Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hrustich Kills Again

So·ci·o·path [soh-see-uh-path] n. a person with a psychopathic personality whose behavior is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

For the last several years, the Fire Starter has attempted to bring to the attention of the public issues that have been under reported or unreported by the local media. Incidents of misconduct by local elected leaders and their allies have repeatedly detailed on these pages. Rarely has the local media picked up on these stories. Rather, they have been willing accomplices to egregious abuses of power. Their silence has allowed petty tyrants to utilize the apparatus of government to target individuals with the well founded belief that their deep pockets and a complicit (and at times corrupt) media would shield them from notice.

We have attempted to present the misconduct in a factual yet entertaining way. (Really…who wants to continuously read the shrill reporting of a stifled blogger?) We illustrated absurdity with absurdity. There have been many instances when the use of local leaders own words appeared to be parody. Sometimes Mayors Hannon and Bertoni were our unwilling accomplices. Sometimes movie or television references illustrated the point. In short, we have attempted to inform yet never took ourselves too seriously.

Unfortunately, there is nothing funny about the latest incident in the Village of Johnson City. No pithy quotes or one liners will take the edge of the situation. There is nothing to laugh about.
We have illustrated the recklessness and self promoting behavior of Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich. He has repeatedly shown himself willing to place the public and the fire fighters who serve with him in grave danger in order to advance his own interests.

We reported that Hrustich had set a policy in Endicott that if his severe cuts to the fire department resulted in five or fewer fire fighters being on duty, they would not answer Medical calls classified as “Delta” calls which are classified as serious situations requiring advanced life support. Rather, the call would need to worsen to become an “Echo” call before fire fighters respond to the call. An Echo call is a maximum priority call where cardiac arrest has occurred and death is imminent. His cuts led to the death of an Endicott resident.

No action was ever taken to hold Hrustich accountable. The tragic death of a resident was swept under the carpet and forgotten. It was excused. It was discounted as a fluke situation.

Unfortunately, it was no fluke. Tuesday night, while most of us were home with our families, a Johnson City resident collapsed. At 9:20 PM, Broome County 911 dispatched a call of a man with breathing difficulty and loss of consciousness on Arthur Avenue in Johnson City. This was classified as a Delta priority call. Since there were only four Johnson City fire fighters on duty, Broome County dispatch knew that under Hrustich’s policy, Johnson City would not respond.

Broome dispatch sent the call to the Union Volunteer Emergency Squad (UVES). Unfortunately, they were busy answering multiple calls and were unable to arrive on the scene until 9:28 or eight minutes after the initial dispatch. The call was immediately upgraded to an Echo call as the man was in full cardiac arrest. Valiant efforts at CPR were undertaken by UVES but the resident passed away.
While all of this was going on, four Johnson City fire fighters sat a couple of blocks away, helpless. Hrustich’s order prevented them from responding to the initial call. They easily could have been on the scene in two minutes. Instead, this father, husband or brother was left on the ground a total of eight minutes before assistance was available.

Six additional minutes may seem like a minor inconvenience to some. But if you are lying on the ground and unable to get oxygen to your brain, it is life and death. 

Hold your breath for two minutes. It will seem like an eternity. Now try to hold your breath for eight minutes. 

Hrustich’s “risk management” has now led to two deaths in less than a year. If he had a soul, it would keep him up nights. However, he sold his soul long ago and we are sure that these deaths are “risks” he is willing to take. 

We know that Endicott Mayor Bertoni is unwilling to hold Hrustich to account for any misconduct. But what about Johnson City? What action will Mayor Deemie take? How about Balles, Slota, King and newly appointed trustee Marusich? After the reckless reckless cuts, wild driving, perjury and now two deaths, will they finally terminate this worthless piece of trash?

Don’t hold your breath.

***Note:  We were contacted by a neighbor who witnessed the events and advised that the event occurred on Arthur Avenue.  We have corrected the blog post. It is also worth noting that this neighbor verified the events of Tuesday night.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Griswold Strikes Again!

"Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it's set a rolling it must increase." -Charles Caleb Colton

It has been said that a “fish rots from the head down”. This has certainly proven true in the Village of Endicott.

On numerous occasions, we have detailed the misconduct of King John the Malaprop. (Yes mayor, if you can find your dictionary you will find the definition). Whether it is his nepotistic hiring of family members, abuse of citizens or his misappropriation of Village resources for FOJ’s (friends of John), it is clear that his disregard for ethics and the law runs wide and deep. We won’t even begin to address his crimes against the English language.

Likewise, Bertoni’s golden boy, Fire Chief Steven Hrustich, has a long string of misconduct that has gone unpunished. Whether it is his lying under oath or his reckless driving or his neglect of safety issues, Hrustich has shown himself to be the kind of leader you would expect to get from Bertoni. The only wonder is that Johnson City has not yet figured this out and excised this cancer.

Which brings us to the next in line in Endicott; Joe Griswold. Griswold has been Fire Marshal in the Village of Endicott for a number of years. During that time, he has, much like the Mayor and his Chief, acted like the rules do not apply to him. We recently reported on Griswold’s neglect of the codes office (one of his primary duties). We also reported on Griswold going AWOL to answer a volunteer fire call. Apparently his misconduct runs much deeper. And the worst part is that he is not punished for his misdeeds and continues to receive praise from Hrustich and Bertoni.

Griswold has shown himself to have an “anger management” problem. He apparently has limited control of his emotions (not exactly the kind of person you would want in an emergency situation). He has cursed at citizens seeking assistance at the codes office. In one instance, he reportedly screamed at the top of his lungs and told a citizen to “get the F*** out of my office”! No punishment has befallen Griswold for this or any other incident.

So no one should be surprised to learn that Griswold believes he can speak to anyone in any way he wishes while in uniform. At a recent Village Board meeting, a citizen, Pat McVannan, questioned Bertoni regarding what if any action had been taken with regard to Griswold’s AWOL incident. Griswold was apparently lurking behind the door like Boo Radley and felt he was at liberty to interrupt the meeting and shout the village resident down. Fortunately, it was all caught on video. However, the video can not convey the shock experienced by those of us in the audience. The Fire Starter was concerned for Ms. McVannan’s safety.

What was most ironic was that Bertoni had just lectured Union President Paul Higgins about civility. Fortunately, this was also caught on tape. Review the video and judge for yourself.

The shocking video brought to mind one of our favorite movies. Griswold acts eerily like another “leader” who has completely lost his grip on reality.

The bottom line is that the corruption in Endicott starts at the top and is reflected in the management of the fire department. Bertoni, Hrustich and Griswold are accountable to no one for their misconduct. As a result, the misconduct has continued to expand in seriousness and frequency.

Endicott is most assuredly rotting from the head down. It is time for citizens to stand up and demand better!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hrustich Lied

“Every violation of truth is not only a sort of suicide in the liar, but is a stab at the health of human society.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

We have detailed the misconduct of the fire chief in the Villages of Endicott and Johnson City. Steven Hrustich has placed the safety of the public and the fire fighters in jeopardy through reckless cuts and incompetent leadership. He has attempted to make command decisions and given orders while not even being on the scene. He has driven recklessly placing the public and fellow fire fighters at risk. He even responded lights and sirens and at a high rate of speed to an emergency scene while his children were in the back of the emergency vehicle.

Last week we wrote about Hrustich and his cronies using the “sick bank” as a way to lord his authority over others. Never mind that a man’s life and his family’s wellbeing is at stake. What was most important was that Hrustich could puff his chest out and prove to everyone that he is in charge.

Despite his serial misconduct, nothing has been done to rein him in. In fact, the ever clueless King John the Befuddled continues to sing Hrustich’s praises.

Hrustich’s misconduct has been largely swept under the carpet by complicit Village leaders. As long as Hrustich was willing to carry their water, Mayors Hannon and Bertoni were willing to overlook most anything.

Well a recent court decision may finally be the last straw. The Fire Starter read with great interest the Press accounts of the discipline of Johnson City Fire Fighter Martin Meaney. The Press story seemed to indicate that this was a rather simple matter of insufficient evidence. (i.e. “he may not be innocent but the Village failed to prove that he was guilty”). However, we found a copy of the actual court decision on line and it tells a very different story.

The actual court decision notes that the ONLY evidence against Meaney was a statement by Hrustich. Hrustich claimed that Meaney had complained to him that his tank had been tampered with.

Aside from Meaney’s denial of ever having an airpack problem, against Hrustich’s version of the facts were:

• A village police detective

• Two Village Firefighters who were with Meaney on the day in question.

• Evidence that Meaney did not even have access to the tank

In the end, it was Hrustich’s word against a mountain of evidence. But not only that, it is clear that Hrustich  lied. For this reason, Meaney was restored to his former rank with back pay.

But what about Hrustich? Hrustich sought a two rank demotion for Meaney’s supposed lies. What Hrustich did was the bear false witness against a subordinate to satisfy some personal grievance. What is the penalty for Hrustich’s lies? This abuse of power can not stand. Hrustich has committed criminal perjury and a breach of the public trust. It is time for a criminal prosecution and termination.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cold Hypocrisy

"Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue." - Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Just as the sun seems to be setting on the Johnson City follies, it is simultaneously rising in Endicott. It is probably no coincidence that the now discredited tactics are being tried out in Endicott by a different Mayor but the same fire chief and the same lawyers. The abuse of taxpayer dollars to pursue personal agendas is always disturbing. When chief Steven Hrustich and King John the Unscrupulous attack the most vulnerable as a tactic, it is unconscionable.

This brings us to fire fighter Dana Stockton. By all accounts, Stockton is a “fire fighter’s fire fighter”. Always willing to do the heavy lifting. Always willing to go the extra mile. Always willing to place himself on the line for the citizens he serves. His beautiful wife and three daughters fill out the picture of a man of perfect balance. Always there for his brothers and always there for his family.

In January, Stockton and his family received news that turned their world upside down. Dana was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer. In the blink of an eye, all of their dreams and hopes were placed in doubt.

Since that time Dana has undergone surgery and aggressive treatment. And although it is still early in the process, he is showing signs of improvement. He is hopeful of a return to duty as early as August. From our keyboard to God’s ears.

Since the diagnosis and beginning of treatment, Dana has had to use accrued sick time, vacation time and all other means at his disposal to continue to maintain his income and benefits. As his time began to run out, other fire fighters volunteered to work his shifts to insure that his family would survive financially and he would continue to have the health insurance needed to pay for his lifesaving care. In addition, an application was made to the “sick bank” so that he could borrow additional sick time to bridge the gap to his August return.

Sick bank time is “banked” when fire fighters leave service and have time left on the books. This is all time earned by Dana’s retired brothers. A panel including Fire Chief Steven Hrustich and Joseph “Blue Light Special” Griswold was given the task of evaluating the application. The Fire Starter has been told that this has been historically a rubber stamp. Who would deny a disabled brother the right to borrow time?

Well we recently got the answer. The panel voted to deny Dana Stockton Access to the sick bank time. The first reason given was the belief that he would not be able to repay the time due to the nature of his illness. Putting aside the heartless coldness of this calculation, it totally ignores his improving prognosis and the possibility of an August return.

The second reason given was an assessment Hrustich and Griswold that Stockton had been a sick time abuser. Over a six year period, he used 27 sick days or roughly 4 per year. No analysis was undertaken as to the nature of the sickness involved. Strictly the numbers. But even examining the raw numbers, it is hard to conceive of 4 sick days per year constituting “abuse” considering he has three young children who presumably accounted for at least some of the illnesses.

But apparently Hrustich knows sick time abuse when he sees it. During one recent three and one half year period, Hrustich utilized 35 sick days or an average of 10 days per year! The hypocrisy is staggering.

As mentioned above, Dana’s brother fire fighters began working his shifts to ensure that he could support his family and maintain his health insurance. Well Hrustich would not let them get the better of him, so he issued an order “outlawing” the practice. No longer could his brothers use their own time and sweat to help Stockton. Hrustich had won again.

The fact that Hrustich is heartless is undeniable. The fact that he would attack a vulnerable family is unforgiveable. It is plainly an abuse of power which reveals his true lack of character. Such an individual should not be a leader of men. It is time for the Village Boards to wake up and take swift action.

And for Hrustich…there but by the grace of God go I.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Griswold is AWOL

"The essence of immorality is the tendency to make an exception of myself". - Jane Addams

The Fire Starter took a hiatus from publishing after the departure of Johnson City Mayor Dennis Hannon. After over 140 columns over 2 1/2  years, it was time for a break.

We were also naive enough to believe that other local leaders like King John the Dimwitted would get the message that the slash and burn style of leadership was costly to taxpayers and ultimately unproductive. We truly believed that the use of public power to settle personal grievances was over. We thought that everyone would be treated fairly and each matter would be judged on its own merits. We were wrong.

It has come to our attention that the command officers in the Endicott Fire Department have been running amok and King John continues to turn a blind eye toward the misconduct of his flunkies.

Allow us to introduce to you Endicott Fire Marshal Joseph Griswold. Mr. Griswold has been fire marshal in the Village for a number of years. In that role, he oversees fire investigation, inspections and is in charge of the codes office. It is with regard to this last position that Mr. Griswold has come to our attention before.

In the past, Mr. Griswold has shown himself to be an absentee administrator of the codes office. This has resulted in a secretary evaluating and granting final approval on construction plans for projects in the Village. In at least one instance, final approval was given without any plans having been filed. Griswold has been accountable to no one. He comes and goes as he pleases and if he has “something better to do” he simply closes the codes office. Not bad for over $82,000 per year.

The Fire Starter has recently learned that Griswold has really “upped his game”. Several weeks ago, while on duty in the Village of Endicott, Griswold heard a fire call for the Port Dickinson volunteer fire company. Although no mutual aid call went out to Endicott, Griswold took it upon himself to abandon his post in Endicott to respond to this call. Griswold left the Village of Endicott for several hours and participated in the internal attack of a fire 10 miles away from the Village he is paid to protect. He utilized Village provided gear and did not “clock out” while pursuing this fancy.

While Griswold was chasing blue lights, the codes office in Endicott was closed. (Yes, closed to serve you better!).

In about this same time frame, Griswold was again absent for a solid week while he attending firearms recertification through Broome County. During the week of April 16, 2012, while being paid his full and regular salary from the Village of Endicott, Griswold was almost entirely absent from the Village. Although Joe can now reportedly shoot the head off a match stick, this had absolutely nothing to do with his position of Fire Marshal. Yet the Village paid Griswold his full and regular salary while he qualified for his “second job” as a security guard. Yes…your tax dollars at work!

What is most appalling in this situation is that despite having abandoned his post on numerous occasions, no disciplinary action has been taken. And don’t expect to read about any action anytime soon. Joe is a good soldier who does the bidding of King John and Fire Chief Stephen Hrustich.

It may be good to be the King. But it is also good to be the Fire Marshal when you can pursue your personal agenda on Village time without repercussions.

So the long and the short of it is this. We are back. So long as the mice play, the cat will remain vigilant.