Monday, August 30, 2010

Lies the "Coin of the Realm" in JC

"A Single lie destroys a whole reputation for truth" - Baltasar Gracian

Fire Starter has previously outlined in detail that contrary to the Press' misrepresentations and the misinformation spread by pro dissolution residents, the Johnson City Fire Fighters are not the highest paid fire fighters in New York State.  They are not even the highest paid fire fighters in Broome County.

Trustee Silas waged a vicious smear campaign against the Village firefighters alleging that they make more than New York City firefighters.  One can only assume that her lies were calculated to demonize the fire fighters and boost her own political agenda.

The Press & Sun Bulletin has yet again made available wage information regarding municipal employees.  However, this time, the analysis was done by a reporter from the Albany Bureau who apparently had no "dog in the fight". 

The Press' analysis reveals that the Johnson City Firefighters are not the highest paid fire fighters in Broome County.  In fact, on average, they are the lowest paid fire fighters.  The Press & Sun Bulletin reported that Binghamton, Endicott and Johnson City salaries are all relatively close.  But the average salary of Johnson City fire fighters is $64,350 whereas Endicott and Binghamton are $67,067 and $65,570 respectively.  Fire Starter had reported similar findings here in April.

However, what is most disturbing in this whole affair is the blatant dishonesty of the Village Mayor and Board members when it came to this issue.  Again and again, Hannon, Silas and their ilk have perpetuated a lie for crass political purposes.  We have pointed out the severe lack in leadership and character in the Village of Johnson City government.  This latest episode does nothing to change our view.

Monday, August 23, 2010 Mean No!

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" - The Wizard of Oz

Fire Starter has previously written about Johnson City Trustee Rick Balles' lack of courage and conviction here.  We pointed out that Balles, now a critic of the Fire Department and their contract with the Village, is the only Trustee who voted both for and against the agreement.  We attributed this to political cowardice.  We now may have a different explanation.

At a Board meeting this past Tuesday, the Trustees were considering a plan to offer retirement incentives to Village employees with a certain number of years of service.  The idea is to encourage higher wage employees to retire and replace them with newer, entry level employees.

Apparently, logic has no place in the Village of Johnson City Board Room.  The fix was in and this matter had no chance of seeing the light of day.  However, apparently, Trustee Balles misplaced his script because when it came time to vote, he voted to approve the proposal.   After being reminded by the Village Attorney of the "right" way to vote, Balles changed his vote to no.  Listen for yourself:

Once again, this shows Balles to be unprincipled and cowardly (and perhaps a bit dim witted). Unprincipled and cowardly in that he was incapable of casting an independent vote without being reined in by Hannon and the Village Attorney.  Dim witted in that he could not even follow the script provided by Hannon.

This reminds us of another indecisive dim wit:

Our apologies to Monty Python. The Village of Johnson City is a much bigger "Flying Circus".

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Part Time Leadership, Full Time Expense

“Three groups spend other people's money: children, thieves, politicians. All three need supervision.” -Dick Armey

Fire Starter has learned that Dennis Hannon and the Village of Johnson City Board are again entertaining an expensive and foolhardy plan to share an assistant police chief with the City of Binghamton. It will be expensive for all the reasons previously detailed in our posts about the part time "Joint Fire Administrator" and the part time Police Chief. It is foolhardy in that it represents a "fix" to a problem that would not exist but for Hannon's insistence that a part time police chief could manage the Village of Johnson City police department.

First the cost. As previously detailed, the Village of Johnson City is underwriting the cost of the Fire Chief for Endicott and the Police Chief for Binghamton. We have detailed the economics in prior posts.

Wealthy Joint Fire Administrator

Hannon's Police Gambit

The Village of Johnson City is underwriting services in neighboring municipalities to the tune of $50,000 for each "Chief" position. As a result, the Village of Johnson City is paying more money for less work and less supervision.

Now for the foolhardy. Hannon assured residents that these part time leaders could handle the work load of full time chiefs. Apparently, this is not the case. Chief Zikuski apparently is unable to handle the work load and now requires a "part time assistant chief" in Johnson City. Hannon now must admit that they will be paying yet more money for a problem that would not exist had they appointed a full time police chief.

Fire Starter expects that the economics for this new position will be no more favorable than they were for the Chiefs. This is particularly true since the prior moves were based on a lack of need for full time leadership; an assertion that is now clearly repudiated by Hannon himself.  How long will it be before new proposals surface for unnecessary spending on further part-time positions in the fire department to compensate for the shortcomings of the  "part-time" Fire Administrator?

Again, Hannon is placing form over substance in this latest gambit. Any serious consideration of the proposal reveals serious flaws. Rather than admit the failure of the "part-time leader" meme, he has decided to double down on failure.

And as always, Village taxpayers are left to foot-the-bill for Hannon's incompetence.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Endicott Cited By State

"The truest characters of ignorance are vanity, pride and arrogance"- Samuel Butler

Fire Starter recently reported regarding the no confidence motion approved by Endicott Fire Fighters regarding their Chief, Stephen Hrustich.  In that resolution, approved in December of 2009, the members of the Endicott Fire Department raised multiple incidents of the part time chief's indifference to the health and safety of the fire fighters and the public.  Most shocking was the part time chief's refusal to have routine inspections performed on ladders as required by law.  Instead, he ordered new inspection stickers without actually having inspections performed.

Fire Starter has recently learned that Hrustich's gross abdication of responsibility has led to legal sanction from the New York State Department of Labor, Public Employee Safety & Health Bureau (PESH).  In February of 2010, the Village of Endicott was cited by PESH  for its failure to maintain and inspect fire fighting equipment on at least an annual if not monthly basis.  PESH ordered immediate compliance with the laws and regulations pertaining to fire fighter safety and the findings were ordered posted in a public place.  Of some curiosity to the Fire Starter is the fact that this rebuke has failed to see the light of day until now.

One might think that such an egregious lapse in judgement would have chastened Hrustich.  One would think that the rebuke from PESH would have made clear to the part time chief that cutting corners on safety is unacceptable.

Fire Starter has now learned that Chief Hrustich has caused the Village to again be cited for safety violations.  In June of this year, during regular maintenance of a ladder truck, Hrustich ordered fire fighters to operate forklifts to lift the tower off of the truck.  Hrustich knew full well that the fire fighters were not trained to operate this equipment.  However, again, to save a few dollars, Hrustich placed his men in harms way and ordered them to operate equipment they lacked training and experience to operate.  Thankfully, no one was injured.

In July of 2010, Village was again cited for violations of safety laws and regulations for requiring employees to operate powered industrial equipment without proper training.  This violation was deemed "Serious" in that it presented a real and actual risk of serious injury or death to Village fire fighters.

Time and again Endicott and Johnson City's part time chief has placed money and personal advancement ahead of safety.  Previously, we had to rely on the good faith reports of village fire fighters.  Now we have concrete proof from a state agency tasked with protecting the health and safety of public employees.

It is now time for Mayor Bertoni and the Endicott Village Board to sit up and take notice.  And take remedial action...before someone makes the ultimate sacrifice because of Hrustich's arrogance.

Monday, August 9, 2010


“Some days you're the dog, some days you're the hydrant.” - Unknown

Fire Starter has just learned that the Johnson City Police K-9 program is being shelved indefinately.  Several months ago, mayor Hannon regaled the public with the great benefits of having a K-9 in the department.  In an era of tight budgets, it was entirely unclear why the Village was unable utilize K-9 units from neighboring departments or the State Police.  Fire Starter had previously questioned this often costly "luxury" in the face of officer reductions.

Apparently, Mayor Hannon handled this matter as he has so many others.  He failed to comply with his contractual obligations and made a "side deal" with Officer Berdine, the erstwhile "dog handler".  Mayor Hannon was called to task and has buckled under the pressure.

Of equal interest is the fact that Hannon's "chosen-one", Officer Berdine, has recently faced internal investigations involving his failure protect his fellow officer in an emergency situation and most recently for using department computers to view Facebook and other material regarding young women.  Perhaps in light of the investigation involving Berdine's alleged failure to protect a fellow officer, having the K-9 was a remedial action. It is certainly clear to Fire Starter that Hannon favors those with his low level of character over more dedicated and honorable employees such as Chief Potts, Captain Maney and Fire Marshal Dempsey.

Fire Starter is pleased with this recent development but is quite wary of Hannon's judgement.  Yet again, Village resources have been squandered with no appreciable benefit to Village residents.  Instead of picking winners and losers among village employees, perhaps Hannon should concentrate on economic development and services.  But to do that, he would need to place the  Village's interest before his own petty games.  And that does not seem to be in Hannon's character.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

He Protests Too Much

"Mad kings and mad bulls are not to be held by treaties and packthread" - Benjamin Franklin

Hannon's arrogance seems to have no limits. Even with a room full of witnesses at a Village Board meeting, he couldn't help but flex his "muscles" and assure everyone present that he is the "king of the castle".

At a Board Meeting held 7/20/2010, Marty Maney, a village fire fighter, union president, and village taxpayer asked questions regarding the police department "internal investigation". Maney pointed out that some of the money in the evidence room was from Hannon's "watch" as police chief. In fact, as Fire Starter has previously pointed out, the ONLY money which cannot be connected to specific cases is the money accumulated while Hannon was police chief. Rather than acknowledging these somewhat embarrassing facts, Hannon made veiled threats against Maney. The actual audio is instructive:

After hearing Hannon's response to Maney, several thoughts occurred to us.  First, why is Hannon referring to himself in the third person?  Has he really achieved that sort of fame or notoriety?  Second, did anyone else  at the meeting receive this sort of treatment or only those who Hannon believes he can bully? Third, who speaks of themselves as being another human being's "superior" in this sort of a setting? And lastly, doesn't Hannon's reaction suggest that Maney struck a nerve, even if inadvertently?

And it sort of reminds us of this king of the castle:

Hannon's clownish behavior may be suitable for prime time sitcoms but has no place in village government.  HANNON MUST GO!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Is Anyone Confident In Hrustich??

"Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence" --Vince Lombardi

Fire Starter has recently reported on the vote of no-confidence taken by the Johnson City Fire Fighters with regard to their part time “Joint Fire Administrator. We detailed on this page the many accusations of mismanagement, incompetence and gross indifference to the health and safety of the Village Fire Fighters and residents. We were only recently made aware of the fact that these shortcomings have long been understood by Endicott Fire Fighters.

Fire Starter has learned that in December of 2009, Endicott Fire Fighters passed a vote of no confidence regarding Chief Hrustich. Detailed in their vote are charges of mismanagement and incompetence similar to the indictment handed down by the Johnson City Fire Fighters. Specifically, Endicott Fire Fighters allege:

  • Chief Hrustich placed cost ahead of safety by declining to perform OSHA required inspections of ladders. He then ordered fire fighters to place inspection stickers on the ladders so as to give the appearance of legal compliance.
  • For several years, fire fighters complained of communication deficiencies which place fire fighters at risk in emergency situations. Once again, Chief Hrustich placed cost ahead of safety and has been slow to provide adequate communications.
  • Chief Hrustich has failed to properly equip the fire rescue boat with proper lighting and other safety equipment necessary for the safe operation of the craft.
  • On multiple occasions, Chief Hrustich has assumed command of a fire scene without actually being on the scene thereby making uninformed decisions which place all fire personnel at risk.
  • He has repeatedly allowed the village fire department to operate with minimal staffing creating response delays and increasing the risk to residents and fire fighters.
  • Chief Hrustich has repeatedly placed his own advancement and image over the safety of his men and village residents.

The no confidence resolution concludes:

“Chief Hrustich has shown complete disregard for the health and safety of the members of Local 1280 by his actions and inactions. He does not have the best interests of the residents of the Village of Endicott in mind and puts his career advancement ahead of those that he is supposed to serve.”

The Chief of a fire department is tasked with protecting the health and safety of fire fighters and residents. The Endicott resolution highlights numerous deficiencies in Chief Hrustich’s command of the department. It reveals a pattern of self aggrandizement at the risk and expense of the men he is supposed to lead and protect. If the men who work most closely with their “part time” chief have lost confidence in him, how is it that Mayor Bertoni is oblivious to the deficiencies? Perhaps it is because the only person dedicating less time to his “part time” job than Chief Hrustich is Mayor Bertoni.