Today’s Top 5
* Today’s Top 5: Top 5 Reasons to Elect Mark Miller in the 3rd Berkshire District:
(1) He’s a man of ideas and intellect, both honest and honorable
(2) He’s a human being, if you know what I mean, not a cold fish
(3) He has a great website loaded with information
(4) He’s not Chris Speranzo
(5) He earned his chops as a newsman. We would also add that he’s a biker, takes care of himself, and has not “let himself go.” Healthy body, healthy mind. Though he’s got some years on Speranzo, Miller would toast Spurs in a foot race.
* Here’s the PLANET VALENTI column first posted last week (Oct. 14) in The Pittsfield Gazette (with minor editing):
The Planet has learned more about the city council’s recent executive session. Behind closed doors, councilors heard a briefing from Mayor Jimmy Ruberto regarding the case of former water department administrator Matt Inhelder. The meeting produced heat.
You’ll recall that Mayor Ruberto forced Inhelder to resign in June. This came after the mayor received the findings of consultant John Barrett’s investigation into alleged wrongdoing unearthed by former DPW employee Jeff Ferrin and a city water department worker.
Based on these tips, Barrett uncovered evidence within the water department in which at least one employee (Inhelder and possibly more) engaged in a massive overtime scheme that robbed taxpayers of nearly a half million dollars in a little over two years. The fraud continued at least that long, apparently without being detected by the city, suggesting a dramatic lack of oversight by the administration over its departments.
Ruberto told Inhelder if he didn’t immediately resign, the mayor would bring the evidence to the office of district attorney David Capeless for action. Inhelder fell on his sword. Amazingly, the waterlogged ex-city employee quickly found work as water department supervisor for the town of Hadley, even though, according to Hadley sources, both the town administrator and the select board knew about the scandal. Hadley officials would not comment.
The revelations, and Inhelder’s exit, raised as many questions as it solved:
- When did the city first become aware of the rip-off? Ferrin made his charges public as early at the primary campaign in the 2009 municipal elections, in which he was a candidate for mayor.
- Why didn’t the administration aggressively investigate the allegations once they were made?
- How much did public works commissioner Bruce Collingwood know about what was occurring under his nose over a period of years? If he knew nothing about the overtime scheme, why? If he knew some or everything, did he report this to the mayor? If not, why not?
- What kind of oversight does the city maintain in its departments? How can taxpayers be sure more of their money isn’t being wasted by fraud, corruption, waste, or other malfeasance elsewhere?
- What safeguards are built into city finances and what or who will guarantee that (a) any other current fraud will be uprooted and (b) systems will be in place to prevent a reoccurrence?
- Did the city have enough to go after Inhelder in court? A city source well versed in the details of Barrett’s findings said the evidence “had Inhelder nailed.” The Planet’s own look at some of the information seemed to verify that statement.
- If the city had enough to warrant prosecution, how does that square with Ferrin’s claim the mayor told Ferrin “he and the DA decided not to press charges because a jury might find [Inhelder] not guilty and [the city] would have to give him his job back”? Ferrin says Capeless told him the city never brought the Inhelder case to his attention and that “the mayor lied right to my face when he told me” he had presented the matter to the DA. Who’s telling the truth, Ferris and Capeless or Ruberto?
The Sweet Bird of Happiness Told Us …
* That Rick Scapin would be running for an at-large post in the 2011 municipal election.
* That Christine Yon would seek re-election in Ward 1
* That the under card for the corner office will be crowded.
* That a major business on North Street in Pittsfield would be closing its doors by the end of the year.
* That PEDA will make big news in the first quarter of 2011.
* That John Krol has the most informative web site among councilors. Don’t tell Mike Ward that, though. His is pretty good, too.
* The city has requested another stop sign, this for Onota and West Union streets. As if the city is not clogged up enough with too many cars, too many traffic signals, and too many stop signs. The mistaken belief is that stop signs make streets safer for cars and people. This just in: Reckless drivers don’t stop for stop signs. Only good drivers do.
* A personnel change is in the air for the Office of Community Development.
* While the city mulls bids to restore the Golden Dome at PHS, a pesky, ink-stained wretch has asked it to remove the Cone of Silence that hovers over the School Department, preventing department personnel from speaking with us for the record unless the request is funneled through “appropriate channels.” What is this, a cheap cold-war spy melodrama or a democracy that allows free speech to everyone, even teachers?
* That the United States, despite spending more on education than any other industrial nation, ranks 18th in high school and graduation rates. In 1980, the U.S. was #1, The Week magazine reports. American 15-year-olds rank 15th in literacy, 21st in science, 24th in problem solving, and 25th in math. What’s the answer if it isn’t more money? The answer is getting rid of bad teachers. Don’t think so? Then watch the new documentary film, Waiting for Superman.
* That the council’s ordinance and rules subcommittee will approve without token resistance the mayor’s request for 1.5 percent pay hikes for city managers and exempt employees, retroactive to July 1.
* That Dan Bianchi, despite his public silence, will run again for mayor and that this time he won’t under-finance his campaign. In 2009, according to an analysis in a recent Gazette on figures published by the state office of campaign and political finance, Bianchi spent $23,892, or $3.70 a vote, in losing to Ruberto by a scant 209 votes.