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, www.letstalkjc.org, to all of our readers.