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THE PLANET’S STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES, plus, DOES 1644 EAST STREET LLC OWNER HAVE POLITICAL TIES? COULD THIS EXPLAIN THE BIG RUSH TO BUY PCB-LADEN PROPERTY?

BY DAN VALENTI

THE PLANET: Standing on PrincipalThe Planet has enjoyed record days of traffic this week, and we thank readers for sampling the soup and, many, coming back for more. The Planet is building gravitas and momentum, far ahead of our admittedly conservative business plan. The question of advertising is for down the road somewhere. For the moment, this site will remain commercial free, unbought, and unbossed. This leads us to articulate our principals.

The Planet is the home for We The People, “forever unsatisfied with merely publishing the news or commentary, forever fighting forms of wrong, forever independent, forever advancing in enlightenment and progress, forever wedded to powerful ideas, forever aspiring to be a moral force, and forever prodding out public institutions to a higher plan of perfection.”

We adapted these words of John Cockerhill, managing editor of Joseph Pulitzer’s World, at the dedication of the new World building in New York. Part-time Lenox resident Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the World, added: “This shall indeed be a temple where right shall always secure an advocate, where liberty abides, and where justice may find all seasons summer.”

We now adopt these words as The Planet’s statement of principles. They are word our readers can believe.

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Political Connections Behind Realty Trust

The Planet’s reporting on a proposed land deal helped convince the city of Pittsfield to abandon the purchase and sale agreement for PCB-ridden property at 1644 East St. as the site of a new DPW garage. We thus helped obtain at least $4 million of relief.

MAYOR RUBERTO: His proposed DPW land deal fell through.

Inexplicably, the city offered the owner, 1644 East Street LLC, $875,000, or 45% above the assessed valuation. Remember, this offer was made in the name of taxpayers in a down market for property with PCBs, wetland development restrictions, and an abandoned building showing major structural issues. It didn’t make sense. Fortunately, in a political shocker for the cause of justice, the city council killed the deal on an 8-3 vote.

The Man Behind the Trust

After some digging, The Planet has heard from two sources who have independently identified the identity of the person behind 1644 Realty Trust. Sources says it is Massachusetts nursing home magnate Patrick Sheehan, owner of Craneville House, among other facilities.

Public records show Sheehan has contributed to political campaigns.

For example, on Sept., 17, 2009, Sheehan gave $2,400 to Citizens for Nuciforo. Less than two weeks later, on Sept. 30, he gave $2,000 to Congressman Stephen Lynch. Incidentally, records show that on Dec. 4, 2010, Mayor Jimmy Ruberto contributed $1,000 to Citizens for Nuciforo, Andy Nuciforo’s congressional bid. This establishes a link, however tenuous, between Sheehan and Ruberto.

It was Ruberto who presented the DPW deal to the city council on real estate that Sheehan owns through his realty trust. This doesn’t establish anything other than the link, but it does lead to an interesting question: Did Ruberto push this deal because of Sheehan? Also, did Sheehan contribute to the campaigns of anyone who had a vote in this issue. Is Sheehan, for example, a backer of Jonathan Lothrop or John Krol?

The Planet has requested comment from Mayor Ruberto and Mr. Sheehan. If they respond, we shall share with you, our readers.

More Questions

Yesterday, The Planet listed several lingering questions in wake of this affair. Just as Hercules found when trying to kill the Hydra, though, when he chopped off one head, two more grew in its place. He finally killed the monster by attacking the heart. Apparently, that’s where councilors may have to go to destroy the beast.

Unbelievably, there’s already talk about bring the deal back. The talk has taken place in rooms with closed doors, outside of public view. Peter White confirmed the deal may be back in correspondence with The Planet, which we share here:

WHITE: “I wanted to go into executive session to discuss details of the negotiation. That could include all factors.  I won’t go into detail because this may come back to us.”

White then listed the amendments to the deal made at the Public Works subcommittee:
“1. That a full Commercial Building Inspection be conducted to assess any deficiencies to the facility, structure or mechanical systems.
“2. The the City hire, at City expense, an environmental testing firm to conduct test pits and boring samples be taken to determine the extent to which any contamination to the property that may be present.
“3. That this vote be recorded as being in favor of the purchase of the property only at this time and that additional and separate approval be sought for the expenditure of any additional money in order to upgrade the facility.
“4. That the findings of items #1 & item #2 be reported back to the Pittsfield City Council for a final vote of approval.”

LLC: Doing business, anonymously.

“I do not have a name beyond 1644 East Street LLC. The vote on Tuesday became moot after it was pointed out that the original purchase and sale agreement had expired on December 31st. That is when it was voted to refer back to the Mayor.”

In response, The Planet makes three points:

* We wonder why ANY aspect of this deal required executive session. It wasn’t a personnel matter, so why the need for hush-hush and secrecy? This unusual move only adds to the credibility of a belief that this deal isn’t above board. This request to go into secret session raises a GIGANTIC RED FLAG. Also, who made the motion for secrecy? Was it Lothrop?

* The “protections” offered in the amendment as listed by White fall FAR short of insulating taxpayers from a folly of a deal. We urge councilors to summarily reject this proposal on site if it should come back again, unless the city can obtain the land for $1 and the seller assumes all liability.

* Why wouldn’t a city councilor, who is being asked to engage in a real estate deal in the taxpayers’ names, not know the person behind the deal. This is an incredible piece of information. Did anyone who voted on this name the person behind the LLC? Did the mayor? Don’t you like to know with whom you are conducting high-level deals? Weren’t the taxpayers and residents of Pittsfield entitled to know this?

LLC Happy, and where’s the Boring Broadsheet?

The Planet also has information, which has yet to be confirmed, which leads to this question: Is this the same Patrick Sheehan that is allegedly listed (“Patrick J. Sheehan”) as principal of Sugar Hill LLC and 19 other Massachusetts LLCs. Is this the same man as “Patrick Sheehan,” who is listed as principal of another 10 LLCs under “Patrick Sheehan”). These 29 LLCs, according to our source, are in Massachusetts.

If so, who are the people behind these companies?

The Planet wonders if anyone in Pittsfield city government bothered to ask these questions let alone look for the answers. We also wonder how the Boring Broadsheet could ignore this story. They buried coverage of the council shoot-down on the inside. You can be sure if they deal had gone through, there would have been a story on page one as embarrassing as the one written by Dick Lindsey with the headline: “Building on their Legacy” underneath which is a huge photo of Ruberto and Gerry Lee.

Where is Pulizter? Where is Hearst? Where is the media voice of the underdog in Pittsfield and Berkshire County?

It is us, on The Planet. The voice speaks softly now, but it is getting stronger by the day, and within earshot of more and more people.

16 Responses to “THE PLANET’S STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES, plus, DOES 1644 EAST STREET LLC OWNER HAVE POLITICAL TIES? COULD THIS EXPLAIN THE BIG RUSH TO BUY PCB-LADEN PROPERTY?”

  1. Jonathan Melle
    January 28, 2011 at 3:36 pm #

    Interesting that Mayor Jimmy Ruberto donated $1,000.00 USD to Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.’s 2012 campaign for U.S. Congress. I google’d it and saw it for myself.
    I remember Ruberto recently backing John W. Olver for re-election against “Luciforo”.
    Hmmm.

  2. rick
    January 28, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    nichols wasnt going to back room session at all, he was adament about that…nichols said when he announced his mayoral intentions that everthing was going to be on the up and up. so far hes one for one on his promises. as for j lo we should get him his own portable cone of silence for boston,i hear they love back room deals.he should fit in nicely.

  3. Jim Gleason
    January 28, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    Heard the appointment of Speranzo to Cof C job is imminent. Good ol’ boys in action at their best. I’ve heard Sheehan’s name somewhere, can’t remember where though. It’ll come to me sooner than later.

    • bill
      January 28, 2011 at 6:11 pm #

      EDITOR’S NOTE: THIS POST HAS BEEN REDACTED. THIS WEBSITE WILL NOT PUBLISH POSTS THAT CLEARLY GO BEYOND THE BOUNDARIES, HOWEVER LOOSE THEY MAY BE, OF FAIR COMMENT. ANYONE WISHING TO POLLUTE THE COMMENTS SECTION CAN TAKE THEIR BUSINESS ELSEWHERE. THANK YOU.

      • Jim Gleason
        January 29, 2011 at 8:12 am #

        Dan, please don’t let this turn into the Topix blog with idiots like this moron running wild.

        • danvalenti
          January 29, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

          JIM
          The offending post slipped through. We apologize for the idiotic comment. This site will NOT turn into Topix.

    • Jeff Ferrin
      January 29, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

      Your usually on top of things Jim. I bet sooner rather than later.

  4. Josh
    January 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm #

    Dan,

    I just watched the meeting, and it was Lothrop who made the motion to enter into executive session. The motion failed 10-1 (with he being the only to support it).

    Also, I noticed that J-Lo asked quite a few questions to the voter redistricting representative from Boston, in particular questions that might effect State Senate and State Representative voting in a 2011 election. Seeing as how we just had a State Senate and State Representative election in 2010, I wonder why he might be asking these questions? Hmmmm…….I can only wonder……

  5. Rick Wide
    January 28, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    I too watched the council meeting and Josh has it right. Not only did Jlo being up executiv session he was the lone vote. As soon as he made that motion my wife who doesn’t follow politics said “thats fishy.” Jlo had better start explaining why he wanted to debate the matter in secret. Thanks to the Planet for exposing this phony and making him see the light f day about running this year. Hes toast. Love the Planets principles. Maybe you can send the BB (boring broadsheet!) a copy

  6. bill
    January 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    Dan, Why aren’t you makeing a big DEAL about Sheehans donation to Nuciforo? The way you were slobbering over him last week was lame.

  7. Jeff Ferrin
    January 28, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    Well..

    How intersting is this. I can tell you all that i spoke with the man who cunducted the tests back in the 70′s and have obtained several articles regarding this when the Beagle actually reported on this and they are dated from 77-83. the state Geologists name is Wad Mott’s and he is an 86 yr old man who during our conversation informed me he turned over the documents to the city 15 yrs ago when he retired from being a professor @ UMass Amherst. He informed me that the city would be nuts to consider the purchase knowing that when the testing was done that some of the test wells to which were borred for the purpose of checking the aquafur for a secondary source of water for the city was contaminated with PCB’S and other chemicals. Some of those bores were as deep as 200′

    I can’t speak to who the property owner actually is but i assure you that after my walk thru with some councilors and Mr. Collingwood the money to be spent will never be worth it to the tax payers. We all know that the contamination on that site does not just disappear.

    I inquired with Caleb Mitchels office to obtain a copy of the records turned over to the city as well as with engineering and low and behold nobody has any idea how to find them let alone whetre they might be. I have pictures of some of the wells and they clearly show that they sit on and directly behind Pittsfield Sand and Gravel on both sides of the river. The idea that anyone is considering the lease is even obserd. WHY? Because even if the city were to lease the property the tax payers would have to foot the bill to bring the building up to code let alone restructure the doors to allow the trucks to fit. The first thing I said to Mr. Collingwood to which councilor Yan agreed was that the doors would never safetly accomodate the trucks with any plows attached. The roof leaks and the heating system is a bust. The building size I brought out before you Dan to not be what was stated during the Hearing regarding this property. So my friend I hate to burst your bubble but i broke much of the issues before you…LOL

    I discussed the differences of the three options and was the first to say even before the numbers offered by Mr. Collingwood were way to low for the combined purchase and upgrades of 1644 East Street were revealed. So that is why I proposed building a designed building on the Peda site. But of course Jerry Lee and councilor Lothrup were very much against that idea. I heck there right!!!! Why save the tax payers money since we do own the property… What a dumb idea. We should hope that the mayor sees this as a non viable option and the tax payers should pack city hall demanding that our representatives on the council refuse to even enter another discussion for this property in any way..

    • Tim
      January 29, 2011 at 6:05 am #

      So who’s head is swollen more Jeffs or Dans?

      • danvalenti
        January 29, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

        TIMMY
        Mine.

      • Jeff Ferrin
        January 29, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

        Tim

        I will let Dan have that one. I hate having a swollen head. Even from a hangover.LOL I am just glad that more people take notice of the true ongoings in the city and what our political leaders are doing or not doing.

  8. San Simeon
    January 28, 2011 at 8:19 pm #

    Great set of Principles. Good to see at least one media outlet with an interest in morals and ethics. You’ve got ‘em on the run!

  9. JLO BLOWS
    January 29, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    I agree with Jim G. No call for the idiot remarks like “Bill” made/ The coverage on this website will have an inpact it is already, improving govt be making these officials more accountable They know now that valenti is watching every move .