Audit: Fire district paid for Playboy...

Audit: Fire district paid for Playboy channel

There are 296 comments on the Newsday story from Apr 18, 2007, titled Audit: Fire district paid for Playboy channel. In it, Newsday reports that:

Four Long Island fire districts spent taxpayer money on pornography, trips for guests at conferences and extended hotel stays at conferences after they were over, according to a report released Wednesday by the ...

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Newsday.

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Sponge Bob

Marathon, FL

#310 Apr 20, 2007
Real Facts wrote:
<quoted text>
I know most people here are concentrating on the Playboy Channel, however probably because that is what is in the headline.
There were expenses that were pointed out in the article. Spending north of $350 a night for a hotel room in Vegas for the convention (rooms can be had for much less). Submitting over $100 a day for meals (My company caps us at $10/$15/$25 for personal meals per day while traveling).
Submitting receipts for food from Disneyland at the same time when they where supposed to be in a conference 100 miles away. Staying for extra days after the conference, yet still submitting expenses during that time.
I am sorry, I think most volunteers try to do the right thing. However peer pressure can be very powerful. The old joke I would have with my boss of I’ll submit it, you approve it, just doesn’t cut it. Not when you are traveling on the taxpayers dime.
I have heard some of these fire equipment salesman taking some of the LI fire district folks out to dinner (ok, that happens in the business world too), but then the fire district guys pay for the dinner! Why are my taxpayer dollars paying for some salesman’s dinner?
When traveling on the taxpayers money, I believe people should make every reasonable attempt to save money. Fire convention in Las Vegas, fine, stay at the Red Roof Inn for $99 or less, not at the Winn for $350 or more. Vegas must have more buffets that are under $20 than any place else on the planet. Just eat what you would normally eat when you are away. Just because you don’t have to pay for it does not mean that you should be shrimp cocktail, followed by the surf and turf meal.
For everyone else that has been defending this spending, please wake up. All this lavish spending is what is bringing more and more unwanted attention to yourselves. And to those that do follow the rules, to those who volunteer and look for nothing more than perhaps a slice of pizza every once in a while, or a cop willing to give you a warning instead of a ticket, I say thank you for all your service!
You make excellent points. A lot of people would probably do this job without these perks because they like the work and comrade. I don’t think many would object to using tax payer dollars to pay for picnics and pizza or even seminars with an eye kept on the lowest reasonable costs (a decent hotel, not a crack house, but not the best place on the Vegas strip either). When it evolves into expensive training trips every year,$60k dinners and ornamental extras on the trucks and in the stations, people feel that they are being taken advantage of.

“Sqaud Up”

Since: Dec 06

Long Island

#311 Apr 20, 2007
Larry wrote:
<quoted text>
So, according to your logic, Town Hall in Hempstead is a place where only adults gather, therefore, since only adults are there they can watch porn on television if they wish? The point I am making is Firehouses are supported by my AND your tax dollars. Public Schools are funded by tax dollars. Day Care can be underwritten by grants from the County, State and even Federal Government. What is the primary purpose of a Fire House? he House a Fire Company and its' nevessary equipment. Is it a house of porn and other vices? Is that the intention of the Firehouse?
I don't think so. It is about the use of tax dollars and the abuse of the tax dollars, and I am fed up with it. Period. The perks extended to the Vollies is starting to sound like an entitlement, and that is wrong. Period.
No thats not my logic, but that was an interesting twist you put on what I said. Just because another facility houses only adults doesnt make anything right. I see you will just go from one facility to the next to try and prove your point. All i said is that you cannot compare a firehouse and what goes on there to a school or daycare and what goes on there. These are grown men and women, that watch t.v or play pool, or whatever else to pass the time in between calls, same way I b/s on the computer during my down time. You cant compare other jobs.. especially a school to firehouse

“Sqaud Up”

Since: Dec 06

Long Island

#312 Apr 20, 2007
MEMBER EMT FOR YEARS wrote:
I BELEIVE YOU ARE ALL MISSING THE POINT-TAX MONEY IS BUGDET MONEY USED FOR WHAT YOU BUGDETED FOR NOT FOR THE EXTRAS.
I believe everyone is also missing that the person responsible was reprimanded and paid for the porn out of his own pocket
Larry

United States

#313 Apr 20, 2007
Sorry, friend, respectfully speaking, I believe I do have a valid point here. All of the facilities we spoke of here are funded by tax dollars, be that a fire district tax or a school tax or grants in aid and/or special funding. Now, if you were to say that these Vollies were hanging out in a private social club, let them watch all the porn they want. Let them stay there all night and watch Playboy. It is a private premesis they are located in and they can do as they see fit. My problem, aside from the perception of this is that it should not be paid for out of the special Fire Distruct Tax nor out of the funds hard working people in the community donate every year during fund raising drives that are specifically stated for life saving activities. Again, I respectfully disagree. Aside from the moral implications here (My image of a Volunteer Fire Fighter is not one of a sloth leering at porn in the Firehouse waiting for the next call to come in) What's the matter? They can't find more productive things to do than watch that stuff? Is the Firehouse one perpetual bachelor party? What happened to Sportcenter, MSG, FSNY, a friendly game of cards, or even working out on the chrome plated excercise equipment out tax dollars also pay for. Years ago, volunteer fire departments were formed specifically to SERVE the community in case of emergency. It seems now the tables have been turned and now the community tax dollars are serving all of their creature comforts and wanton excesses. This is the problem here on Long Island: In the aggregate, our taxes are out of control: Fire Districts, Park Districts, Water Districts, Sanitation Districts, etc. all with their own special tax levy and Board of Commisioners and Health Benefits, etc. The time has come to stop this. It is only going to get worse and Long Island will be only for the Super wealthy with pockets of poor people sprinkled on the fringes. Thus, No middle class to speak of. I can afford my taxes because of my pension, my Social Security benefits plus wise investments I made throughout the years. But when I witness younger folks who have to work two and even three jobs to afford to live and raise a family here and then I see the gross misspending of tax dollars on porn in the Fire House I see that as wrong. Sorry, but that is how I feel.
MEMBER EMT FOR YEARS

Stamford, CT

#314 Apr 20, 2007
who else could it be wrote:
<quoted text>
I believe everyone is also missing that the person responsible was reprimanded and paid for the porn out of his own pocket
IF YOU READ THE PAPER ABOUT THE AUDIT IT STATES THAT FUNDING WAS USE FROM TAX PAYERS MONIES QUOTE!
mee

East Meadow, NY

#315 Apr 20, 2007
Larry wrote:
Sorry, friend, respectfully speaking, I believe I do have a valid point here. All of the facilities we spoke of here are funded by tax dollars, be that a fire district tax or a school tax or grants in aid and/or special funding. Now, if you were to say that these Vollies were hanging out in a private social club, let them watch all the porn they want. Let them stay there all night and watch Playboy. It is a private premesis they are located in and they can do as they see fit. My problem, aside from the perception of this is that it should not be paid for out of the special Fire Distruct Tax nor out of the funds hard working people in the community donate every year during fund raising drives that are specifically stated for life saving activities. Again, I respectfully disagree. Aside from the moral implications here (My image of a Volunteer Fire Fighter is not one of a sloth leering at porn in the Firehouse waiting for the next call to come in) What's the matter? They can't find more productive things to do than watch that stuff? Is the Firehouse one perpetual bachelor party? What happened to Sportcenter, MSG, FSNY, a friendly game of cards, or even working out on the chrome plated excercise equipment out tax dollars also pay for. Years ago, volunteer fire departments were formed specifically to SERVE the community in case of emergency. It seems now the tables have been turned and now the community tax dollars are serving all of their creature comforts and wanton excesses. This is the problem here on Long Island: In the aggregate, our taxes are out of control: Fire Districts, Park Districts, Water Districts, Sanitation Districts, etc. all with their own special tax levy and Board of Commisioners and Health Benefits, etc. The time has come to stop this. It is only going to get worse and Long Island will be only for the Super wealthy with pockets of poor people sprinkled on the fringes. Thus, No middle class to speak of. I can afford my taxes because of my pension, my Social Security benefits plus wise investments I made throughout the years. But when I witness younger folks who have to work two and even three jobs to afford to live and raise a family here and then I see the gross misspending of tax dollars on porn in the Fire House I see that as wrong. Sorry, but that is how I feel.
my the f @ c k off long island if you don't like it......and we do have espn and all the rest paid for buy my DEPT. not the taxpayers.so get a life you retired sh!thead..
Gone From LI - AND GLAD

Charlotte, NC

#316 Apr 21, 2007
mee wrote:
<quoted text>my the f @ c k off long island if you don't like it......and we do have espn and all the rest paid for buy my DEPT. not the taxpayers.so get a life you retired sh!thead..
Hey I got off and I am much happeir now without jerks like you. Don't worry though, someone of minority status will take my place on LI and make you even more unhappy. Jerks like you, running up the cost of all public services, are making people leave. Have fun in your soon to be slum.
Real Facts

New York, NY

#317 Apr 23, 2007
mee wrote:
<quoted text>my the f @ c k off long island if you don't like it......and we do have espn and all the rest paid for buy my DEPT. not the taxpayers.so get a life you retired sh!thead..
I probably shouldn’t even start this again, but here goes.

I am glad that the department paid for your entertainment. Just a question, where did the department get the money? Did you all kick in a few dollars out of your pocket? If so, good for you.

My department pulls out the taxpayer paid for truck, using taxpayer paid for gas, and parks down the block with all the lights going. Then some of the firefighters start going door to door. The lights catch the attention of many people, so even people that my not normally answer their door during dinner stop and answer the door.

We are then given the whole story of how our donations help out with “Equipment, Training and Fuel”. Now, personally, I do donate $20, because I don’t have a problem with them getting a few pizza’s and beers now and then. But I would be much happier if they just said “this is for our beer and party fund”

The point is all these taxing districts look at the taxpayers as if they are a bottomless pit. If you want something, just go back to the well.

Newsday is not just picking on the firefighters, they are picking on everyone.

Let’s look at some recent stories:

Fire department members spend lots of money on trips. Money that is more than I would spend on my own vacation. Then finding out that they are submitting receipts for meals in an amusement park at the time when they were supposed to be at the seminar or in training. The taxpayers thought “we are giving these people an all expense paid vacation”

Political appointees all around the Island are getting full heath care benefits, often for life, for doing perhaps as few as a hour or two’s worth of work a month. The taxpayers thought “I can’t afford heath insurance because I make too little, and my taxes are so high. I can’t get free coverage because I make too much. These millionaires know someone, and I am paying their insurance for life.”

Long Island pays four times as much than the city pays for fire trucks. The taxpayers thought “The tallest building in my town is four stories, yet we are buying 110 foot ladder truck for mutual aid? If Hempstead need bigger trucks, why aren’t they buying it?”

Two cops are retiring and getting a half a million dollar check on their way out the door. This would be in addition to a six figure pensions and health benefits for the rest of their lives. The taxpayers thought “More money out the door!”

On the next page, in an article about Oceanside and Riverhead schools having a police presence, there is mention of one parent who is not taking any chances, and pulling his kid out of school. This 33 year old RETIRED police officer picked his child up… The taxpayers thought “He is 33 and retired, must be nice. He spends time with his kid, while I am working my a$$ off to pay taxes so he can stay home!”

So, who is better, they guy who is fighting for Long Island by pointing out these abuses, or the guy with the entitlement problem who is basically legally blackmailing people. Why not have the Fire Department Elections on Election Day? Worried about the turn out?
Common Sense

Quantico, VA

#319 Apr 23, 2007
Let's do some simple math.. Let's say that LI goes to a paid dept to stop all of this "corruption". On the low end of the scale, you'd probably need 500 fireman to cover the entire island. With an average salary of $65,000 that will be a $32.5 million added to the tax burden you would have to pay just in salaries. I think these estimates are low, but even so we can't afford more taxes. If you have a problem with how the fire departments are being run, sign up and make the change yourself. I'm sure that after all of the time you'll be giving up for training and answering calls, you'll feel the same way I do - the money these boys spend on entertainment is worth every penny.
Real Facts

New York, NY

#320 Apr 24, 2007
Common Sense wrote:
Let's do some simple math.. Let's say that LI goes to a paid dept to stop all of this "corruption". On the low end of the scale, you'd probably need 500 fireman to cover the entire island. With an average salary of $65,000 that will be a $32.5 million added to the tax burden you would have to pay just in salaries. I think these estimates are low, but even so we can't afford more taxes. If you have a problem with how the fire departments are being run, sign up and make the change yourself. I'm sure that after all of the time you'll be giving up for training and answering calls, you'll feel the same way I do - the money these boys spend on entertainment is worth every penny.
Well, quite true, but you are missing the other side of the math puzzle.

How much is it costing us to keep our volunteer departments?

We already pay three to four times as much for a truck as New York City does. As I pointed out in an earlier post, in a 12 square mile area which encompasses five villages, we have 19 firehouses and 66 pieces of equipment. Of those 66 pieces of equipment, 16 of them are chief cars, normally a Chevy suburban. The chiefs use these cars all the time, as they need them when there is a call. Many of them have the DVD system for their kids, and the trucks are normally maxed out.

Other districts have spent millions upgrading their firehouses as places for their members to hang out.

One part of the Newsday report that I remember is that NYC has 6 “Heavy Rescue” trucks. One per borough, and one as a spare. Long Island has 85 of these trucks. Many of them have never actually been used!

Normally I am against all these “studies”, but I this case, I would love to see an independent group study of the costs of a properly staffed and supplied, centralized paid department, compared to the current oversupplied, yet under staffed and diversified volunteer system. I have a funny feeling that the costs would not be much different, yet your response times would be much better.

For example, the chief trucks mentioned above, at probably $50,000 each (probably more when you add in all the equipment), you are looking at $800,000 in chiefs cars, just for battalion 4. Think of all the gas these trucks go thru, because they are the chiefs everyday vehicles. Compare that to a single battalion chief car that is used by the on-duty chief only.

I have said before that a paid department would be cheaper. I should clarify that this is my belief, but I may be wrong. However, all the people that say your taxes will go up three to seven fold, I believe, are out of their minds. The sale of excess equipment alone could pay for a paid department for a few years, and that is a fact.
Common Sense

Quantico, VA

#321 Apr 24, 2007
I'd welcome that study as well, but having a fire house less than 2 miles from my house is reassuring and also keeps my home owners insurance down. Also if having 85 rescue trucks increases the odds of having the tools needed to free a trapped member of my family or your family if they're ever in a car accident, then I'm all for it. If we go to a paid system and close houses, you may increase response times depending on how many houses you close, but the less you close, the more paid member's you'll need. Yes, if we sold off some of the trucks that would help offset some of the incremental $32 million expense for salaries (which I still think is a low #)- for the first year, but what happens on the 2nd year? I think if you look at the cost over a 5 or 10 year period, you'll see that those "volley's" are good for the community and good for our pocketbooks. Let's make them accountable for their spending, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater and take away all of the perks these guys get for risking their lives and sacrificing 100's of hours of their uncompensated time they spend training each year and doing their jobs for the community. If those perks are a paid trip to Las Vegas or having the Playboy channel or getting a chief's car to use after rising to that rank (probably at least a 10 year committment), then I still think that's money well spent.
Teddy R

United States

#322 Apr 24, 2007
It's not about the volys. It's about the inherent waste and inefficiency of having too many independent FDs with redundant management, administrative overhead, equipment, facilities, etc.

I repeat - IT IS NOT ABOUT THE VOLYS.

Keep the volys.

Consolidate the FDs.

Put certain _selected_ positions in these FDs on a full-time paid basis WHERE THIS MAKES SENSE.

But the main point is - as posted above - all this debate with no reliable data on the cost of alternative models is a complete waste.

Let's get a reliable comparative cost analysis study done.

This is what that hack DiNapoli should have commissioned and produced.

Instead we get this completely useless 'audit' of nickels and dimes.
Real Facts

New York, NY

#323 Apr 24, 2007
Common Sense wrote:
I'd welcome that study as well, but having a fire house less than 2 miles from my house is reassuring and also keeps my home owners insurance down. Also if having 85 rescue trucks increases the odds of having the tools needed to free a trapped member of my family or your family if they're ever in a car accident, then I'm all for it. If we go to a paid system and close houses, you may increase response times depending on how many houses you close, but the less you close, the more paid member's you'll need. Yes, if we sold off some of the trucks that would help offset some of the incremental $32 million expense for salaries (which I still think is a low #)- for the first year, but what happens on the 2nd year? I think if you look at the cost over a 5 or 10 year period, you'll see that those "volley's" are good for the community and good for our pocketbooks. Let's make them accountable for their spending, but let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater and take away all of the perks these guys get for risking their lives and sacrificing 100's of hours of their uncompensated time they spend training each year and doing their jobs for the community. If those perks are a paid trip to Las Vegas or having the Playboy channel or getting a chief's car to use after rising to that rank (probably at least a 10 year committment), then I still think that's money well spent.
By your requirement, that there be a firehouse within 2 miles, a firehouse can service an area of 3.14 * 4, or just over 12 square miles. That is the area of Battalion 4.

We have 19 firehouses covering that same area.

The city has six rescue trucks, and I doubt that the odds of getting a truck if you need it are any different if you are in the city or on Long Island.

While selling off “Used” equipment may generate some revenue, instead I would like the study to see what we spend as a county each year in new equipment and capital purchases.

I do agree that the volunteers do indeed sacrifice their time. For most of them, I really have nothing but praise. What I am saying is that times are changing. By everyone’s admission, the departments have to “Spend” more to attract new volunteers. People are working more hours. Many families have both parents working. People have less time to volunteer.

Then you have things like new OSHA requirements. Guys used to jump on the back of the truck, now they must sit inside. Now departments need busses to get their members somewhere. Just getting back into town, some volunteers would respond directly to the scene, now they must go to the hose and sign in. They have to wait until there are enough people there to pull out a truck.

Response times go up during the day, as every one is at work. No fault of the “volley’s”, it is just the way it is. There are plenty of stories of waiting 15 or 20 minutes for an ambulance.

Getting a chief’s car 20 years ago meant getting a new crown vic. Thirty years ago, it meant getting an old car. Today it means getting a 10 mile per gallon SUV with multiple radio’s and possibly some other equipment. The cost a fortune to purchase, and a fortune to operate. And in this 12 square mile area, we have 16 of them.

The perks are adding up, and I believe that is why there is so much backlash. But you are correct, lets not have a knee jerk reaction and throw out the baby with the bathwater, instead, lets have an open and honest discussion about the pros and the cons. Perhaps some type of hybrid environment is the answer.

“Sqaud Up”

Since: Dec 06

Long Island

#324 Apr 24, 2007
MEMBER EMT FOR YEARS wrote:
<quoted text>
IF YOU READ THE PAPER ABOUT THE AUDIT IT STATES THAT FUNDING WAS USE FROM TAX PAYERS MONIES QUOTE!
yeah.... and if you keep reading the updated articles, the person responsible for ordering it was punished and reimbursed the $$$$
Jimbo----Colorad o

Denver, CO

#325 May 1, 2007
Some departments absolutly do abuse.....BUT.... for the most part, as many have noted, THE L.I. Fire Service is NOT PAID! Give them some perks for [email protected] sake.
It will keep the falling ranks alive. Also, to some extent it IS a frat club. WHO CARES! You should be glad guy's and gal's have things at the firehouse to interest them to hang out there......ie: some TV channels they may not be able to afford at home.Who cares if it's the Playboy Channel. Do you know how much paid departments spend to try and reduce responce times?! If some FF's and Medical people are "hanging out" at the firehouse when a call comes in.....BAM! They are on the rig and out the door in seconds to minutes. The person eagerly awaiting a potentialy life saving responce......isn't hanging on a "Blue Light" responce to the firehouse, from the member's residence, in Long Island traffic that generally disregards yeilding to the Blue Flashing Light.
Long Island Volunteers as a rule can NOT respond emergent to the firehouse in their own vehicles.
Sooooooo........give them some perks to hang out at the firehouse UNPAID.....with in reason. YOU (the public) WILL reap the benifits when it's YOUR heart that stops, or house that burns......
I agree that there are some places that have gone overboard, and should reel back a bit....But don't slaughter everyone, and even the overboard places. Just address it and let people get back in a reasonable groove.
Real Facts

New York, NY

#326 May 2, 2007
Jimbo----Colorado wrote:
Some departments absolutly do abuse.....BUT....
I agree that there are some places that have gone overboard, and should reel back a bit....But don't slaughter everyone, and even the overboard places. Just address it and let people get back in a reasonable groove.
I agree that all this press is making the fire departments look bad, when in fact it is a very small percentage of people that abuse the system.
The problem is these abuses are getting larger and larger.
This is not about the volunteers. At least not directly.
While the Newsday headline points at the Playboy Channel as the issue, I can assure you, it is not. It is the tip of the iceberg, the straw that broke the camels back. I agree, who cares about the $600 a year it would have cost. And, let’s remember, when pointed out, the fire department responded accordingly, canceling the service, notifying the cable company that they will not accept charges like this in the future, and getting restitution from the person who ordered it.
This is about the high tax burden on Long Island. This is about the fact that every audit performed by the state seems to find millions being stolen by school officials, politicians being arrested by the vanload for all sorts of misdeeds, and basically everyone using the public’s money like it was their piggybank.
We have the highest paid police forces in the nation, yet they cannot conduct a sting operation without outside help, and even that help may now jeopardize the case.
So, when a newspaper article mentions the fire officials were spending taxpayer money like it was water in Vegas, I have a issue with it. When another official was in Disney World when he was supposed to be at the convention, I have a problem with it.
If these were my employees, they would have been fired! However, since they are volunteers, should we really look the other way?
Do we really need to spend millions of dollars to encourage these guys to spend time at the fire house? And, quite frankly, how much time do they actually wind up spending there? A couple of hours a night, a couple of nights a week?
Again, I believe I would get a better response time if I had my heart attack and we had a paid department two miles away instead of a volunteer department that is normally empty a half mile away.
Perhaps a 24/7 paid department is not what s needed. Perhaps much savings can come from consolidation, and perhaps a part time paid department would be warranted. I don’t have all the answers, but I am open minded. But I do feel that that the current system is broken. As I said above, do we really need so much equipment and manpower in such a small area, such as battalion 4? I am not trying to pick on them, it is just this is the one that I know best as this is where I live.
And lastly, I was raised that when you volunteer, you are doing something good for someone else, and not looking for anything in return. If you are doing good for someone and you are getting something in return, that is called a job.

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