Friday, February 17, 2012

Hannon Briefs...Half Off

"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power". - Abraham Lincoln

**Water Department Update

The Fire Starter posted last week about the water department employee who was publicly having his "pipe" serviced while on duty and in the view of a woman and small child.  We were struck by the lenient treatment of this public employee who used village time to pursue his sexual activities.  It was particularly striking when compared to the treatment of a Johnson City fire fighter who was accused of engaging in a private sexual act on his own time in his home.  The waterboy gets two days suspension and the fire fighter gets fired.

Apparently this struck Trustee Bruce King as odd.  Fire Starter has learned that he approached Mayor Hannon for an explanation.  Our arbiter of morality Hannon only responded "what's done is done".  Even Hannon could not defend the indefensible.

Hannon's Flood

The Fire Starter has learned that during the flood, Mayor Dennis Hannon had several feet of water in his basement.  As a result he "evacuated" himself to the Best Western in Johnson City. 

While staying there, Hannon had repeated visits from a "special" village employee.  These visits occurred at all hours of the day and night and seemed to coincide with Hanon's wife's absence.  We are not sure what late night work was going on but based upon his history, it is not hard to guess.

Police Contract

The Johnson City Village Board recently approved the hiring of four police officers.  The ranks of the police department, much like the fire department, have grown thin.  In addition, Binghamton officials have grown increasingly unhappy with underwriting Johnson City's police protection.  The hiring measure garnered affirmative votes from Trustees Slota, King and Deemie.  Voting against were Hannon and Balles.

On the surface, the village board's vote would seem to be business as usual.  But the Fire Starter has learned that this is yet another case of Hannon double dealing.  Hannon negotiated a resolution with the police union which resulted in substantial retroactive pay for the existing officers.   Hannon hailed the deal as saving taxpayers from the crush of the judge's decision which ordered over a million dollars in back pay for just two years.

What Hannon did not reveal was the fact that as part of the deal, he agreed to hire four more police officers to replace retiring officers.  In other words, to avoid paying large retroactive payments, he agreed to take on a twenty plus year liability by hiring new officers.

The Fire Starter is fully supportive of the new hiring.  Police staffing levels have reached dangerous levels.  What strikes the Fire Starter is the fact that Hannon brokered the deal, then voted against it and publicly criticized those who supported the hiring.  Now that's character.

Also striking was the fact that Hannon assured taxpayers that he had the money to pay the deal.  Yet at Hannon's last meeting of the year in 2011, the village board voted to bond for $500,000 to cover retroactive pay.  In other words, Hannon lied and then took on long term debt to pay a short term liability.  Again, character.

**Update:  The Fire Starter received an email from Trustee King advising that he did not approach Mayor Hannon about the quick and dirty discipline of the waterboy.  We take him at his word.  And are a little disappointed that he did not stand up to Hannon.  Unless someone in a position of authority stands up for what is right, nothing will change in Johnson City.

Trustee King raised issues of privacy regarding this story.  But apparently, with Mayor Hannon, these matters are only private when they involve non fire fighter employees.  And besides, the waterboy was on the clock when he was receiving "his service".  And the disparity in treatment remains.  For this reason, apologies to the waterboy, but the public deserves to see Hannon's hypocrisy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tale of Two Departments

"Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do". - Potter Stewart

The Fire Starter has previously posted regarding the Johnson City fire fighter who was terminated for engaging in a private sexual act in the privacy of his home.  He was not on duty.  The act had nothing to do with his job as a fire fighter.  There was no proof that he was seen by anyone.  There was no proof he intended to be seen by anyone.  He was cleared by a judge who found there was no evidence that he intended to be seen.  Despite this, Mayor Dennis Hannon chose to terminate the fire fighter.

The fire fighter appealed and the court found that there was no evidence that he intended to be seen and that Hannon's conclusions were unsupported by evidence.  The court ordered reinstatement with back pay.  Rather than learn their lesson, the village has opted to appeal.

The Fire Starter has learned that there was recently a similar event occurring in the water department.  Only that incident had several key differences.

The Fire Starter has learned that a village resident reported to Mayor Hannon that she and her small child witnessed a water department employee pull up in a village vehicle, and get into a private vehicle driven by a female.  The female proceeded to perform oral sex on the village employee in plain sight of this women and her child.  The resident was understandably upset and complained.

Unlike the fire fighter, the water department employee was on village time and driving a village vehicle.  He was not in a private residence but in a public parking area.  And finally, unlike the fire fighter, there was actual proof the water department employee was seen by a resident and her child.

There is one more important difference between these two cases.  The fire fighter was summarily fired despite the lack of evidence.  Despite the overwhelming evidence and the fact he was on village time, the water department employee merely received a 3 day suspension.

Apparently, that paragon of righteousness, Rick Ball-less went to bat for his high school buddy in the water department.  And the equally righteous Hannon went along with the slap on the wrist.

So...the next time someone tells you Hannon is merely cleaning up the mess left to him, remember the messes Hannon is creating.  And when they tell you he does not have any grudge against the fire department, inquire about the differential treatment of village employees.

And when they ask you to vote for Rick Ball-less in the fall, remember his shifting ethics.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

King John the Misogynist

“When a man gives his opinion, he's a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she's a bitch.” ― Bette Davis

Apparently King John the Clueless is feeling left out.  While his philosophical twin in Johnson City is getting all of the attention, John Bertoni is drowning in anonymity in Endicott.  Surely he can be as petty as Dennins Hannon.  Surely there must be employees he can harass to prove to all he is as small as Dennis Hannon.  Surely the man who "owns the Village of Endicott" can put in a couple of hours at the village and find someone to lord his power over.

Surely he can. In December, King John the Diminutive found his target.  Kathy Utter, Director of the Endicott Visitor Center for nearly a decade, was summarily dismissed.  During her tenure, Ms Utter transformed the center from a dreary and under utilized facility into a first class museum of Endicott history.  at the same time, she made the Center a revenue source by tirelessly seeking bookings and events for the events room.

There was no reason given for the termination.  Bertoni may have had personal disagreements with the director.  Utter placed the Visitor Center first and was unwilling to dish out favors to Bertoni's cronies.  However some suspect that the decision arises out of Bertoni's inability to deal with a strong female in a leadership position.  Bertoni's misogynistic attitudes have long been known by those having even the most limited dealings with King John.  And with this move, there are no women department heads in Endicott.  (Watch out Cheryl, You are next!)

The Fire Starter has learned that Bertoni has designs on the position previously held Ms Utter.  As part of Bertoni's "friends and family" plan, don't be surprised if a relative or close friend ends up taking over the position. And don' be surprised if the Visitor Center falls into disrepair and disuse.  To Ms Utter, the Center was a labor of love.  To Bertoni, it is just another favor to dole out.

Since Ms. Utter's dismissal, many individuals who loaned items for display have demanded they be returned.  Many lifelong Endicott residents, knowing of Bertoni's incompetence and corruption, collected their historical items for fear of Bertoni's next move.  In the end, Bertoni has taken one of the better run departments in the Village and  wrecked it to satisfy his personal animus and corrupt designs.

At a recent Board meeting, Village resident and former trustee Alberta Fiori-Gazda stood to speak in Utter's defense. Her comment is printed below, unedited.

The termination of Kathy Utter, Director of the Endicott Visitor Center was a result of continued harassment by the Bertoni Administration. Mayor Bertoni micro-managed Mrs. Utter in her role as Director of the facility for years and despite urging by the Board of Trustees and the public, the Mayor never allowed Mrs. Utter to speak to the Board to answer the Mayor’s complaints. She was given no reason for her dismissal. This demonstrates a true lack of executive leadership ability.

During the last nine years, Kathy Utter has exemplified the unique qualities and dedication it takes to successfully operate the Visitor Center and Community Meeting Hall: coordinating and training volunteers, scheduling events, developing changing historical exhibits, cataloging donations, establishing a gift shop, maintaining the facility, interacting with community organizations, residents, businesses, developing programs for school students, working with NYS agencies and organizing fundraising events…to name a few of her responsibilities. We are proud of the Visitor Center and grateful to her for her hard work. Thanks to her efforts, the Visitor Center and Community Meeting Hall is the most notable “showplace” in Endicott.

We object to the decision by the Mayor to fire Mrs. Utter and deplore the way it was handled. One, who has served the Village with dedication and distinction for nine years, in a supervisory position, deserves better. Our question to the members of the Board of Trustees is, “why was there no vote taken by the Board?” We must conclude in the absence of such a vote, that the entire Board of Trustees agrees with the Mayor’s decision.

In 2002, Mrs. Utter’s appointment was approved by a vote of the Board of Trustees and Mayor Colella. Under Village law the Mayor has the responsibility “to appoint all department heads and non-elected officers and employees, subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees.” (Village Law Section 4-400 (1) (c)). Additionally, VIL. LAW § 4-412 : NY Code - Section 4-412: The Board of Trustees. The first line of the section reads: “a. In addition to any other powers conferred upon villages”… giving the Village Board of Trustees broad power and responsibility for managing the affairs of the Village. Where is the Village’s code of ethics?

Therefore, since the Board of Trustees hired Mrs. Utter in 2002, it is only proper and lawful that the Board of Trustees discuss this issue and publicly bring it to a vote.
Well said Alberta! 

King John should know that many will be watching his next moves.  The replacement director will come under significant scrutiny.  And we will be monitoring the decline in bookings and the overall decline of the center.  And we will hold you accountable.