Monday, August 29, 2011

Retired Employee Speaks Out

“The power of the periodical press is second only to that of the people.” - Alexis de Tocqueville

The Fire Starter blog started nearly 17 months ago.  The idea was hatched because of frustration with the local media and its failure to report the whole story.  Much of the local media seems to be aligned with the "consolidate at all cost" crowd.  Whether it saves any money is entirely beside the point.  In its fervor to support consolidation, the local media either ignores or sugar coats stories which reflect poorly on the local politicians who advocate consolidation.  The Fire Starter has appointed itself the counterweight to this biased media.

It is with this in mind that we wrote last week's post regarding Hannon's call for dissolution.  We pointed out the numerous misteps by Mayor Dennis Hannon over the last 2 years..  We provided the factual background for each incompetency that has now brought the Village of Johnson City to the brink.  This was a surprisingly easy task since the Fire Starter has been writing about Hannon's wasteful ways from the beginning.  It apparently was a very hard task for the Press & Sun Bulletin since little or few of Hannon's follies were included in coverage of his call for dissolution.  It would be easy to excuse the Press and other media for mere incompetence.  But we now have proof that this an intentional bias.
The Press recently published an opinion piece from dissolutionist and Village Board candidate, John Sullivan.  In his column, he set up every strawman argument which ultimately led the reader to the erroneous conclusion that the village unions are bad and dissolution is the only answer.  Former Village police officer and current local elected official, Mike Cashman wrote a piece which highlighted Hannon's mismanagement and malevolent conduct.  To no one's surprise, despite being submitted three times, the Press declined to publish it.  Fire Starter has come into possession of this piece and without further ado, we present it in it's entirety:

Villages where formed to provide additional services for its taxpayers.

Mayor Hannon has done his best to destroy this great place. Taxpayers should know that all of the Village unions attempted to make concessions to the Village. Mayor Hannon refused to even entertain them saying "strings attached", not true.

The Police Union tried for 5 years to deal with the Village and were forced into arbitration twice. The fact that the Village leaders knew what the outcome of arbitration would be and failed to budget the money is poor management. Mayor Hannon's true colors have finally been made clear. Mayor Hannon pays a local law firm $200.00 an hour when the county attorney’s office offers to help for $50.00 per hour. Mayor Hannon paid close to $1,000,000.00 to the same law firm last fiscal year to fight the unions rather than sit down and talk with them.

DPW gives Village zero percent wage increase. Fire Dept offers $500,000 in give backs. Police offer 5 or 6 year deal with wage increase of less than half of cost of living and just over what the two year arbitration award ends up being. Police offer to increase contributions to Health to help share the burden with Village taxpayers.

Don’t kid yourself your town taxes will go up if the Village dissolves. You will pay more than town residents if you want your own police force and or fire department.

What did Mayor Hannon do with the all the money he saved with employee retirements? These are employees he has not and will not replace. The money is in the budget for salaries he no longer has to pay and adds up to several hundred thousand dollars.

Most Village Mayors are “doing more with less”. Our mayor is bankrupting the Village instead of leading the Village into the future. The businesses on Harry-L-Drive, Main Street and now CFJ Blvd/ Lester Avenue, and the people that live and shop in Johnson City deserve better than the leader they have.

Nicely done Mike.  The Press' refusal to print anything which casts an unfavorable light on Hannon is obvious to all but his most ardent supporters.  This is why we began this blog.  But it also remains incumbent upon all who reject Hannon's destructive ways to continue to write the Press and voice your opinion.  And most importantly, we must all vote.

Monday, August 22, 2011

End Game Revealed

For your own good is a persuasive argument that will eventually make a man agree to his own destruction. -Janet Frame

The Fire Starter has repeatedly speculated regarding Johnson City Mayor, Dennis Hannon's motivations.  Over the last several years, Hannon has consistently pursued the path of greatest resistance and greatest cost.  No contentious situation has been resolved by agreement.  Every issue has been litigated in court to the enth degree.  Every strategy has been over the top. 

The Fire Starter has postulated that Hannon's seemingly erratic and irrational actions were the product of his machismo and ego.  There certainly seems to be no small amount of that involved.  But this past weekend, Hannon finally laid his cards on the table.  The end game for Hannon has been and will be dissolution of the village.

This endgame may come as a shock to many.  Hannon has repeatedly professed his desire to reform the village and place it on a better financial footing.  Instead, all of his actions have been aimed at creating the financial ruin that will ultimately lead to dissolution.  His mismanagement and malfeasance has now brought the village to a dangerous crossroads.

Looking back over Hannon's reign, it is easy to see the pattern.

  • Endless litigation of contract issues with the fire department.
  • Endless pursuit of Village employees (Fire Chief Michalovic, Police Chief Potts, Fire Marshal Dempsey, Fire Union President Marty Maney, the lowly maintenance man.
  • Replacing the Fire Chief and the Police Chief with vastly overpaid and under worked yes men.
  • Large pay raises for his "friends" and sweetheart deals for political and media allies
  • Replacing the rest of the command structure in the police department with over paid toadies.
  • Refusing the fire fighter's offer to give back the last year of their contract.
  • Refusing the PBA offer that would have settled all outstanding past years for about the same amount of money an arbitrator imposed for just two contract years.
  • The no bid contract to purchase over 100k of fire hydrants, enough to last the village for years.
  • The record setting lawyers fees paid to the Village's lawyers with little or no results. *
Anyone watching closely can see that contrary to the austerity Hannon is claiming, he is spending money like a drunken sailor (with apologies to drunken sailors).  And the money spent yielded little in the way of services to the village.  A tally of the above "misteps" adds up to over 3.5 million dollars.  In just two years!!

Some may dispute our characterization of Hannon's reign.  But the numbers don't lie.  The fire department has gone from about 41 to 25 fire fighters.  The Police department has gone from about 45 to 26 officers.  Yet village spending has continued to rise.  And somehow, this continues to be the fault of the police and fire departments.

Hannon has now revealed his end game.  Having forced the police into an arbitration where the village had no chance of prevailing, the village now faces a large award.  This, to Hannon, should be the final straw.  Hannon now claims that due to this and his other failures of leadership, the only option is to dissolve the village.

Founded in 1892, the nearly 120 year old village has been brought to its knees by Hannon in 2 short years.  What has taken almost 120 years to build, Hannon will try to destroy in less than one term as mayor.

There is a solution.  The common denominator in all of the village's financial woes is Dennis Hannon. Hannon must go.  At the very least, he must not be given any other allies on the village board.  Hannon has had his way for the last two years with disastrous results.  If there is any hope of saving the village, IT MUST STOP NOW!!

* The Fire Starter did not include the multi-million dollar debacle at the Sewage Treatment Plant on this list of horribles. Although this situation took years to develop, there is no denying the fact that Hannon was warned of the problems more than two years prior to its failure. Whether through incompetence or malevolent neglect, Hannon bears the lion share of responsibility for this mess.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Of Chickens and Roosting

“As man sows, so shall he reap. In works of fiction, such men are sometimes converted. More often, in real life, they do not change their natures until they are converted into dust.” - Charles W. Chesnutt

Well...Hannon has done it again.  The Press & Sun Bulletin reported today that the Johnson City Police received an arbitration award for back pay for 2006-2008 of approximately one million dollars.  Hannon proceeds to blame the police, their union, and the arbitrators.  However, if Hannon is looking for someone to blame, he need only look in the mirror.  Hannon has taken a slash and burn approach in all Village matters.  The chickens have come home to roost.

By way of background, the Johnson City police have been without a contract for over five years.  During most of that time, either as a trustee or as mayor, Hannon has talked tough.  He has made threats and proclamations about what he will or will not do. He has made clear to everyone involved that he is the "boss man".  While some may have mistaken his false bravado for action, in reality, he was fiddling while Rome burned. 

Hannon has had numerous opportunities to resolve the stalemate with the police.  As recently as a year ago, the PBA offered a package that would have brought them current for slightly more than this two year award.  But Hannon and Silas and Davis and Balles were all too shortsighted to see the merit of this offer.  Much like their rejection of fire fighter concessions, they placed their egos above the best interest of Village residents.  They rolled the dice and lost!  And Village residents are left to pay the tab.  And the tab is still running since the Village will need to arbitrate 2008-date.

Now Hannon is threatening dismantling the department or double digit tax increases.  If either of these things occur, it will be solely due to Hannon's incompetence.  Some taxpayers may believe that Hannon's gamble was justified.  You win some and you lose some.  However, there is no justifying  his poor planning in the face of possible defeat.  The Press & Sun Bulletin reported that although facing a price tag of one million dollars, Hannon only budgeted $200,000 for a possible award.  If this isn't malfeasance, it is certainly incompetence.

We taxpayers deserve better than this.  Hannon's overblown ego has collided with his small intellect.  And the results are on display for all to see.

And now Hannon has provided further ammunition to the dissolutionist.  Yet this wound was self inflicted. 
Was this Hannon's plan all along?

Although Hannon is not on the ballot this year, his crony and lead dissolutionist John Sullivan is.  Sullivan has cheered every half -baked scheme hatched by Hannon.  One has to assume that if Sullivan is elected, he will continue to support Hannon's ruinous policies.  For this reason, if we can't hold Hannon to account at the polls, Sullivan will be a fitting surrogate.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Taxes Owed?

When there is an income tax, the just man will pay more and the unjust less on the same amount of income. - Plato

Fire Starter has recently reported on the blatant hypocrisy displayed by Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich.  Hrustich has repeatedly violated safety laws, vehicle and traffic laws, and criminal laws.  Hrustich seems to believe that the rules do not apply to him.  And thus far, with Mayors Bertoni and Hannon running interference for him, he probably has good reason to believe this.

However, when outside agencies get involved, it is next to impossible for Hrustich's protectors to intervene.  Thus may be the case with Hrustich's latest misconduct.  Fire Starter has learned that Hrustich is being investigated by the New York State Division of Taxation and Finance.  For a number of years Hrustich has taken advantage of tax advantages afforded to farmers.  Only Hrustich is not a farmer.

But first, a little background.  When Hrustich was moving through the ranks of the Endicott Fire Department, he pursued a series of "get rich quick schemes".  While on duty, Hrustich pursued an internet business in which he grew and sold ginseng root.  This business often took priority over his official duties much to the dismay of his co-workers and subordinates.  He also attempted to become a sheep farmer.  It is with regard to this business that Hrustich took advantage of tax breaks afforded to farmers. 

Hrustich's farming days are long behind him but his agricultural license plates live on.  On his personal truck, (which has a fire radio and lights and sirens) Hrustich still utilizes agricultural license plates.  What most do not realize is this excuses the owner from paying sales tax on the vehicle. 

Fire Starter understands that Hrustich has done a tremendous job of crushing morale in both the Johnson City and Endicott Fire Departments.  But we are quite confident that sowing the seeds of dissatisfaction does not qualify as farming.

Hrustich should pay his fair share like the rest of us.  And if he is not, we are confident that New York State will get to the bottom of it.  And Hannon and Bertoni will not be able to protect him.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hrustich's Recklessness Continues

"Upright men shall be astonished at this, and the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite. "- Job 17-8

Fire Starter recently reported regarding Joint Fire Administrator Stephen Hrustich's reckless driving and endangerment of his children.  Hrustich responded to an non-emergency call with lights and sirens and at a high rate of speed while his children sat in the back seat of the Village of Johnson City vehicle.  Along the way he nearly ran a Endwell Volunteer Fire Department vehicle off the road.  He placed the lives of himself, his children and every other citizen at risk for no apparent reason.

As of this writing neither Mayor Hannon nor Mayor Bertoni has even investigated the allegation. Fortunately, other governmental officials are not so cavalier regarding public safety and the safety of children.  Fire Starter has learned that Tioga County Child Protective Services (CPS) has opened an investigation into Hrustich's "wild ride".  Apparently Hrustich and his wife have been questioned by CPS regarding his reckless behavior.  Separate interviews were conducted with the children.  Determination of charges or other action is pending.

This incident may seem like a minor lapse in judgement on Hrustich's part.  Despite the fact that he placed his children in danger, one could easily chalk this up to an innocent mistake.  Only Fire Starter has learned that this was not an isolated incident.

Apparently earlier this year, Hrustich had his children in his vehicle when he heard a Tioga County fire call come in.  Noting that the address of the call was near his Tioga County home, he drove at a high rate of speed with lights and sirens to his home to verify that all was well.  Again, his children were placed at risk.

The Fire Starter can understand the impulse to rush to ones home to verify that all is well, but the use of lights and sirens and the high rate of speed was not only a danger to his children but an abuse of his position.  Hrustich abused his position as Joint Fire Administrator to satisfy his personal concerns about his home.  And again, he endangered his children.

For a Chief who seems to insist on every rule being followed to the enth degree, he seems to think rules do not apply to him.  In addition to whatever may come of the CPS investigation of this other event, criminal and Vehicle and Traffic charges could be levied.  It is clearly an improper use of emergency lights and sirens to respond to a personal matter.  Fire Starter can only imagine Hrustich's reaction if one of his "men" pulled a stunt like this.  But as we have observed, the rules do not apply to Hrustich.

It's time for the elected officials in Johnson City and Endicott to reign in Hrustich and explain that the rules indeed apply to him and every other citizen.  Fire Starter has grievous doubts whether the corrupt mayors of these two communities will take any action.  Bu as citizens we must demand that Hrustich be held accountable. We will be the ones paying for the lawsuits when his luck runs out...we have to cover his tab.