Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Further Abuse of Power

The victor will never be asked if he told the truth. - Adolf Hitler

The irony of this post following on the last is not lost on the Fire Starter.  Last week we discussed excrement flowing from Hannon's sewage treatment plant and this week the excrement is again flowing from Hannon.  After reading the Press & Sun Bulletin article and the online documents, it seems ever clearer that this is yet another Hannon attack on his enemies.  If the evidence doesn't support the charge, hire your own hearing officer and hope everyone has forgotten by the time the courts reverse his petty and vindictive attacks.  And it is an amazing stroke of psychological projection that Hannon accuses anyone else of not being truthful.

Even the Press & Sun Bulletin, long a supporter of Hannon, is having a tough time swallowing this one.  Steve Reilly of the Press apparently sees the connection between the union activities and Hannon's repeated attacks on fire fighters.  He notes that the flurry of discipline seems to have arisen out of the contentious 2008 contract between the Village and the fire fighter's union.  And a reveiw of the papers filed by both sides seems to reveal several interesting points:

  • The Union states that the Village's witness, Police Detective Saroka, testified on behalf of the Village.  Was apparently the Villages star witness as he was the officer that to whom Meaney supposed to have lied.  But apparently he did not support the Village's position. Notably, this does not seem to be contradicted by the Village's brief.
  • The Village claims that Meaney's air tank was tampered with but failed to offer any evidence that it was.  Again, this statement stands uncontradicted by the Village's brief.
  • The Union points out that this is a second attempt on getting it's president; the previous charges filed against Meaney for speaking at Village Board meetings and criticizing the Mayor.  Again, none of this is contradicted by the Village's brief.

It seems ever clearer that Hannon is engaging in a systematic attack on union officials in Johnson City. He offer no evidence and pays a hearing officer to do their bidding.  And Surprise!!  He gets the answer he is looking for.

 How long will it be before he goes after the PBA president in retaliation for their grievances and claims with state agencies?  And at what point do the taxpayers stand up and say enough!!

This is exactly the kind of nonsense the Fire Starter was referring to in last week's post.  While Hannon pursues his personal vendettas, the Village falls apart.  Was it mere coincidence that this is leaked to the Press on the heals of the catastrophic failure at the sewage treatment plant.  You don't have to be Oliver Stone to figure this one out.

Instead of abusing his position and pursuing personal grievances on the taxpayer's dime, Hannon should be doing the work of the people.  Economic development and Village infrastructure have long since taken a back seat to Hannon's little power plays. And with this new sideshow du jour Hannon continues to distract village residents from his mismanagement and incompetence. He resorts to lies and distortions apparently counting on the fact that no one will ever check.

And perhaps this is as much the motivation as personal vengeance.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tragedy Unfolds

“Hutchison's Law:  Any occurrence requiring undivided attention will be accompanied by a compelling distraction.” - Robert Bloch

Many have expressed amusement at the circus that Mayor Dennis Hannon has created in Johnson City.  The daily dispatches regarding "investigations" and charges has become a source of daily amusement much like the comics section.  While lives and careers are trashed, many sit idly by waiting for the next shoe to drop.  Putting aside the human tragedy that Hannon has brought to these individuals, there is still nothing funny or amusing about Hannon's tactics or antics.  It is becoming ever clearer that while Hannon plots his next vindictive scheme, Johnson City slides further down in livability and economic development.

Fire Starter has previously pointed out the numerous empty store fronts on Main Street as evidence of Hannon's neglect.  We have pointed out the devastation on public safety through reckless and ill conceived cuts to police and fire.  We have repeatedly pointed out the folly of the shared Joint Fire Administrator and Police Chief and the lack of any real savings from these hair brained schemes.  Hannon has systematically torn down the Village piece by piece and neglected infrastructure and economic development.

It was with no great surprise that we read this morning of continued neglect being sited for the failure at the sewage treatment plant.  In the immediate aftermath of the failure that released thousands of gallons of tainted water and human solid waste into nearby streams and rivers, the finger pointing began.  However, upon close examination, it is clear that the ultimate cause for this tragic and costly failure was the neglect of Mayors Hannon and Ryan. 

Today's Press & Sun Bulletin reveals that the leaders of these two communities were aware of the defects and potential consequences for at least three years.  Reports going back as far as 2008 cited structural deficiencies that were not addressed.  While Hannon was busy bullying Village employees and Ryan was concerned with the cost of the war in Iraq, the problems went ignored.  The result was the catastrophic failure we witnessed a week ago.

The environmental impact of this catastrophic failure is unclear.  But what is patently clear is that there will be a significant financial impact on the residents of these communities.  Both Mayors have let their petty issues get in the way of their core mission: to provide services to the residents of their communities.  If Hannon wants to be a bully, sign up for the MMA tour.  If Ryan wants to address the cost of war in Iraq, run for congress.  In the meantime, you were placed in office to provide services to taxpayers.  DO YOUR JOB!

The next time someone chuckles regarding the antics of these leaders, remind them that this nonsense is being pursued on your time and on your dime.  If one were to post a "cost of frivolity" clock showing the wasted resources and lost tax revenue, none of this would seem quite so funny. 

And in the end, it is not funny.  It is tragic.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Doubling Down on Stupid

"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid." - Benjamin Franklin

We recently reported regarding Mayor Bertoni's plans to end the EMS program in the Village of Endicott.  Without study or facts, King John the Uninformed and his toady Joint Fire Administrator announced that EMS would be eliminated and Village residence would need to rely on Union Volunteer Emergency Squad for all EMS.  At a board meeting last Tuesday, Bertoni received a lot of information and a strong "brush back" from his Board.  What is remarkable is that Bertoni's Tweedle Dumber in Johnson City has begun to make noise about eliminating EMS there.  But first, the Endicott board meeting.

Bertoni heard from a concerned citizen who wanted to know what kind of person makes life and death decisions without first studying.  She correctly pointed out that Bertoni based his decision on no facts and then was forced to back peddle when it was clear there was a significant safety issue.  Bertoni pathetically claimed to have full faith in JFA Hrustich to which the citizen retorted that he should probably re-examine that blind faith since none of the men who work with Hrustich seem to have any faith in him.  But stupid is as stupid does so Bertoni stood by his JFA.

Bertoni was confronted by a UVES paid professional.  She emphasized the importance of the rapid response that the Endicott Fire Department provides.  She pointed out that the UVES ambulance is routinely 15 minutes or more behind the response from Endicotts Fire Fighters.  This in no way was a knock on UVES.  The reality is that they are under staffed and over worked.  And the realities of providing emergency medical services often crash in on the fantasy wishes of the UVES director.  It is not unusual for UVES to be transporting to General Hospital when a call comes in for Endicott.  This places them 20 minutes from responding.  And as this brave UVES employee pointed out, loss of brain function begins after four minutes without oxygen.  In sum, minutes matter in EMS.

Bertoni was then confronted by a former Trustee.  She blasted the fellow Democrat for his rash action.  She pointed out that he lacked the authority to eliminate the EMs program without Board action.  Apparently unimpressed by the Village Attorney and Bertoni's claims to the contrary, the Village Board members present voted to block unilateral action eliminating the EMS program.  Bertoni and the Village attorney sat by passively as their wings were clipped.

Throughout the meeting, Bertoni gave long winded and incoherent responses to Village residents.  It was entirely unclear whether Bertoni was ignorant, incompetant or both.  However, his responses caused the Fire Starter to think of an apropos scene form Billy Madison:

Shortly after the Endicott Board meeting, in an apparent show of solidarity among the insane, Johnson City Mayor Hannon weighed in.  In an under reported statement to WBNGallagher*, Hannon noted that he also envisioned the end of EMS services through the Johnson City fire department.  In the twisted logic of the twisted, he reasoned that because the JCFD responds to nearly three times as many EMS calls as fire calls, JCFD should not be providing EMS.  In terms of logic, this is right up there with Hannon's assertion that he opted to use a local law office to negotiate for $200 an hour rather than county labor negotiators at $50 an hour in order to save money.

With this sort of leadership, is it any wonder Endicott and Johnson City are in decline?

*For the uninitiated, Scott Gallagher is the assignments editor for WBNG and also a political appointee of Mayor Dennis Hannon of Johnson City.  In addition to making decisions about newsworthiness for this local station, Gallagher collects a paycheck from the Village as its recreation director.  Gallagher's wife, Rochelle, is also a political appointee in the Village. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Hrustich's Recklessness

"It has been the political career of this man to begin with hypocrisy, proceed with arrogance, and finish with contempt" - Thomas Paine

According to yesterday's Press & Sun Bulletin, Mayor Bertoni has now decided that his decision to eliminate EMS in Endicott may require further study.  He has been informed that Union Volunteer Emergency Squad does not have sufficient resources to handle increase in volume of calls that this ill conceived plan would require.  Apparently careful study is not generally required before making life and death decisions.  King John the Dimwitted apparently can just "wing-it" and the consequences be damned.  Fire Starter has reliably learned that this is the first step toward an attempt to reduce the entire department to 16 members.  This would translate to no more than 4 firefighters per shift (and even fewer with illness, injury or vacations).

However, a close examination of this latest debacle reveals that Bertoni did not take this action alone.  His over paid and under worked Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich explained that this action would have no effect on public safety.  That is until a few facts were brought forward including UVES' lack of capacity.  Despite the "careful consideration" of Hrustich and Bertoni, this simple fact eluded them.  Now that questions have been raised, Bertoni is backing least for now.  But a bigger question remains.  Why didn't Hrustich know this was an issue?

As we have previously pointed out, Hrustich has been under a no confidence vote in both Johnson City and Endicott for nearly 18 months.  In both resolutions, the fire fighters expressed grave concern for Hrustich's cavalier attitude toward the safety of fire fighters and citizens.  They both criticized his willingness to throw safety to the wind in order to promote himself and his bloated and undeserved $120,000 salary.  Both fire departments also criticized Hrustich for his lack of professionalism.

It is with regard to this last charge that fire starter has received some significant information.  We have previously reported that Hrustich has made it a habit of trying to direct a fire scene remotely.  We have been reliably informed that this goes against all tenets of fire fighting.  If you can not actually observe the scene, how can you make life and death decisions effecting fire fighters and citizens?  Simply can not.

Another basic principle of fire service is that although you must arrive quickly to emergency scenes, you must do so safely.  In January of this year, Johnson City was asked to provide mutual aid to Vestal for a structure fire.  Volunteer companies such as Endwell were called upon as well.  JFA Hrustich responded from his Tioga County home.   With lights and sirens and at a high rate of speed, Hrustich proceeded to pass an Endwell fire truck on the shoulder and nearly forced the rig into the other lane. This is remarkable in that this was not even a fire he was responsible for.  When Hrustich arrives on the scene, he would not be in command.  This lack of professionalism led to reports being filed with the Endwell Volunteer Fire Company and an investigation is ongoing.

More recently, Binghamton received a call of a man having jumped off a bridge into the river.  Various agencies were responded to the river to attempt to retrieve the body.  In this instance, Johnson City responded to the river bank.  But never missing an opportunity to try and place himself front and center, Hrustich again responded from his Tioga County home. From several reports, he was driving recklessly and at a high rate of speed and nearly T-boned another emergency vehicle from Endwell.    All this to arrive at the river bank and watch the water go by.  Incidentally, Endicott also responded but due to Hrustich's mismanagement, Endicott's rescue boat has been out of service for over a year and a half.  So apparently any glory was going to be found in Johnson City.

Perhaps most shocking in this latter incident is the fact that Hrustich had his two young children in the official village vehicle.  While he sped through the streets and placed the public at risk, his two minor children were in the back seat.  Apparently, even the safety of his own children is trumped by this pathetic man's ambitions.

In both instances Hrustich acted unprofessional and recklessly.  This has been the hallmark of his "leadership".  He places others at risk for his own personal glory.  And this is the man that Hannon and Bertoni regularly cite to support their reckless and dangerous schemes.

Bertoni plans to slash the department and significantly compromise public safety.  For now, the public is watching and Bertoni has backed off.  But if it will mean more money for the chief, count on it coming back.

UPDATE: Many were puzzled by Bertoni's statement that "I am not non-amenable to working it out".  The Press & Sun Bulletin published the following correction: 

The Press & Sun Bulletin inadvertently misquoted Mayor Bertoni in the early edition on May 9, 2011.  The correct quote is "I am not non-amenable to displaying my ignorance".  The Press apologizes for any confusion.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

EMS Revenge

"Revenge is always the weak pleasure of a little and narrow mind“ - Unknown

Well...King John the Prevaricator has struck again.  As referenced in our last post, Bertoni is proposing the abolishment of the Emergency Medical Services program in the Endicott Fire Department.  The Press & Sun Bulletin reported today that the program will be abolished due to its cost and to allow the fire department to better focus on fighting fires.  Apparently Village Fire Chief Hrustich is unable to walk and chew gum at the same time. This over paid and under worked civil servant is unable to provide fire protection and EMS services as pretty much EVERY OTHER PAID DEPARTMENT IN THE COUNTRY DOES!!  Perhaps this decision says a lot more about the chief's management abilities than the fiscal condition of the village.

Let's break down Bertoni's argument for a moment.  When it comes to cost, Bertoni cites the additional payment given to firefighters to compensate them for the additional training and duties associated with the EMS program.  But Fire Starter has learned that the total additional cost is less than $25,000 per year. Chief Hrustich notes that the department answers approximately 1800 EMS calls per year. The cost to the Village averages less than $14.00 per call in personnel costs.  Looking at it another way, in a village of about 13,000 people, the EMS program costs less than $2.00 per person per year.  Many who have received life saving services would agree that this is a small price to pay for security.

Bertoni claims that fire fighters will now be free to concentrate on fighting fires.  But in reality, even the chief notes that the department rolls on fewer than 700 fire calls per year.  So to do more with less, Bertoni argues that they will have the fire fighters provide fewer services and stop providing EMS services...wait...What???  (This is the governmental version of "Closed to Serve You Better").  And there appears to be no explanation as to how providing life saving medical services interferes with the ability to fight fires.

Emergency management is based on the provision of redundancies.  In many instances, other EMS providers such as UVES are unavailable to provide service in a timely manner.  They have only so many resources available to cover the entire Town of Union.  So what happens then?  In at least several instances in the last year, such a delay would have been the difference between life and death.

So what is this really about?  Apparently, the day before Bertoni announced this decision, the fire fighter union president attended a village board meeting and asked some pointed questions.  King John the Dimwitted had few answers and looked like the empty shirt that he is.  Well...this can not stand! So he lashed out at the fire department by eliminating the EMS program and the small stipend paid to its participants. 

But what about public safety?  Apparently it is more important to avenge his embarrassment than to provide life saving services to village residence at little cost to the village.  This sort of self centered, self serving approach to public service is a disgrace.

We have recently gotten several glimpses into the "character" of Bertoni.  Repeatedly, it has been found to be seriously lacking.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Airport Follies

“The truest characters of ignorance are vanity, and pride and arrogance.” -Samuel Butler

Well...King John the Ineffectual is at it again.  We recently detailed his one man war on skateboards which led to a police report.  Although there are still reports of skateboards in the Village, the perpetrators now wait until 10:00AM when Mayor Bertoni has completed his Village work for the day.  But let there be no mistake, Bertoni "owns the entire Village of Endicott".

While Bertoni is chasing skateboarders, the Village continues to deteriorate.  He has installed no-nothings and cronies as Village department heads.  One striking example of this is the manager of the "Tri-Cities Airport, Gerald Coprew.  This Village owned  airport used to generate income for the Village while providing an important and convenient portal for local industries like BAE and Lockheed Martin.  During Bertoni's reign, the airport has fallen into disrepair and under utilization.  Fire Starter has learned that:

  • Bertoni's pick as airport director spends most of his time in Virginia where he has a full time job and residence.  His "residence" within the Village is vacant most of the time.
  • Most airports such as Tri-Cities have a "beacon" which allows airplanes to locate and land at the strip.  For a number of months, Tri-Cities' beacon has been inoperative.
  • Several days after a recent snow storm, a local pilot sought to land at Tri-Cities only to learn that the runway was still not plowed.  He later learned that the  airport was closed.  But no one had informed the Federal Aviation Administration.  This breach of Federal law could have cost lives had someone needed to land and not realized the condition of the runways.
  • The airport has dedicated snow removal equipment provided by the Federal Government but it often goes unused due to the mismanagement of personnel.
  • Tenancy in the hangars is down sharply due to reduced service and a new policy which denies access to the hangars in the evenings.  This results in lost revenue to the Village.
  • Hangars have fallen into disrepair to the point that dividers between "stalls" have collapsed onto private planes resulting in thousands in damage.
  • When presented with an opportunity to generate revenue through Lockheed Martin, the village was unable to figure out away to accommodate the aerospace giant.  Lockheed sought to rent hangar space for model flight testing but this was apparently too complicated a proposition for the part time, absentee airport manager.
These are but a few of the follies being perpetuated by Bertoni and his cronies.  Have we not seen enough of Bertoni's nonsense?  He has time for threatening children, their families and Village employees but no time to manage the business of the Village.   All too often, cronyism has taken priority over quality public service.  Whether it is the over paid or underworked Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich or Bertoni's other family and friends in Village positions, feathering private nests has taken precedence over public services.

Now Fire Starter has learned that Bertoni plans to eliminate Emergency Medical Service currently provided by the Fire Department.  This, despite running thousands of calls annually and utilizing already existing fire department personnel!  The Fire Starter will have more on this latest scheme.
This all boils down to the arrogance of power.  The Village has become Bertoni's kingdom out of which he dispenses or withholds his favors.  Quality, life saving services are not part of the agenda.  Whether it is the airport, the fire department, public works or the police department, the only question is what is in it for King John the Pompous and his friends and family.  And shortly, Bertoni is expected to ask voters for another four years!

We survived Collela because he was a one-termer.  Can we really afford another four years of Bertoni's mismanagement and malfeasance?