis Hannon announced his next great investigation. He apparently found confiscated cash in the evidence locker at the Village Police Department. This would seem to be about as earth shattering as finding donuts at a bakery. Yet it was a grand announcement of an "internal investigation".

Fire Starter has learned that contrary to Hannon’s representations, the investigation was initiated not by a “high ranking police official” but by Hannon himself. Additionally, a complete audit has already been conducted which acknowledged and explained the source and amounts of the confiscated cash. In fact, there is no discrepancy between log-in figures and the amount on hand. Additionally, Fire Starter has been reliably informed that District Attorney Gerald Mollen learned of Hannon’s “investigation” through the news media.

Fire Starter has learned that due to red tape associated with using seized assets, it is commonplace for police departments to stockpile seized assets for a significant period of time before going through the process of using it for department purposes. In fact, a close examination of records will likely reveal that this was done on Hannon’s watch as Police Chief and some of this money may date back to his prior “reign” as the “real sheriff” of Johnson City.

Fire Starter will follow this closely for any further developments. However, we expect that this will be yet another empty charge. Question: what kind of “criminal” investigation begins with turning all information over to the press? Answer: one that is not about the law but about politics.

Why is it that there has been no follow up by Mayor Hannon regarding his Recreation Director, Scott Gallagher and his wife, Village Court Clerk Rachelle Gallagher? The Gallagher situation is detailed here:
These two abused their positions of public trust to pursue their personal grievances against the "lowly maintenance man". Does that clear violation of law and the public trust hit a little too close to home? Hannon knows all too well- when throwing bombs, one must always be sure to be clear of the shrapnel.

This new "investigation" appears to be another case of headline grabbing by the blowhard “new sheriff”. It also appears to be yet another case of baseless character assassination. The public has grown weary of this meaningless grandstanding. If Hannon would spend half as much time on economic development as he does pursuing headlines, Johnson City would be far better for it. Unfortunately, it has never been about the Village or its future. It’s all about Dennis Hannon.

This is just further evidence that HANNON MUST GO.

UPDATE 7/20/2010: Fire Starter has learned that Hannon's dishonesty on the seized fund was even greater than previously thought. Fire Starter has discovered that in the spring of 2009, in order to avoid layoffs in the police department, the Village Board (of which Hannon was a member) ordered Chief Potts to deliver to Village Hall $60,000 from the seized assets. This amount was deposited in the general fund and used to prevent lay offs in the police department

Fire Starter is a great believer in law enforcement and believes that the village needs to do whatever it can to protect its citizens and police pofficers. What Fire Starter objects to is the subsequent lies and demagoguery now being spewed from Village Hall. It reinforces our belief that Hannon lacks the character to continue as Mayor. HANNON MUST GO.

Malevolence And Incompetence

“Incompetence - When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there's no end to what you can't do.” - Larry Kersten

Fire Starter has repeatedly detailed the incompetence and malevolence of Dennis Hannon. Whether throwing good money after bad in ill conceived court battles or pursuing all enemies for any percieved slight, hannon has shown himself incapable of wielding the power and responsibility attendant to his position as Mayor. Even the Press & Sun Bulletin, which seems pained to report anything that reflects negatively on Hannon had to notice his childish approach to criticism.

First the malevolence. Recreation Director Chris Hinkey smeared and then replaced by Hannon crony and WBNG assignments editor Scott Gallagher. Dempsey charges times two. Maney charged for speaking out regarding safety issues. The "lowly maintenance man" fired for taking the day off and not being present to clear the snow for Hannon's coronation. Potts run from his position as chief for opposing the K-9 program. Other police retirees smeared by inuendo in the made up controversy over seized money. The only real question on the malevolence front is...who is next.

Now for the incompetence. While pursuing all threats real and perceived, Hannon has totally lost control of Village finances. Hannon has given a blank check to his lawyers to pursue his enemies in the village and failed to budget for upcoming liabilities.

In the last year Hannon has wasted over $250,000 on lawyers to pursue an ill conceived legal strategy. Thus far, Hannon has little to show for his reckless spending. Hannon also hired "patsy" police and fire chiefs costing taxpayers over $130,000 more than if he promoted from within. Hannon's hand picked "Joint Fire Administrator" failed to secure ANY federal funding through the Federal SAFER program costing the village hundreds of thousands of dollars (the City of Binghamton was awarded a SAFER grant of over $900,000).

Hannon has also failed to budget for impending expenses. The police department remains 5 years out-of-contract. Even with minimal raises, there is an unfunded liability in excess of $350,000. There are also the laid off fire fighters who will be owed in excess of $350,000 in retroactive pay and benefits when they are finally returned to work. All the while, Hannon is claiming fiscal prudence and trumpeting the low tax increase for fiscal year 2010-2011. What is becoming ever clearer is that Hannon's "fiscal prudence" is all smoke and mirrors. It is based in a reality known only to Hannon.

A review of the last eighteen months reveals a pattern of conduct which has been fiscally destructive to the Village of Johnson City. Hannon has spent the village beyond its means and ignored looming liabilities. If one were trying to set the stage for a renewed dissolution movement, one could not follow a better path than that traversed by Hannon these last 18 months. Which gives rise to the question: Is Hannon actually pursuing dissolution?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Life and Death Lies

"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything."- Mark Twain

During the debate regarding the layoff of Johnson City fire fighters, wonder boy “Joint Fire Administrator” Hrustich repeatedly assured board members and the public that safety was is no way compromised by the proposed cuts. He was promptly rewarded with the best paying part time job in Broome County.

Hannon likewise repeatedly assured the public that the “expert”, “Joint Fire Administrator” had restructured the department and neither the safety of the residents nor fire fighters would be compromised. In addition, Hrustich promised that he would pursue federal SAFER grants to offset departmental costs.

In a November 19, 2009 Press & Sun Bulletin article, Hrustich was reported as asserting that regardless of staffing levels, village residents are protected. In a January 1, 2010 article, Hannon spoke of the station closure and staffing cuts and boasted "Your going to get all the help you need and you're going to get it in a hurry."

Fire Starter has now learned that Johnson City’s grant application was denied due shoddiness and incompleteness. We will continue to dig and will present the particulars of the rejection when available.

Of great interest is the application prepared by Hrustich. In it, he repeatedly makes the argument that public safety has been compromised by the layoffs. Hrustich notes deficiencies in response time placing the public at risk. He notes that short staffing the fire department puts fire fighters at risk. He even argues that the use of volunteers puts village fire fighters at risk. Specifically, Hrustich notes:

“Apparatus staffing levels have fallen to 2 personnel per vehicle which is misleading and provides for ineffective protection.”

“The staffing level has caused issues with not having available NIMS [national standard] required positions and this poses issues with initial attack and coordination in the first few vital minutes of suppression operations.”

“We now must request these important NIMS [national standard] functions through mutual aid. With the influx of mutual aid companies added to the run cards these positions directly affect the safety of our firefighters”.

“This means that our inspection program of area businesses has suffered and we are unable to meet New York State requirements of fire inspections for places of occupancy and businesses.”

“the department has suffered in keeping up with water rescue, confined space rescue and other mandated programs.”

"Closing of one of the two firehouses greatly increases response time by as much as 7 to 8 minutes to the south side and allows fire to grow in size exponentially."

It is a classic case of "was he lying then or is he lying now". Either way, there is one inescapable conclusion...Hrustich is a liar.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Hannon's Victory, Village's Loss

We've seen the hubris. And now we're seeing the scandals - David R. Gergen"

Fire Starter read with some interest the story in today's Press & Sun Bulletin regarding the recent Appellate Division decision regarding the selection of hearing officers in discipline cases and the elimination of the assistant chief position. The Village attorney hailed this as a "gratifying victory" that will save the village money. Fire Starter is confident that this has been gratifying to his bank account but is unsure of the savings. Mayor Hannon argued on News Team 34 that selecting hearing officers without input from the union will "save money". What was not explained was how this would save money.

The village has apparently spent tens of thousands of dollars to avoid having an arbitrator interpretate the union's contract and reach a decision regarding these issues. What is unclear is why the Hannon thinks he would have received a different conclusion had it gone through the less costly and more expeditious arbitration.

To Fire Starter, this all appears to be about ego and hubris. Arbitration would have been low profile. (Has the press ever reported on an arbitration?) Hannon needs headlines regardless of the cost to taxpayers.

So Hannon got a win. But did the taxpayers?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Flag Disgrace

“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.”- Frederick Douglass

Fire Starter recently reported on Mayor Hannon’s final insult to Chief Frank Dohnalek. We reported that Mayor Hannon refused to allow flags to be flown at “half staff” in honor of chief Dohnalek’s 46 years of service to the Village and its residents. Apparently, at the last minute, the mayor grudgingly allowed the flags to be lowered for a 24 hour period.

What is unclear is whether the initial refusal was petty revenge against a retired village fire fighter or megalomaniacal excess. Although Fire Starter would not discount the former, certainly, there is ample evidence to support the latter.

Fire Starter has learned that Governor Patterson had ordered flags lowered to half staff in late June to honor fallen soldier and New York State resident, Army Specialist Blair Thompson. Thompson, of Vernon, New York was fatally wounded when his unit was attacked by insurgents in Konar Province, Afghanistan.

In response to a teletype detailing the Governor’s action, Village Police Department personnel lowered the flags to half staff to honor this fallen hero. Mayor Hannon immediately ordered the flags raised since he had not approved the action. It was apparently not sufficient that the order came from the governor or that it was being done to honor a fallen hero. In what has become all too common, it is all about King Dennis the Insufferable.

Once again, Hannon has shown he is incapable of rational or beneficent thought. Once again, Hannon has shown he is unfit to wield any power. And once again, we reiterate…HANNON MUST GO.