The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 11, 2012

Cops enter Sunbury fire department probe

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

— SUNBURY — City police are investigating the former treasurer of a Sunbury fire house who Thursday was banned for life from the company for “improper behavior.”

A panel of 18 members of the Rescue Hose Fire Company levied accusations against Rick Sinko, the city’s third assistant fire chief.

Mayor David Persing was informed Thursday by letter of Sinko’s banning, and when questioning the board’s decision, was told it related to finances. Sinko was banned from the volunteer force after Rescue board president Stanley Wirth said an investigation was under way for the past two months concerning Sinko and a female bartender.

The fire company issued a letter to city officials on Thursday informing them of its decision, Wirth said.

Sunbury Fire Chief Mike Rhoads confirmed that Sinko has been ousted, and that he may not respond to any city fires.

“This is a single department issue and has nothing to do with any other departments in the city,” Rhoads said. Mum on “improper behavior”

Neither Wirth nor Rhoads would explain the “improper behavior.”

When Persing questioned the improper behavior, he was told it related to finances.

“I asked Stanley Wirth what this was about and all he said was it was a financial issue,” Persing said. “We are not going to hide from anything in this city and I am not sure how much money they are talking about.”

Sunbury Police Chief Steve Mazzeo confirmed that the Rescue Hose Company filed a complaint against Sinko and an investigation has begun.

“This is an ongoing investigation and we can’t comment at this time,” Mazzeo said.

Sunbury City Council was also informed of Sinko’s lifelong ban. Councilman Jim Eister said after receiving the letter from the fire company he immediately contacted Wirth and they met to discuss the letter at City Hall.

Eister said council will be looking at the situation closely.

Persing said the city was unaware of anything happening until Wirth informed officials that a panel of 18 people met and determined there was enough information to contact city police.

Contacted Thursday, Sinko said he had no comment and directed all questions to Rhoads.

Wirth said the bartender is Sinko’s girlfriend and she also received a lifelong ban. Firefighter for three decades

Sinko, who has been a firefighter for nearly three decades, was instrumental in helping flood victims during the September 2011 disaster that hit the Valley. He was among the members of the Sunbury Water Rescue Team honored by former Fire Chief Dean Weirick for its efforts during the flooding crisis.

Sinko also helped the city in 2011 when it needed assistance in raising money for sections of new fire hoses.

Tax filings for the Rescue Hose Company show that Sinko was the treasurer of the company in 2010 and that during its most recent fiscal year, the fire house had gross receipts of $924,945. More than two-thirds of that revenue, $708,000 came from gaming. The fire company reported that it paid out $585,834 in winnings for the year.

The Rescue Hose Company is one of six city companies that make up the Sunbury Volunteer Fireman’s Relief Association.

Each of those companies is responsible for itself and file its own individual tax forms, Rhoads said.

Amerman & Amerman, of Sunbury, prepared the 2010 tax filing for the Rescue Hose and Bruce Amerman on Thursday said he was in the process of filing the 2011 returns, but that paperwork has been delayed while unspecified questions are resolved.

He said it is not that uncommon for such questions to delay such filings.

“I can say I have questions about any of my clients returns,” he said.

Amerman said he does not audit reports, but that forms are due by Nov. 15.