NORTH AMITYVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A volunteer fire company on Long Island has been shut down amid allegations of dangerously long response times and potentially criminal wrongdoing.
Firetrucks and ambulances are going where nowhere in North Amityville after the volunteer fire company was stripped of its duties, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Monday.
Callers get a busy signal. Emergencies are being dispatched to surrounding departments.
Town of Babylon Supervisor Rich Shaffer said the unprecedented shutdown is based on a litany of allegations including outrageously long response times.
“As much as an hour for an ambulance to arrive,” Shaffer said. “We knew we couldn’t sit by and idly let that go on.”
Shaffer said it’s a life and death issue that was discussed in meetings for years.
The department asked for more money, and received it. But disfunction persisted amid allegations of harassment, threats of violence, fire department leaders invalidating an election and misuse of public funds, including a questionable trip to the Caribbean and Florida.
“You can call it a boys club, you can call it an out of control fraternity house,” said Shaffer.
“It’s a culture infused by high levels of mismanagement,” said John Coverdale, a consultant with the Center for Workplace Solutions.
The town sent in Coverdale, who said he was shocked by substantial claims of bullying and sexual harassment.
“Involved language that was so inappropriate and actions that were so inappropriate that were presented to the board for review and for all intents and purposes were completely ignored,” said Coverdale.
Coverdale said newer volunteers were suspended for voicing opposition, which led to short-staffing.
An attorney for the fire department said the town is misinformed.
“Our belief is this was a rash and not substantiated, unjustified move,” said attorney Brad Pinsky. “Unfortunately there is a small internal dispute within the company.”
Taxpayers spend $3 million a year on their fire service.
“It’s pretty sad. We need it back,” one person said.
“If you have an emergency, who are you gonna call?” said another.
Shaffer said he plans to install a receiver, an outside fire professional, to come in with a corrective plan to get the fire department reopen as soon as possible.
The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office has issued subpoenas in the investigation, but would not comment on the matter.