Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cancelled JC Board Meeting

Coward: One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs. - Ambrose Bierce

Without fanfare or ado, Mayor Dennis Hannon cancelled the regularly scheduled board meeting last week.  When pressed as to the reason for this cancellation, Hannon explained that the Village did not have any business to conduct and therefor there was no reason for a meeting.

The Fire Starter is somewhat skeptical about Hannon's explanation.  Since the September flooding, Hannon has been absent more than he has been present.  And when he has been present, there have been fireworks.  Irate citizens upset with Hannon's mismanagement of the village have crowded the board room for an opportunity to voice their opinions to Hannon.  And as we all know, Hannon is only in favor of free speech when he is the one talking.

We were struck by the explanation that the Village did not have business to conduct.  It seems there are plenty of issues needing attention.  Hannon has made so many messes since joining the board, it is hard to know where to start.  But if Hannon is at a loss for things to do, here are a few suggestions for the next board meeting.

1. Sewage Treatment Plant - It is patently clear that Hannon has failed in his oversight of the sewage treatment plant.  The Board was aware of defects in the plant more than a year prior to its catastrophic failure.  However, Hannon was preoccupied with nefarious plots to avenge personal slights and allowed the defects to go unaddressed.  The Village is facing millions of dollars in repair bills due to Hannon's negligence.  The sewage treatment plant board is looking for over $800k from the village as a down payment toward immediate needs.  Perhaps the board could have addressed this problem at its regularly scheduled meeting.  More likely than not, Hannon knew that this issue would have created*t storm and he wanted no part of it.  But ignoring the problem does not make it go away.  It only gets worse.

2. Police Arbitration - The Village owes its police officers over 1 million dollars in back pay as a result of an arbitration award.  The police are still five years without a contract and at the rate established by the arbitration award, the village could be facing total liabilities of 3.5 million dollars just to bring the police current.  This is disastrous when one recognizes that Hannon could have settled ALL past years of conrtracts for about 1.2 million dollars.  Perhaps Hannon could have used the board meeting as an opportunity to explain how he and his lawyers so botched labor negotiations that the village is facing 3.5 million dollars in back pay claims.  Hannons best solution at this point is to close his eyes and hope that the problem goes away.  Much like the sewage treatment, Hannon's neglect has only made the problem worse.

3. Fire and Police Chief - In order to tighten his control on the village and its employees, Hannon advocated a shared services plan which brought Endicott Fire Chief Hrustich and Binghamton Police Chief Zikuski and two assistant chiefs into the Village.  These were sold to residents as a cost cutting measure but in reality, it cost Village residents several hundred thousand dollars more than if Hannon had promoted through the ranks.  That is several hundred thousand dollars that could have been spent to settle labor disputes/contracts or perhaps even put more police and firemen on the street.  But when it comes to consolidating Hannon's power, money is no object; especially when it is not his money.  Had Hannon conducted a board meeting, it would have been a perfect opportunity to terminate the agreements with Endicott and Binghamton and put the saved money back in the Village's coffers.

4. Lawyers - Hannon could have used the Board meeting as an opportunity to explain exactly what the village has gotten for the nearly million dollars in lawyer fees paid over the last two years.  It appears that every time the lawyers get involved, they are the only ones who win.  The village loses, the employees lose, and residents lose.  But the lawyers always get paid.  Hannon could have taken this board meeting as an opportunity to fire the lawyers and find new ones that actually serve the interests of the village rather than their own financial interests.

5. Personnel - Hannon could have used the cancelled meeting to explain how certain non-union Village employees have seen their pay increase 30-40% during a time of "fiscal crisis".  He could have explained that he was paying for good press.  He could explain the importance of giving raises as "hush money". He could explain how important it was to have "employees with benefits".  How he personally "benefited" from these relationships.  That certainly would have been time well spent...if not a bit disturbing.

6. Resignation - The recently cancelled board meeting would have been a perfect opportunity for Hannon to announce his immediate resignation.  he obviously has made an terrible mess of the village.  he leaves the village in far worse shape than when he arrived.  Hannon views any attempt to right the villages finances as an admission of his incompetence and failure.  And to some extent, this is probably true.  But the village can not begin to put its house in order until Hannon leaves office.  The best service he could do the village would be to leave immediately.  And this meeting was a golden opportunity.

There were probably many other topics that could have been addressed at the cancelled meeting.  Instead of being a man and facing the problems and public criticism, Hannon hid like the coward we know he is.  Time and time again it is said that bullies are cowards at their core.  There seems little doubt this is true of Hannon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Silas Runs Again

"History is a tool used by politicians to justify their intentions." - Ted Koppel

Many of you have may have noticed that former Johnson City Trustee Monica Silas has again resurfaced.  It seems like just yesterday that she was turned out of Village government by Trustee Greg Deemie.  She is again back running for the remainder of the term left vacant with the passing of County Legislator Bob Locker.  Rather than take her defeat to heart, she has decided that the village stage was too small and she must take her talents to the next level.

But what exactly are those talents?  During her time as a trustee, village services declined while taxes rose.  Cronyism  in village appointments all but exploded.  "Relations" with Village employees (perhaps with the exception of one) deteriorated.  The Village's budget for Lawyers increased five fold with little or nothing to show for it.  Economic development in the Village came to a standstill.  While Dennis Hannon systematically dismantled the village government, Monica Silas was there to cheer him on and support him. While Hannon wasted taxpayer dollars on Binghamton Lawyers, Silas cheered.  While Hannon pursued petty and vindictive plots against his foes, Silas applauded.  What in her record as a trustee would make anyone think she deserves to "step up to the next level"?

You may recall that during her last campaign, no holds were barred.  She even spread falsehoods about her opponent, Greg Deemie which we detailed and refuted here.  But the voters were onto her and her allies and she was soundly defeated by Greg Deemie.  When it was finally time to go, instead of being gracious, she spewed venom at all her perceived enemies and blamed the ignorant voters for her defeat.  Truly a class act.  This was detailed in a December 2010 post here

So what exactly does Silas bring to the table?  A small minded, petty and vindictive style that serves neither the village nor the county.  If we need someone to tear the county apart, she would be the favorite.  But in these difficult economic times, we need innovative thinkers with a far reaching vision.  Silas has shown nothing to commend these traits to her.

We know nothing about her opponent, Mike Sopchak.  But suffice it to say, he certainly could not be any worse than Silas.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Hrustich Places Dollars Over Safety

"To constitute depraved indifference, the defendant's conduct must be 'so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime." -

The Fire Starter has consistently pointed out the indifference of local leaders toward public safety and the safety of their employees. The ranks of fire fighters and police officers have shrunk well below any safe level. Promises of "shared services" have consistently fallen short.  When it comes to shared chiefs, village residents have paid more and gotten far less.  When it has come to "mutual aid" as a cure all, residents have seen slower gross response times and slower effective response times.  All the while, village employees continue to place their lives on the line in ever more dangerous situations.

Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich has repeatedly shown a blatant disregard for the safety of the men who work for him.  He has consistently placed them at unnecessary risk to save a few dollars.  This has taken the form of either under manning or the refusal to provide proper or properly functioning equipment.  Anything to save a few dollars.  And if someone is injured or killed, it's chalked up to "risk management".

Never has this been more apparent than in a recent "river rescue".  Many may recall the young man who recently fell or jumped off the Court Street several weeks ago.  Johnson City was asked to launch its boat downstream to attempt to recover the body. While waters were still elevated and the current still swift, the Johnson City Fire Department launched its rescue boat with the Vestal Volunteer boat as a back-up.

Shortly after launching the rescue boat, the engine sputtered and stalled in the middle of the Susquehanna River.  The fire fighters on board tried repeatedly to get the engine restarted but to no avail.  Brave Johnson City fire fighters were left stranded in the swift current in a boat without power.  The back-up boat from Vestal was launched and the rescue boat was towed back to shore.

It is certainly understandable that machine failures occur.  This is a part of everyday life.  What is not easily understood is the reason behind this failure.

Fire Starter has learned that the engine failed due to the fact that it was being operated with incorrect fuel. Apparently the fire rescue boat requires a high octane airplane type fuel.  Only that fuel is several dollars per gallon more expensive than the run-of-the-mill gasoline purchased at local stations.  So to save a few dollars a gallon, Hrustich ordered ordinary gasoline to be used in the rescue boat.  And the results were predictable.

It is simply appalling that a "leader of men" would place those men in such unnecessary danger.  Fire fighting is dangerous enough without incompetent leaders placing a few dollars over the safety of the public and Village employees.  In votes of no confidence passed by both Endicott and Johnson City firefighters, Hrustich's utter disregard for safety was repeatedly cited.  We have since seen numerous instances where Hrustich's recklessness has placed fire fighters and citizens at grave risk.  There is already one less Endicott resident due to Hrustich's incompetence.  How many bodies must pile up before the elected officials take notice?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hannon to Resign

I'm a true believer in karma. You get what you give, whether it's bad or good. - Sandra Bullock

Mayor Dennis Hannon announced Tuesday that he would resign his position as Mayor of the Village of Johnson City effective December 31, 2011.  In the Press & Sun Bulletin, Hannon cited personal and family health as the reasons. Although many have questioned his true motivations, the Fire Starter is willing to take his assertions at face value.

First the personal.  Mayor Hannon's personal popularity in the Village has taken a precipitous drop in the last year.  Initially, village residents accepted his explanations for his heavy handed approach to village governance.  Many were willing to give his version of leadership a try.  Despite the injustices dealt to longtime village employees, many residents were willing to see if Hannon really had the answers.  As time has passed, it has become patently clear that his management style has been a disaster and his "my way or the highway" approach to labor relations has done nothing but line the pockets of village attorneys.

Now the chickens are beginning to come home to roost.  Hannon took a heavy handed approach toward police department negotiations and got slapped with a million dollar arbitration decision.  And there are still four more years of contract to negotiate just to get current!  Hannon's touted fire fighter layoff plan is on life support in the Appeals Court and the tab for that folly will likely exceed 1 million dollars.  Hannon's answer to these cases is to dissolve the village.  Only village residents are on to him and rose up against the plan.  At recent board meetings, residents insisted that Hannon fix the mess he made.  Instead of taking the criticism to heart, he gaveled out and talked over his critics.

But it is obvious the pressure of his repeated failures has become too great.  So if he can not dissolve the village, he will pack up and run from the problems he created.  What leadership!

Second, Hannon cites "family health".  Karma is a severe disciplinarian.  One can not spread the caustic bile Hannon has traded in and not have it come back to him.  The Fire Starter has learned that Hannon has been battling various "self inflicted" ailments over the last few years.  It appears that his vindictive ways are finally catching up to him.

Make no mistake.  The Fire Starter respects Karma and wishes Mayor Hannon all the best in his retirement.  We only wish it had come sooner.

Hannon was quoted as saying ""I think that I have started the village on the course that it needs to be on...".

 In leaving, he might just have done that.