“With the village Building Department and inspection program being monitored by New York state for ineffectiveness, Mayor Alan Simon has dismissed the village fire inspector just before his six-month probationary period was set to expire this month.
The village hired John Zajac, a longtime West Haverstraw fire chief, in July as a full-time fire inspector to succeed the retired Raymond Guarnuccio, a former Spring Valley fire chief. Zajac was paid about $47,000.
Zajac finished third with a score of 99 on the civil service exam for the position. Zajac, 62, a retired safety compliance official for Sharpe Electronics and Pfizer, has been in the fire services for 42 years.
Simon, who won election in November and took the reigns of government in early December, did not return several messages left with his office for comment on why he dropped Zajac or his plans for the beleaguered Building Department.
Zajac said Simon claimed not enough inspections were being done as the reason for letting him go. If Zajac made probation, the village would have had to hold hearings under civil service laws to dismiss him.
Simon’s decision on Zajac was met with criticism from several people who monitor the village’s inspections.
“Zajac is qualified and he’s the type of person you want,” said Justin Schwartz, who chairs the Rockland Illegal Housing Task Force. The task force has pressed for improved inspections and enforcement of the state fire codes and local zoning.
“He’s restored trust,” Schwartz said. “John’s honest and hard working. He needed time to get the program restarted with the other inspectors. What was the basis for the mayor’s decision? He’s not an inspector. We’re disappointed.”
Schwartz said what’s equally upsetting is reports that Simon has been seeking advice from former Ramapo Building Inspector Anthony Mallia, who was convicted of felony charges and resigned his job. Mallia’s wife is the mayor’s top office aide.
Mallia once worked for Simon when he was Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence’s building and zoning administrator. Simon’s tenure was marked with controversy as he overruled engineering and inspections to push through the office’s approvals for development projects.
Ramapo’s Building Department also is being monitored by the New York state Department of State code enforcement’s unit.
“Now he wants to hire Anthony Mallia, who is hanging around and meeting with people in the village,” Schwartz said. “We had hoped the situation would get better.”
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