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.

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