Monday, March 26, 2012

Don't Piss Off the Firemen

It happened twice last week. On Monday night, it was at a Bethlehem Township Commissioners' meeting. On Friday, it was in a blog posting here, about a Bangor Borough Councilman's request to view the financial records of a volunteer fire company.

In both instances, I managed to infuriate volunteer firemen.

Monday night, I dealt with five Bethlehem Township Volunteer Fire Company firefighters, from its Chief to its President. Now those guys are all about transparency. They actually want people to see their records. But they were giving me dagger eyes because I had pointed out, in an earlier story, that a rash of embezzlement has led many municipalities to keep a closer eye on them.

These guys were being stopped in the street and asked about embezzlement, so I was not their favorite person.

But I think they've forgiven me.

They've invited me for a ride to the Lehigh River.

Upon learning of my predicament with Bethlehem Township's volunteers, a local sage (whose identity I'll keep super secret) warned me, "Do not piss off the firemen." Unfortunately, I got that advice on Saturday, and by then it was already too late.

My Friday post is about Bangor's courageous and dedicated heroes. Unlike the courageous and dedicated heroes in Bethlehem Township, these life savers feel their records are nobody's business. Even when they are publicly funded. Even when the person who seeks those records is one of the public funders.

By the time I was warned not to piss off the firemen, there were already 69 mostly angry comments on what I thought was a fairly innocuous posting. It's continued to go up, most of them being negative.

It makes no difference to these guys that the Office of Open Records FAQ specifically states that volunteer fire companies and their records are subject to the Right-to-Know Law. It makes no difference that their own President has acknowledged, in his response to the state Office of Open Records, that his department has never been audited in its over 100-year history.

Bangor Borough Council member Dave Houser, who made this request, has been eviscerated and shouted into silence. Here's one of the comments, which sums up the attitude. "I don't care anymore about the RTK bull anymore. He [Houser] has an obvious issue with the fire dept. This goof has nothing better to do than to cut down an organization that that trains every week for 52 weeks per year to do the things he'll never have the balls to do. What's next...will he go to church on Sunday and stop the congregation from putting money in the offering? Film at 11....." As for me, I've been told I hate all volunteer firemen.

Actually, I hate everybody.

Anyway, I've been in touch with one of the Bangor firefighters. I've been invited for a ride to see their rescue operations on the Delaware River.


Anonymous said...

God Bless the fireman. Don't fear the O'Hare hate machine.

Anonymous said...

The oldest trick in the book is for these volunteer organizations to all of a sudden seem transparent and threaten to shut down if they are probed.

Anonymous said...

Vollies traditionally have a high rate psychological/arson problems among their memberships. They're pretty good at making work for themselves. Sleep with one eye open if you choose to piss off vollies.

Carol said...

Bernie, I served on Bangor Council, I served as Mayor, crunch the numbers, Bangor nor any municipality except for a large city cannot afford a paid fire department. There are pros and cons to all situations and questions, this issue needs to be approached with cool heads and respect for each other. Unless one has lived through a personal fire and watched a fire department, one can't fully appreciate the dedication and training. I lived through such a catastrophe on top of Market St. in the midst of a tremendous snow storm at 3:00 in the morning. The men had the old coats at that time and we had to pry ice off buckles. That which in life flavors some of our thinking, but again, decency in the coping and handling of situations, not withstanding the time involved, helps in resolutions.

Anonymous said...

Volunteers are the back bone of most communities and America. They are usually the most dedicated, hardest working and most coperative individuals you want to meet. Ninety nine percent of them are non-professionals as far as the job markets go, but extremely professional in the area of which they volunteer. Most give of their time instead of their money because most of them have no money. Thanks to the volunteers we as a community save tens of thousands of dollars each year in taxes. That being said, accountability to those who support volunteers is a necessity. Unfortunately many individuals of shady character slip through the established safegaurds and pilfer funds. It happens to the Scouts, Churches, Little leauges, etc. Audits are a way of ensuring the genral public that the funds they give to volunteers is not being pilfered by the unscroupolous with no conscience. When the audit is complete, the volunteers have bragging rights for running a well organized and honest program aimed at serving the public. I know both these organizations will come out with an exemplary audit. God Bless our volunteers.

Anonymous said...

And screw u Bernie

Anonymous said...

Hey anon 10:05 am,

Why don't you ... Nah, you're not even worth it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Carol, Your personal experience is something we should remember. These guys are dedicated, to be sure. But their financial records should be available.

Anonymous said...

Their Financial records should be open!

Thats's right only for the direct funds the Borough provides.

If Any!

Anonymous said...



Dave Houser said...

Bernie..would showing the public the 2011 IRS Form 990 be a clarifying moment? This is a public document and very telling in many respects. I just saw it today and was floored by the sheer numbers spent on themselves for giggles. How would the public feel if they saw what was going on and where their donations ended up.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Send it to me, with your criticism, and I will post it.

Anonymous said...

Just reading some of the comments. Some good and some are bad. You know its assholes like you that give the area a bad name. if you get off your lazy asses and give some time to your local town. Then just maybe it would be a better place to live. That is how you chase businesses away. Example: Walmart coming to Pen argyl, so what if they don't pay top money. It is all taxes revenue. The tree huggers bitching about Gen On in Portland. And bitch every year about your taxes going up. When you stop growing, you are dying. I support the fire companies in the slate belt area going to there fundraisers. I know alot of the boys in the slate belt fire companies, who take time away from families to make their community feel safer. Do you want toget called out at 2 a.m. for a cat up in a tree? Or do you want to leave your family on Christmas morning to safe a neighbors property. I think its time to drop your crusade Mr. Hauser or any other joker that is a armchair quarterback trying to call all the shots. Just let the boys do there thing. Just think the next it could be your home. And I see it now these guys show and do there job and not question you, "See what you are doing to us". They have a code TO PROTECT AND SERVE! Did anybody know that Bangor has a 1 mill tax for fire protection, that money is suppose to be put aside for future purchase of fire trucks. No, but the brain trust uses the monies toward their general budget, its public record. In parting, we can only blame ourselves for putting these fuckers in office. Some give you lip service and ours roll up their shelves and get asshole deep to help their community. Plus also you have to blame on the first admendment, freedom of the press. I can say what I want, and you can't do nothing about it.

Anonymous said...

Bangor Fire Department doesn't do rescues in the Delaware. That would be Portland Hook and Ladder.

Dave said...

He was making a joke. Bernie is also a comedian..part time.