"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.