Camillus FD whistleblower says he was suspended for reporting misuse of funds

William Vivenzio

A Camillus firefighter says he has been suspended for blowing the whistle on financial irregularities at the volunteer fire department.

William Vivenzio told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, that he was suspended earlier this week after fellow firefighters claimed he had put their lives in jeopardy during last Tuesday's storm. Vivenzio says the charges were trumped up and were part of an orchestrated effort to oust him from the Camillus Volunteer Fire Department. Neither the Camillus Fire Chief nor the Village Mayor could be reached for comment.

Vivenzio told Kenyon that the department responded to a call for downed power lines at the intersection of West Genesee and Barclay Road. He says his fellow firefighters claimed that when he briefly got out of the fire truck he "put their lives in jeopardy" because there were supposedly live power lines in the vicinity. But Vivenzio says they got to the scene about 2 hours after the incident and he obtained a printout from National Grid which he says proves his claim. By the time the Camillus Fire Truck arrived, Vivenzio says the power to the area had already been turned off, residents were walking through the neighborhood, and the driver of a National Grid vehicle told the firefighters the situation was under control and they could leave.

Vivenzio says he has obtained a lawyer and may sue the Village of Camillus, the Fire Department and those who were behind the alleged retaliation.

As we reported last September, Vivenzio claimed some members of the Camillus Fire Department had been misusing funds. He said he had inside knowledge of the questionable expenditures because he "wrote the checks" as the assistant treasurer.

The New York State Comptroller conducted an investigation and last month issued an audit that substantiated many of Vivenzio's claims.

Among other things, the audit found:

--The Camillus Fire Department received $81,171 in revenue but spent $88,514

--Auditors found "controls are not adequate to ensure that financial activity is properly recorded and reported"

--$29,724 in debit card purchases without prior approval

--Lack of receipts for a number of purchases

--$10,795 spent at local restaurants

--Cash payments to members who attended a Fire Chiefs Conference at the Turning Stone Casino based on rank with Chiefs receiving $750, Lieutenants receiving $200 and $100 for other members of the Department

In response to the audit, CFD President Cheryl Hutchins said "there is no monetary benefit derived from membership in the CFD." She said "we are confident that the expenditures were for legitimate and authorized purposes."

In the response, Hutchins revealed that the Camillus Fire Department has appointed a new treasurer and is working on "corrective action plan" which is required when an audit uncovers financial irregularities.