Monday, March 28, 2011

Hannon's Assault Continues

If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. - George Washington

Fire Starter has learned that Mayor Dennis Hnnon has begun a new assault on the first amendment to the United States Constitution.  And this time, it is not aimed toward the fire fighters.

Apparently, members of the PBA grew alarmed that their concerns and positions were not being properly being relayed to Village Board members.  They met with the "Public Safety Committtee" to express concerns over significant safety and operational deficiencies in the current "shared services" model.  The rosy picture painted by Hannon is a long way from the reality (more on the specifics at a future date).  Although this committee includes both Trustee Rick Ball-less (er..Balles) and Ron "Deep Thinker" Davis, only Davis earned his pay that day as Balles was AWOL.  Frustrated with having to rely on Davis to relay their concerns, the PBA met separately with Trustees Deemie and Novobilski.

Well apparently only Hannon and his friendlies can have conversations with mere employees.  Hannon learned of this meeting and asserted that the meeting was improper (not really sure why) and that it should not occur again (not sure what he will do if it does).  He admonished Trustees against becoming informed.  Apparently Hannon is the "Oracle of Delphi" and all information must pass through him and be suitably filtered to suit his needs.  If individuals speak directly with Board Members, those Members may get information, ideas...who knows where it might end!

This attempted restriction on information to Trustees is particularly interesting in light of a recent trip the Fire Starter took to the Red Robin Diner.  Imagine our surprise when we walked into the Johnson City eatery to find Mayor Hannon cozied up with the Cirba brothers of the mis-nanmed Citizens for a Better Broome.  What nefarious plots they were hatching is unknown since they left soon after we arrived.  But it certainly is interesting that Hannon is available to receive marching orders from these "Tea Party" types.

What was most interesting was the fact that shortly after the Cirba brothers left, our old friend, former Trustee Monica Silas came in for her "Papal" audience (we did not actually see the "ring kissing" but are certain it happened).  Neither Hannon nor Silas apparently recognized the Fire Starter.  The ensuing conversation ranged various issues including confidential personnel matters. If we had a nickel for every time Hannon has claimed the inability to talk about a matter due to "confidentiality"...well you get the picture.  Yet here was Hannon speaking on a wide range of confidential matters to an ordinary citizen.  The tone of the conversation was also interesting in that they both gloated about how surprised a Village labor leader will be when their plot is executed.

What Hannon and Silas apparently were unaware of was the fact their voices carry and that Fire Starter generally carries a recording device.  Imagine their surprise at learning this. 

For now we will "sit on" the recording and it's contents.  We certainly don't want to disclose this confidential information before it is necessary.  There will probably be a time in the future when it will shed great light on their plots and motivations. And we will keep the recording safe.

But this ultimately begs the question:  Is this squelching of the free exchange of ideas and backroom plotting really what the Mayor of Johnson City should be spending his time on?

Monday, March 21, 2011


"I've got mine, I've got mine.  This isn't such a bitter world.  Cause I've got mine" - Glen Frey - "I've Got Mine"

Fire Starter was struck by Johnson City Mayor Hannon's comments to the press regarding the fiscal year 2011-2012 budget.  Hannon talked of concerns regarding health insurance and pension costs facing the village.  This seems to be a recurring theme among local politicians.  They seem to be trying to take a page out of the playbook of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.  They hold themselves out as the protector of the taxpayer all the while collecting public salaries, pensions and benefits.

Before Dennis Hannon was mayor, he was a Johnson City police chief.  He retired and is currently collecting a fat pension from the state retirement system; a retirement that was funded by Johnson City taxpayers.  In addition, Hannon receives retiree health insurance at the Village taxpayer expense.  In the meantime, he collects a salary for being mayor.  This sort of double dipping is exactly the kind of corruption that could be weeded out and save tax dollars.

If this is not bad enough, Hannon rails against public employees pay and benefits while he supplements his double dip with pay and benefits from his wife who is also a public employee.  Hannon's wife, Tami is a 911 dispatcher with Broome County.  However, Hannon's hypocrisy does not end there.  Hannon has used his position as trustee and then mayor to provide a Village job to his daughter, Kayla, who works in the Village courts.

The hypocrisy does not merely reside in the Village of Johnson City.   Endicott's mayor, John Bertoni has feathered his nest nicely at the taxpayer's expense.  Before becoming mayor, Bertoni was a retired shop teacher.  In addition to his fat publicly funded pension, Bertoni receives free lifetime medical coverage at the expense of Union Endicott school district taxpayers.  Like Hannon, Bertoni now double dips receiving his state pension and his mayor's salary.  Yet like Hannon, he sees no hypocrisy in attacking public employee's pay and benefits.

Well certainly the Village's attorney, Paul Sweeney is ideologically pure.  He's a private sector employee at a local law firm.  But even the "great defender of the taxpayer" is a hypocrite.  While he and his firm bash public employees around the state, his wife draws a salary and benefits as a teacher in the a local school district.  The mental gymnastics necessary to rationalize this hypocrisy would likely qualify Sweeney for the Olympics!

Fire Starter in no way begrudges any of these "public servants" their pay and benefits.  This is the bargain they made.  What irritates the Fire Starter is the self righteous, "holier than thou" attitude of these individuals.  Perhaps they think we do not know.  But that's the beauty of public employment.  It's all out there if you are willing to look.  They just count on us not looking.

And since we are already paying these two mayors through the retirement system, perhaps they can forgo their salaries as a show of good will and solidarity with taxpayers.  However, we are not holding our breath waiting for this sort of leadership. Because they have got theirs.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lawyers First, Safety Last

“It is better to be a mouse in a cat's mouth than a man in a lawyer's hands” - Spanish Proverb

Fire Starter read with great amusement the article yesterday regarding the Village of Johnson City's legal bills.  As we have previously argued, no price is too high to tear down Hannon's enemies...that is so long as Village taxpayers are footing the bill. 

The Press & Sun Bulletin reported that in 2010, the Village of Johnson City spent over $250,000 on Binghamton lawyers.  A sizeable amount, by any measure.  But what the Press failed to note is that this is on top of similar levels of legal expenditures in 2009.  Since Hannon has taken the reins, the Village has spent nearly one half million dollars on lawyers.  This appears to be a hefty tab for a village that previously had a $50,000 budget for legal advice.  But Hannon assures us that this is all money well spent.  Trust him...would he lie to you?

Lacking from the Press story was any context.  For example, what are other similar sized Villages spending on legal services?  The Press had no problem providing this sort of context when using deceptive numbers regarding Village fire fighter salaries.  But strangely, no such context was sought or reported.  Further, Hannon claims $400,00 in savings as a result of eliminating minimum manning from the fire department. But where did that number come from?  There is precious little support for the claim that the Village spent this kind of money for overtime to maintain an adequate fire department.  And there would have been no shortage of fire fighters had Hannon and the Village Board not illegally laid off 6 Village fire fighters.  And of course, any alleged savings must be offset by the overtime expenditures made over the last two years by the failure to promote.

And of course, Hannon does not admit how many times the fire station on Floral Avenue has been closed due to his reckless layoffs and lack of overtime.  The only real question is how long will the Village "skate by" before someone is injured or killed?  And how will Hannon explain that to the victim's family?

This is no theoretical discussion.  Several weeks ago, a retired Village fire fighter, Tim Moran, collapsed while working out at a local gym.  Johnson City medics responded to the scene to find their "brother" unresponsive.  Village fire fighters worked on Moran for over 10 minutes before a local ambulance company arrived on the scene.  Although their heroic efforts at resuscitation were unsuccessful, the fact remains that they were the first to arrive and at least gave Moran a chance.  Had the Floral Avenue station been closed due to a lack of overtime, the Village fire department would not have been able to respond and Moran would have laid on the ground for an additional 10 minutes without medical care.

So what is Hannon's response?  Overspending on lawyers is a good investment.  Real investment in public safety is just "something we can no longer afford".

Do you supposed Tim Moran's family feels that way?  If it was your loved one, would you feel that way?

Monday, March 7, 2011

District Propososal Rejected Again

“A man's reputation is what other people think of him; his character is what he really is.” - Unknown

We recently noted that the Mayors of Johnson City and Endicott have resolved to destroy their respective fire departments and replace them with either a volunteer department or a combination volunteer/paid department.  Although the public will lose in effective response time, effective fire fighting and insurance costs, both Hannon and Bertoni seem bent on destroying this valuable service.  Although they preach fiscal austerity, it really seems to be more an issue of personal grievances and payback.  No other explanation makes sense since service will diminish and the total cost to the taxpayer will be roughly the same.

We have reported that the idea of of a Johnson City/Endicott fire district has been temporarily shelved.  In addition to being costly and inefficient, it also does not comport with the reality that the two communities are not contiguous.  Hannon was "too clever by half" and thought that if the new district could just include a small strip of land along the river in Endwell, he could claim contiguity.  This plan was rejected by Endwell because of safety concerns.  But Hannon and Bertoni do not care whether this model makes any sense from a public safety standpoint.  The important thing is to destroy the fire departments.

Publicly, Hannon has acknowledged that the process is not moving as quickly as he would like.  However, Fire Starter has learned that Hannon dispatched his over paid and under worked joint fire administrator, Hrustich, to again attempt to influence the Endwell Volunteer Fire company chief, Jeff Winchell.  Hrustich was given a basket of goodies to offer Endwell including promises of money and territory Johnson City would cede to Endwell.

Imagine Hrustich's surprise when he encountered a man of character and principle in the person of Chief Winchell.  Chief Winchell reportedly again cited concerns over safety and efficiency.  Winchell was reportedly not willing to compromise safety so as to allow Hannon's hairbrained scheme to go forward.  Perhaps most perplexing to Hrustich, Winchell told him that he did not believe the plan was ethical.  Hrustich likely had to look this one up in the dictionary as it is clearly a concept completely foreign to him.  At the very least, Hrustich would need to gain some understanding of the ethical concerns since he would later need to explain the concept to the ethically challenged Hannon and Bertoni.  One can only imagine how those conversations went.

The extreme steps being pursued by Hannon and Bertoni in pursuit of this foolish and unworkable fire district "plan" highlight the petty desperation of both men.  If they are successful, all three communities will be harmed.  But the process itself provides a small window into the dark place in Hannon, Bertoni and Hrustich...the place where their soul is supposed to be.