Monday, November 29, 2010

Hannon Continues Abuse

“Since the things we do determine the character of life, no blessed person can become unhappy. For he will never do those things which are hateful and petty.” - Aristotle

While Fire Starter was contemplating the many blessings to be thankful for, Dennis Hannon was plotting his next abuse of power.

You will recall that two weeks ago, former Johnson City trustee and local businessman Bruce King posted a detailed article on Press Connects which corrected many of the misrepresentations made by Dennis Hannon in a prior Press article.  We were so impressed by the information that we re-printed the post here with Mr. King's permission.  Well, it did not take long for Mayor Hannon to abuse his power as mayor and go after Mr. King.

Bruce King owns and operates a successful vending machine business.  Mr. King has soda and candy machines in businesses throughout the southern tier.  Included in his list of sites was the Johnson City Police Department.  Well no longer.

Within hours of the publishing of King's piece in the Press & Sun Bulletin, King received word from Dennis Hannon that his machines are to be removed from Village property within 24 hours.  No explanation.  No justification.  Just "remove the machines".

Fortunately for Bruce King, these machines are but a small cog in the wheel of his business. But again, this highlights Hannon's willingness to use his power to punish his enemies.  But what is most disturbing about this latest incident is Hannon's willingness to abuse his power without even a shred "cover".  In his current delusional state, he seems to think he has a right to abuse the public trust to pursue his personal enemies.  The voters rejected this sort of approach when it rejected Hannon's partner in buffoonery, Monica Silas.  Hannon should be aware of the election results.  Which leads us to believe that he has begun to lose his grasp on reality.

Which also leads us to believe that there will be more of this nonsense to come.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Giving Thanks

“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” - Albert Pine

As we enter Thanksgiving week, Fire Starter has a few thoughts about the Holiday and the months to come.  Thanksgiving is a time when we slow down, count our blessings and attempt to place adversity in perspective.  With this in mind, Fire Starter has a few thoughts on things we can all be thankful for.

The United States Military - These brave men and women travel the the far reaches of the world to protect our freedom and our way of life.  They sacrifice family, careers, and sometimes their lives to allow us to live our lives in safety with our families.  Their unselfish service is awe-inspiring.

Police Officers - Police officers go to the dark corners of our society so that we do not have to.  They protect us day and night.  While we eat turkey, they patrol so that we can relax and enjoy family.  We often deal with them on the worst days of our lives, yet forget that this is what they deal with every day.  They stand between us and societal chaos.  And for that, we should all be thankful.

Fire Fighters - When all are running from the fire, they are running toward it.  They place their lives at risk to protect ours.  They leave family behind on holidays since there are no "scheduled emergencies".  They do not regard themselves as heroes as they are doing what their career requires.  But we all know the heroism of their daily service.

Medical Professionals - Whether doctors, physicians assistants, nurses or other medical professionals, these men and women serve 24/7.  They provide care and comfort when we and our love ones are at our most vulnerable.  They are at the ready no matter the illness or injury. And they provide the care with skill and compassion.

These are but a few who will be serving us while we are serving ourselves turkey and stuffing.  Fire Starter urges everyone to pause for a moment and give thanks for these dedicated and diligent professionals.  Their service allows us to live in safety and security.

And for that, we should all be truly thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Learn to Lose Gracefully

The following was submitted to Pressconnects by Former Johnson City Trustee and local businessman, Bruce King.  It addresses Mayor Hannon's smears and distortions which were recently printed on the OpEd page of the Press & Sun Bulletin.  We reprint it here with Mr. King's permission.

Learn to lose gracefully. 11/16/2010

Mayor Hannon's Guest Viewpoint, dated November 11th, says that it is the other guys fault. Here is my viewpoint having served on the board longer than anyone that is there now with the exception of Trustee Balles. Mayor, you didn't “take your seat”, you were voted into office. Had the voters known that you were going to cost them the vote in 2008 would have been different. I call it irresponsible to spend hundreds of thousands, possibly a million dollars in attorney fees, court awarded settlements, and probably two years salaries for six firefighters who didn't have to come to work but will get paid.

I do not believe that all village departments were being mismanaged. I believe that there was/is an issue in the courts, issues in the clerk/treasurer office, and yes there were issues not being properly addressed in the fire department.

As for meeting minutes I have talked with former Mayor Lewis and he says “that's a lie, he never instructed his clerk to not record specific things”. I remember, from my four years on the board, in a work session clerk Kakusian took some notes on her computer as was the case of her predecessor Mr. Augostini although he didn't use a computer. They didn't take down any word for word work sessions conversations. As for the regular meetings, Clerk Kakusian's printed minutes of the meetings had much more information than when the previous clerk printed them. The tape backups of the regular meetings are there for review and to listen to the tone of the meetings. (Or are they?) Where are they and are they available to be reviewed?

The Fire Department did have what was called Chief's Time, another form of compensatory time. It would be awarded to those who came in on their own time to do additional work on such things as rebuild the kitchen on the SS Fire station, to work as Fire Safety Instructors in our schools and Fire Starter Intervention Officers. These times were all recorded and used as they needed to take an hour or two to go to the Doctors or to pick up a sick child and take them to the sitters etc.

As far as a Fire Administrator and unearned compensatory time the Village Board pushed hard to clear up the misunderstanding of who was entitled to what. We had an agreement that the money was to be paid back and he would retire the next year. Trustee Hannon wouldn't hear of it and started his own investigation. More attorneys' fees same end result, money paid back and retirement.

Mayor Lewis says “I never lied to him about mutual aid just explained to him that the current and previous chief's preference was to call in JC FFs because of their response time and familiarity with the Village”. Yes it caused overtime and yes we did need to change the way we called for mutual aid because of the cost of overtime. Question: How long are we going to count on mutual aid from the Volunteer Departments if we don't reciprocate, especially if we are doing it just to save money?

I do agree with you that you “TOOK over” in 2009 by whatever you promised Trustees Balles and Silas. Last fall you told me you hadn't realized how much stuff comes across the Mayor's desk. Had you ever gone into Mayor Lewis's office and sat and talked about the job you would have known that it was much more than you had anticipated.

You have been on a vendetta against Mayor Lewis since you were Chief of Police. I'm not sure when you started hating the Fire department but it was clear from the start of your first term you had no serious interest in sitting down and working anything out.

That pattern is even clearer now that the JC Police offered a good contract with a smaller percentage pay increase than even Binghamton got and you said no. That means more money for the attorneys. You didn't even budget for years 3 thru 5 of their increases. That will be the next Mayors problem.

I did agree we needed an outsider to come in and recapture control of the Fire department. I voted to hire Chief Hrustich not knowing he was part of your plan to tear apart the JCFD. As to the letters of “No Confidence” as a taxpayer I expect the Mayors of JC and Endicott to have their respective fire committees investigate. This isn't from one or two fireman it's from 60 plus firefighters. It is a personnel issue but all board members should know and understand the charges and the results. I mean no disrespect to Chief Hrustich; I found him to be very knowledgeable and by all accounts he is a good firefighter.

As for the manning clause, you be the judge.

Contract Article 27

“The Village shall maintain the current and actual level of firefighters throughout the term of this contract.”

This clause has been in the contract since 1984, manpower was at 44 and had to be maintained till this clause was changer or removed.

Mayor Lewis, Trustee Adams, and I did not shove this down anyone's throat. Trustees Hannon and Balles were there at the meeting and both chose not to table the resolution or hold it over to the next meeting. Instead they chose to vote no, knowing that it would pass. I can't speak to their motives of allowing this to happen if they were so convinced it was a bad contract.

We are by some standards a small community and as such if you are in public service you get to know many people. Many people choose to follow in their family's business whether it's a restaurant, police, fire DPW, factory, or education. It is not a surprise that a 65+ year old Mayor with over a dozen grandchildren may have a relative working for the municipality he governs for. It's not nepotism when to obtain a job the applicant must pass State exams and physicals. The family members referenced in the minutes were a son-inlaw's brother and a daughter-in-law's brother, hardly close family. Harry Lewis is not the type of man that would vote to benefit a certain person or persons; he always did what he felt best for the community. Please remember that the job is to protect and serve the community not just the loudest residents.

In closing let me address two final items. The fire contract was not a scam, it was a tough contract and had we been able to work with the firefighters through the months after it was signed without the heavy-handed tactics of Trustee/Mayor Hannon we would not be the center of attention in the paper and your taxes would be the same or less with the 6 laid off firefighters earning the money they will be paid. Secondly to me the term “comrades” has a very negative connotation. Former Mayor Lewis and I take great offence at such a reference having served in the military to protect our great country from such tyranny. Trustee Adams served his whole career protecting and serving the people of JC. It is also an insult to him.

Mayor Hannon: You are not a police officer anymore, it is past time to put away the Billy-club and try honest and open negotiations and communications.

Former Trustee Bruce King, www.letstalkjc .org

Well said Bruce.  And we commend Bruce's web site,, to all of our readers.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gifting Village Assets

“The accomplice to the crime of corruption is frequently our own indifference” - Bess Myerson

Fire Starter reported several weeks ago about Mayor John Bertoni gifting Village assets in the form of excess millings from road work.  Since then, some have suggested that this is "no big deal" since the millings would have to be disposed of if not gifted to FOB's (Friends of Bertoni's). However, this misses the point.  First, if the millings were worhtless or a burden, no one would want them.  Obviously that is not the case.  The excess millings are useful and sought after since several local businesses utilized the Village's property to enhance their own.  Second, it ignores the fact that Village employees utilized Village time and equipment to deliver the material.  In at least one instance, Village employees spread the material for the local business.  From Fire Starter's point of view, this equals conversion of public property and possibly graft.

Fire Starter now has further information regarding the businesses which benefited from the FOB millings plan.  Two businesses that benefited from the FOB plan are Felix Roma Bakery on South Page Avenue and Big Daddy O's on Jennings Street.

Felix Roma Bakery Lot with Village Millings

Big Daddy O's Lot With Village Millings

Extra Millings for Future use at Big Daddy O's

The Bottom line is that local businesses are being gifted Village resources in the form of extra millings and Village employee work.  This is wrong and corrupt.  And it certainly begs the question, what is Bertoni getting in return?

But if you need some material for your driveway, call Mayor Bertoni today (757-2420) and get your name in for next spring.  I am sure Village employees will be right over to take care of the job.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hannon's Rant

"Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives..." - John Lennon

Mayor Dennis Hannon published an opinion piece in yesterday's Press & Sun Bulletin in which he attempted to respond to the pamphlet sent to Johnson City residents several weeks ago.  Fire Starter read with great excitement and anticipation Mayor Hannon's rebuttal to the detailed and factual account provided by the State Association of Fire Fighters.  We could not wait to see all the facts and figures that prove once and for all that the pamphlet was just a "fairy tale".

Imagine our disappointment when we realized that this was yet another fact-less screed intended to distract voters and deflect justifiable criticism. 

It was a "hit piece" on Harry Lewis.  The Mayor accuses former mayor Lewis of lying to him regarding "mutual aid".  No details of what this lie was or proof that it occurred.  Only Hannon's unsubstantiated assertion.

It was another tepid defense of  Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich.  No facts.  Just an undeserved and unsubstantiated "attaboy".

It was an attack on the vote of  no confidence taken by the fire fighter's union.  The no confidence resolution details the misfeasance and malfeasance of Hrustich.  Again, no facts.  Just the assertion.

He then concludes that "the firefighter's contract was the greatest scam ever perpetrated on the people of Johnson City".  But of course, no factual back up.

Fire Starter has always endeavored to provide fact based analysis of Hannon's destructive behavior.  We have provided facts and figures regarding fire fighter salaries, the cost of the shared police chief and the Joint Fire Administrator.  We have provided figures regarding the cost of the endless litigation and the lack of economic development in the Village.   We even provided evidence to show that Hannon's incompetence started while he was Village Police Chief.  It may not have won us a Pulitizer Prize, but it has always been fact based.

As a rambling rant, we give Hannon an "A".  As anything resembling a reasoned argument or a fact based advocacy piece, he gets an "F".

Which causes Fire Starter to wonder whether Mayor Hannon is beginning to lose his grasp on reality.  Perhaps his destructive approach to Village government is beginning to catch up to him.  Perhaps he realizes that the end of his reign of pettiness is close at hand.  The fact that voters rejected Hannon's crusade to destroy the Village may be too much for him to handle.  Suddenly, he finds that he is not the Sheriff of Johnson City but an impotent little man. 

And unfortunately for Hannon, everyone else sees the same thing.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Has Hannon Lost Confidence?

"The problem is, the truth hurts. And it's even harder to admit that you're wrong." - Daniel Anglea

Fire Starter read with incredulity Mayor Hannon's statements regarding the informational brochure distributed to Village residents several weeks ago.  Rather than attempt a point by point rebuttal, he dismissed the pamphlet as a "fairy tale".  One would think that if the publication was that inaccurate, the Mayor, with all of the facts, figures and records on hand would have been able to prove the fallacy of the assertions in the pamphlet.  Instead, Hannon makes several conclusory statements with absolutely no back-up.  If the facts are unfavorable, engage in ad hominem attack.

Which brings us to the article in the Press & Sun Bulletin on Saturday.  Apparently, Hannon felt it necessary to reveal the contents of the Village Fire Fighters no confidence vote taken in December of 2009.  In the no confidence resolution, Village Fire Fighters raise numerous issues regarding the dangerous management style of Chief Hrustich.  Numerous examples of his reckless disregard for safety are provided. 

Again, rather than provide a basis for rejecting the resolution, Mayor Hannon attacks the messenger and their motivations.  Fire Starter is of the belief that if Hrustich was such a great Chief and Administrator, Hannon would have been able to list his numerous accomplishments.  However, as we know, Hrustich's accomplishments are few and his missteps many.

Fire Starter has listed numerous instances of Hrustich's poor performance.  He apparently makes life and death command decisions when he is not even at the scene of a fire.  He advocated and briefly implemented automatic first alarm response between Endicott and Johnson City; a practice which left one or both Villages vulnerable.  He has let training lapse on life saving techniques including confined space rescue and and  boat rescue.  He has made manpower cuts resulting in station closures, under manning and delayed response time.  One can only imagine how bad Hrustich would be if he was not such a great administrator as Hannon asserts.

Maybe the Fire Starter is reading too much into Hannon's fact-less and tepid defense of Hrustich.  But it certainly raises two possibilities.  Either Hannon has no facts to support Hrustich.  Or perhaps Hannon is growing tired of his pet Fire Chief and has decided to let him twist in the wind.  Otherwise, why would Hannon release the no confidence resolution to the press?  It certainly does not paint a favorable picture of Hrustich's management and command of the Johnson City Fire Department.

It is also worthy of note that in yesterday's Press & Sun Bulletin, a Johnson City resident noted the cold, callous and thoughtless way in which Hrustcih discussed a recent fire victim.  The letter writer first commended the Johnson City fire fighters for efficiently putting the fire out.  She then went on to note:
"I would like to express deep distress over Chief Stephen Hrustich's actions. He had no business announcing that a very sweet 89-year-old lady was a hoarder. If he had exhibited an iota of compassion, the TV and print reporters would have had enough for coverage of a horrific house fire. But, no, he felt it necessary to demean a woman he didn't even know."
To paraphrase former President Bush, "your doing a heckuva job, Stevie".

As a final aside, it appears that now that the election season is over, Hannon will begin to dig into his secret files and see what kind of mud he can throw at his enemies.  Unfortunately for him, the public is tired of his nonsense.  They want real answers to the challenges that face the Village.  Fire Starter believes that Hannon should use his energies to improve Johnson City rather than throw stones.  But we are not hopeful that he has heard the voters.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A New Dawn?

“However long the night, the dawn will break.” - African Proverb

Election day results are still "unofficial".  One can only guess how they may change over the next few weeks. 

Endicott had candidates for Village Board who ran unopposed.  Some might view this of an affirmation of Mayor Bertoni and his corrupt practices.  Fire Starter views this more of a statement reflecting the dysfunctional status of the Republican party in Endicott.  The Endicott Republicans are still be reeling in the aftermath of the Colella debacle.  However, in the meantime, the Bertoni debacle is unfolding before our eyes.

In the City of Binghamton, there were no City elections.  Therefore, at least for now, the price of fiscal irresponsibility and "cost of war" clocks remain to be paid in 2011.

In the Village of Johnson City, residents were given very limited choices.  Voters were allowed to choose two trustee candidates.  There was Rick Balles who is always on the winning side of any vote...even when he has to change his vote to accomplish this feat.  There was the uncontrite suspended lawyer who mishandled client funds but thought he was "just the guy" the Village needed.  There was Monica Silas, the Board member who was unable to look beyond her petty grudges to find the greater good for the Village.  And there was the one candidate with integrity and a devotion to the Village, Greg Deemie.

For now, it appears that Village residents made the best of their choices and selected Rick Balles and Greg Deemie.  They rejected the crooked lawyer.  And they may well have rejected the destructive policies and approach of Monica Silas.  It appears they turned to the optimistic and forward thinking Deemie.  Balles was the least of three evils.  His quiet support of Hannon's destructive policies allowed him to "fly under the radar".  Monica may well pay the price for her unerring support of Hannon's chicanery.

If the election night results stand, there will be two solid Board members who are willing to roll up their sleeves and move the Village forward and ensure that the services we pay for are provided.  Novobilski and Deeemie will hold Hannon's feet to the fire and try to stop his petty pursuits and wasteful spending.  And Balles will no longer be able to hide.  He will be the deciding vote.  He alone will determine whether the Village thrives or whithers. 

Fire Starter believes that the Village Board should force a halt to the lawsuits and legal spending.  Concentrate those dollars on economic development.  Make peace with the fire fighters.  Find common ground. Get the police officers up to date on their contract (now five years in arrears).  Eliminate the wasteful spending on part time "shared services" in the police and fire departments.  This means sending over paid and under worked part time Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich and Joint Police Chief Zikuski packing.  And perhaps...just perhaps... Hannon will get the hint and follow them.

And perhaps Endicott and Binghamton will also get the message.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hope for Change

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi

The Johnson City Village Board election is upon us.  So who should be surprised by the underhanded dirty dealing occurring in the Village.

Prior to yesterday afternoon, Fire Starter thought the worst had come and gone.  A sitting Board member was blatantly telling lies about her opponent.  Another Board candidate was suspended from the practice of law and the media yawned.  Campaign signs were stolen and destroyed.  In other words, a normal election cycle for the "corruptacrats".

Yesterday, the campaign took a new and even uglier turn.  The Fire Starter found an anonymous flier on the doorstep which featured photos of current and retired fire fighter's houses and the legend "a vote for Greg Deemie is a vote for the Fire Department".  This seems to follow up on Silas' lie previously debunked on these pages.  Somehow, because Greg Deemie had recordings of Village Board meetings and was subpoenaed to verify the contents of those recordings, he is a "vote for the Fire Department".

What is most stunning is that this is at least the second time Silas, Balles and their supporters seem to cast the conflict as the Village versus the Fire Department.  As previously noted, the Fire Department is a department within the Village.  However, this certainly does provide some insight into the thinking of these candidates.  So when Silas and Balles tells you they are for public safety, remember these facts:

  • Silas and Balles approved reductions in police staff in the face of the rising crime problem in the Village.
  • Silas has supported combining the Village police department with the Binghamton police department despite the risks to public safety from the resulting under staffing.
  • Silas and Balles supported the "shared" police chief concept with the accompanying increase in cost and decrease in service.
  • Silas initiated and Balles supported the idea of illegally laying off six fire fighters despite offers from the fire fighter union which would have reduced costs and maintained appropriate staffing.
  • Silas and Balles supported the "shared" fire chief concept with the accompanying increase in cost and decrease in service.
  • Silas opposes any proposal regarding fire service which would keep a professional fire department protecting Village residents.
  • Silas advocated for rejecting the 1.3 million SAFER grant which would have reinstated the six laid off fire fighters at NO COST to the Village.
With this record, it is a small wonder that Balles and Silas do not wish to address the issues facing the Village.  However, this "Fire Department vs. Village" mentality reveals far more of their mindset than any campaign literature or promise.  It reveals a mindset bent on tearing down rather than lifting up.  Economic development and safe neighborhoods take a back seat to petty squabbles and power plays.  Hannon, Balles and Silas fiddle while JC burns.

The Hannon, Silas and Balles years have been marked by unprecedented acrimony and wasteful and vengeful spending with little to show for it. Crime is on the rise.  Neighborhoods have deteriorated.  Code enforcement is a joke.  Hannon, Balles and Silas have a lot to account for.  And tomorrow is your chance to send a message.