The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 12, 2012

Ex-fire official quitting department, leaving Sunbury

By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item

SUNBURY — A former assistant fire chief told City Council members Monday that he is quitting the fire department and moving out of Sunbury because he believes the city has turned its back on his 30 years of service.

The former chief, Rick Sinko, has been banned for life from the Rescue Hose Company, where he had served as treasurer. He also was placed on administrative leave from the fire department by the city.

A panel of Rescue members alleged that Sinko was involved in mishandling funds, but no charges have been brought in the case. Rescue board president Stanley Wirth wrote a handwritten statement to Sinko, explaining that Sinko was barred for life as of Oct. 9.

Wirth also said an investigation has been under way for the past two months concerning Sinko and his girlfriend Michelle Suhovsky, 37, of Sunbury, a former bartender at the fire company.

Sinko had demanded that he be allowed to enter the property or be granted a transfer to another city station.

In a prepared statement to a stunned council, Sinko said: “You know my record and what I have done for the betterment of this city and its inhabitants.”

He added: “I left my children on their birthdays and my grandchildren on Christmas. I have denied domestication for the urgency of danger without hesitation or deliberation for 30 years.”

“I was denounced without fact and left with no option to contest the allegations as no one knew what to do in this given set of circumstances. I hold no ill will, and in fact I hope for furtherance in a department that is so terribly corrupt and flawed,” Sinko read. “Although this council accepts no responsibility, and the mayor himself doesn’t know what to do, I hope that this letter and this situation will better prepare you for a future state of affairs, as it is apparent that not one of you know what to do in an instance such as this.”

Sinko continued by saying he was not guilty of any wrongdoing and he thought council and the city had let him down by not responding faster with answers.

“You have the final say,” he told council. “To deny that responsibility in a time of necessity is unnerving and troubling at best. It smells bad, people. And you all ignore the stench.”

As Sinko completed his speech he was set to walk out the door when Councilman Todd Snyder asked him to wait.

“I am sorry to hear this, and I think we as council need to find out what is going on here,” Snyder said. “I am shocked as to why we weren’t made aware of this whole issue early.”

Snyder and Councilman Jim Eister asked Sunbury Police Chief Steve Mazzeo about the status of an investigation.

“There is an open investigation and we are waiting for the fire company to give us more information,” he said. “We have also contacted the attorney general’s office to inform them if this is something we can’t handle.”

Sunbury Fire Chief Mike Rhoads interrupted and said, “I am disturbed by this news and I am stunned right now. This is an issue between the fire company and Rick Sinko. It has nothing to do with the city fire department.”

But if a member of any of the six fire companies is suspended or designated not a member in good standing, the city will suspend the individual from the fire department for two years.

“That’s something we need to look at,” Snyder said. “I think we need to get to the bottom of this.”

Sinko said he didn’t care. “I am leaving the city, and I am retiring,” he said. “This has tarnished my name and I will clear my name the way I want to from this point.”

Council members said they were sad to hear the news and they would still ask Sunbury Mayor David Persing to meet with members of the Rescue Hose Company to ask questions.

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