Thursday, March 15, 2012

Born Again Deficit Hawks

"The difference between 'involvement' and 'commitment' is like an eggs-and-ham breakfast: the chicken was 'involved' - the pig was 'committed'". - Anonymous

The Fire Starter read the letters to the editor in the Press & Sun Bulletin this morning with great interest.  A letter from a "concerned citizen" Rodney Jewett graced the pages of our local rag.  Mr. Jewett made conclusory statements about what the Village of Johnson City could and could not afford without providing any basis and then went on to praise Mayor Hannon and Trustee Ball-less for their "fiscal responsibility".  It was all we could do to keep from choking on our coffee.

It would probably be instructive to explore who Rodney Jewett is.  Rodney Jewett sucked hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the Village of Johnson City as a village police officer and ultimately its chief.  He holds himself out as some neo-conservative deficit hawk, but in addition to his salary and benefits, Jewett has been collecting a New York State Retirement benefit (funded by village taxpayers) for the last 15 years.  He retired at the ripe old age of 49 and has been sucking at the trough since.  He has enjoyed health insurance and other benefits, all courtesy of the Village of Johnson City.

The Fire Starter does not begrudge anyone the benefits guaranteed them by union contracts.  We are great believers in a system that places public employees on a level playing field with public employers.  What we object to is the hypocritical rantings of a selfish former public servant who "got his" and everyone else be damned.  Perhaps when Mr. Jewett is willing to give back his public benefits we will be willing to take him a bit more seriously.

Which brings us to his praise of Mayor Dennis Hannon.  Much like his predecessor Jewett, Hannon sucked the village for hundreds of thousands of dollars over his career.  He retired at the ripe old age of 46 and has collected New York State Retirement and village health insurance benefits for the last 13 years. While ripping public employees and their unions, he has continued to feather his nest at Village taxpayer's expense.  I guess it is true what they say about "birds of a feather".

Both Hannon and Jewett seem to have no problem "goring" someone else's ox.  As long as they have no skin in the game, they are for a "no holds barred" solution.

And what great work has Hannon been doing  for the village of Johnson City lately?  Hannon announced his resignation last fall but later said he would stay on "month to month".  Well apparently he has forgotten this pledge.  Since announcing his resignation, he has missed more board meetings than he has attended.  He has spent more time at the "Southern Village Hall" in Ocala, Florida than he has spent in the village he was elected to lead.  If there is wasted money in the village, it is continuing to pay the salary of the absentee mayor.

If you believe the mayor should be doing  the job he is being paid to do, call him at his home on North Broad Street and tell him so.  His number is 797-3738.  Only you will find the number has been disconnected. Much like Hannon's rhetoric and actions.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

King John the Incompetent

"If a man is tongue-tied, don't laugh at him, but rather feel pity for him as you would for a man with broken legs". - Abraham Cahan

The Fire Starter was intrigued by the state comptrollers report regarding the Village of Endicott.  Our interest took several different tacks.  Last week, a report of the New York state Comptroller's Office found deficiencies in the Village's financial controls such that employees were overpaid and no one apparently was the wiser.  In addition,  the Village under reported the supervisor of Tri-Cities airport by thousands of dollars due free airplane hangar Corprew was given for his personal use.  The report also noted that a stipend of over $10,0000 was given to the Mayor's "personal" secretary without any Board action.  In sum, the Village's handling of finances was shoddy to say the least.

What first intrigued us was the fact that the initial reporting in the Press & Sun Bulletin was only about 150 words long and failed to give details of the offenses.  In short, the Press was willing to bury the story in a small "side column" piece on a Friday.  However, when Bertoni put forth his defense, it was a full blown thousand plus word story with full throated defenses of the great work he and the Board are doing.  This is exactly why the Fire Starter exists.

We were next intrigued by the fact that at least some of the criticisms from the comptroller were first lodged here on  these pages.  We have consistently pointed out Bertoni's self serving and autocratic management style. Our first story about the mismanagement of the airport dates back nearly 10 months.  Apparently the Press did not deem it newsworthy until it was in black and white from the Comptrollers office.

What was also striking was the fact that the Comptrollers office (and the Press)  completely dropped the ball on the rampant cronyism and nepotism that has been the hallmark of King John's reign.  Other than picking up on the "personal" secretary's stipend, the issues regarding friends and relatives of Bertoni have gone largely ignored.

However, what was most interesting was King John the Tongue Tied's hapless attempt to defend his misfeasance and malfeasance.  First there was his cutting criticism of the process: "They write the paper and they ask you questions".  Wow!  How is a lowly mayor to stand up to such tactics!  There really should be a law!  Then he defended the "stipend" since apparently the only other option was to hire someone else. Really?  The King's receptionist could not get the work done during a normal work week?  Then came the coupe de grace.  King John really sunk the knife deeply in the Comptroller when he exclaimed "I counter criticize them".  I see that counter criticize and raise you a double-dog-dare!

What is apparently lost on his heiness is that in addition to representing a misappropriation of Village funds, it was done without Board approval.  The fact that Board members "knew about it" is really of no consequence.  By not bringing this before the Board, Village residents did not know about it.  This is the real reason for having Board meetings and resolutions.  Accountability.   But apparently in King John's corrupt world, "...if the money was allocated and you maneuver it around to save money, it's not like your spending unauthorized money".  And yet...that's exactly what it is.

Update: Hannon has Left the Building :  Apparently with a solid two board meetings under his belt for 2012, Hannon has again left town for the next three weeks.  Reportedly Hannon jetted to the "Southern Village Hall" in Ocala, Florida this week.  Never mind that he is being paid to run this Village.  But have no fear, the Village is in the capable hands of Deputy Mayor Rick Ball-less.