The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Rave

November 15, 2012

Explain former fire chief's ban

Someone needs to step forward to explain why Rick Sinko, a former chief of the Rescue Hose Company has been banned for life from the department.

Don't just believe us, ask Sinko.

A month after the company's move to bar him, Sinko approached city council to express his frustration and outrage that after the department's move there has been no public explanation of the cause for their action beyond the vague suggestion that there was a dismaying discrepancy in the company's financial books.

Sinko spoke proudly of his service with the fire department. His words would resonate with any firefighter or relatives of firefighters. He spoke of rushing from home on holidays and during family gatherings. These are the sacrifices that generate so much appreciation from the community. Fire company management brings chores that are rarely appreciated and involve minimal oversight outside the small cadre of volunteers who assume the task.

No one ever questioned Sinko's dedication in the public side of the fire company's activities. It is his role overseeing the company's apparently complicated finances that are under scrutiny. Fire companies with social halls offering small games of chance are awash in surprising sums of cash. The Rescue Hose Company had more than $700,000 in gaming revenue in 2010, but the department reported that it paid out all but $122,000 of that revenue in the form of winnings, tax filings show. How realistic or verifiable is that ratio?

Since his dismissal, Sinko has requested that the fire company explain its actions against him with a hearing.

The fire department has made no apparent effort to honor that request.

At city council, Sinko expressed his dismay that no member of council had intervened on his behalf. Fire chief Mike Rhoads only exacerbated the confusion by arguing that Sinko's complaint is with the specific fire company and should not be considered a matter of controversy requiring the attention of the board fire department. Sunbury Police Chief Steve Mazzeo told council members that the investigation is open.

Sinko, in disgust, said he plans to move out of Sunbury.

Council members expressed regret over Sinko's planned departure and said they hope Mayor David Persing will meet with fire company officials. It would be good if the mayor could review the situation for fairness. The affair should also spur fire companies to consider adopting more widespread understanding.

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