COUNCIL PETITION TAKES ON RUBERTO’s ‘APRIL SURPRISE’, plus MORE ON THE APRIL SURPRISE !!! RUBERTO APPOINTS GREG YON & FARLEY-BOUVIER TO CITY POSTS, DIRECTLY BYPASSING COUNCIL APPROVAL; ALSO, BARRETT WILL HEAD DPW
BY DAN VALENTI
SECOND ADD, APRIL 6
April Surprise Petition Circulating
Ward 4’s Mike Ward is first in officially and on the record, posting on his Facebook page to my question that he likes the moves since it give the city two fine candidates “on a trial basis.” The Planet has talked off the record with other councilors to get a feel for their reaction to Mayor Jimmy Ruberto’s April Surprise.
There’s word that a petition is circulating and will be on the agenda for the council’s Tuesday, April 12 meeting, that will enable members to discuss the April Surprise. As you may or may not know, under the council’s archaic rules of order, a member cannot discuss items or issues that are not on the agenda, unless the member steps down from the dais and speaks during the open mic portion of the meeting.
We haven’t seen the wording of the petition, but it’s a reasonable guess to say that its purpose will be to debate and deliberate the mayor’s move. As an aside, The Planet hopes the new council gets rid of Demeter’s Rules of Order and institutes the more flexible and citizen-friendly Robert’s Rules of Order. It would make a vast improvement of how issues are formally debated in Pittsfield.
We have heard though reliable sources though not confirmed with her that Melissa Mazzeo has approached the office of attorney general Martha Coakley pertaining to some aspect of the personnel issue, which surely will now include the April Surprise. The Planet doesn’t know what approach Mazzeo is taking, but perhaps this will become clearer during Tuesday’s meeting.
What Will the Fallout Be?
One source that generally finds favor with Mayor Ruberto’s policies criticized the mayor for “recent missteps.” The concern is that Ruberto is undoing a legacy built up in seven years by his action in the eighth and final year, his year as a lame duck. The source says it gives the opposition too much justification for criticisms that otherwise would have no reasonable basis.
Worth confirming is the nature of the understanding between Ruberto and city consultant John Barrett. The mayor announced extended Barrett’s service to the end of this month, with Barrett taking over as acting public services commissioner. What is Barrett’s status as of May 1? Is he gone from the city, or has some other arrangement been made? That needs to be clarified, and The Planet urges the council to do so on April 12, in front of the cameras.
Taking the mayor’s side on the April Surprise, he has eight months left in his term. He had to fill the positions of public services commissioner, maintenance director, and director of administration. He has done so. Moreover, he has done so in spectacular fashion. As councilor Ward points out, the new appointees have eight months to prove their worth. After that, it’s up to the new mayor to keep them or not. Citizens can look at it as a “test drive.”
FIRST ADD, APRIL 6, NOONISH
April Surprise Has the Town Buzzing
We have talked with several key people involved in and affected by Mayor Jimmy Ruberto’s April Surprise to the city council. These include councilors, city hall employees, and a host or ordinary citizens. The reactions range from disbelief to admiration, outrage to bemusement, apathy to alarm, hope to hysteria.
It would be impossible to average it all and present a cogent view of how this is playing in the royal boxes, the cheap seats, and everything in between. It would be like taking a guy with $2 million and someone with zero and saying that, on average, both these chaps are worth a million bucks. Both would be unhappy with the characterization.
We will make the following observations:
* The Planet was first in of all media on this story. The Boring Broadsheet, again, was snoozing. Not only did they not have this in the paper but, as of this morning, nothing online. It is truly a paper than isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. It’s a steal at 50 cents a day, and the buyers are getting robbed.
* The Planet had our story on this breaking news posted moments after it happened, last night. We put in the hours they didn’t. David fells Goliath. We are much smaller than the BB but much more adept and faster. Nonetheless, it’s THEIR job to break news, not mine. The Planet will when we can, of course, but our prime directive is to offer hard-hitting, honest coverage of the events that affect Berkshire County and particularly the county seat. We don’t need to be first and cannot be expected to be, but it’s true we often are because of the sad state of media news in Berkshire County.
* The Boring Broadsheet has also dropped SteroidsGate following Conor Berry’s bolting for a job at the Springfield Republican. We wish our colleague CB nothing but the best. While that doesn’t directly relate to the April Surprise, their dropping the case offers the evidence that the BB is floundering with poor management, poor direction, a misuse of staff, and a muzzle on the news that matters. It is a scared paper that refused The Planet’s offer to debate the new nature of news in the cyberage. It is timid, losing money, with an insolvent former parent.
* We don’t know why Dick Lindsey, who covers city hall, did not get this story. Is he muzzled? Is he just a 9-to-5er with no passion for his job? Does he care? Who knows? The readers, know, that’s who, when yet another big story escapes their agenda, but for this site.
* People are quick to label this as a triumph for Ruberto in his personnel battle with the council. Perhaps, but the argument can be made that actually, he relieves a lot of pressure on the council for having to act (or not act by the limbo-phantom zone of tabling) on the appointments. As someone asked, “Who snickered whom”?
* It bears watching the reaction of councilors, particularly Peter Marchetti and to a lesser extend Peter White and John Krol. My trio of Right Honorable Good Friends will each be running for re-election and in Marchetti’s case a first bid for the mayor’s job. Each has been painted and perceived, unfairly or not, as a safe Ruberto vote. With Ruberto a lame duck, they can (and probably need to, politically) begin to distance themselves from him. The Planet and the reset of the city that’s paying attention will watch their reaction to this closely. They would do well do speak from the heart, not parse words, and slam this move in measured terms.
* Marchetti made a large misstep when he told the BB that his agenda would be the same as Ruberto’s. This issue might be his last chance to correct the mistake. Politically, he can do that by slamming the mayor’s action.
* One has to admire the maneuvering of Mayor Ruberto. Free of the burden of re-election, he’s now getting away from pure policy and more into pure politics. On some level, being he competitor he is, he must be enjoying this. He is moving at another level not yet seen. Despite what some will say, it is possible that this will be GOOD for the city rather than BAD.
* We also have to remember that THE MAYOR, not the council, is the appointing authority. Ruberto wanted these three because he thinks they are the best people for the job. The council has the job of approving or not, up or down. We’ll switch analogies and turn to football. Ruberto’s the head coach. His department heads are his assistant coaches. Doesn’t he have the right to appoint those who in his opinion feel are best for the job? What is the role of the council in this? One could argue they represent the people, who are the owners of the team.
* What are the legalities of the April Surprise? We haven’t examined verse and chapter of city code, and will leave that to others, but our best determination is that as of now, the mayor acted legally.
* This move becomes an ink-blot test for each city councilor except for Chrstine Yon, who is recused by virtue of the fact that her husband, Greg, is one of the stealth appointees. How will they react? Such are definitions formed.
MORE TO COME
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, April 5 into 6) — It’s blockbuster time, ladies and gentlemen. Hang onto your fedoras and bonnets.
The news happens fast and furious on The Planet. We just learned of a decision by Mayor Jimmy Ruberto to withdraw all three appointments for commissioner of public services, director of maintenance, and director of administration.
Flynn Out; Yon, Farley-Bouvier, and Barrett In, by Fiat
Killian Flynn, Ruberto’s appointee for public services commissioner, withdrew his name from consideration. Ruberto appointed Gregory Yon acting director of maintenance and Trisha Farley-Bouvier as acting director of administration.
By appointing Yon and Bouvier as acting directors, Ruberto bypasses the council. Both appointments are effective immediately. The mayor also announced that city consultant John Barrett III “will be retained through the end of April, 2011, heading the Department of Public Services.”
Thus, in the last few minutes, you, the taxpayers of Pittsfield, have a new (acting) maintenance director and a new (acting) director of admin.
Ruberto vs. Council: Chess vs. Checkers
If he’s playing chess, the council is playing checkers. If this is about The Game, you have to admire the gamesmanship. Ruberto used the rules and left the council coming out of the lavatory with their flies open or with TP hanging from the waistband.
Now let’s see if My Right Honorable Good Friends on the council are happy with that. We know some of them are busy preparing public statements on SteroidsGate, especially former chief Uncle Gerry Lee (yeah, right!), but we hope councilors can weigh in on this end run by the mayor, which The Planet believes is legal, by the way.
Once Ruberto took the names of the three candidates out of consideration, he took it out of the council’s hands. Brilliant, as a beer commercial might put it.
Parsing the People
Flynn must have gotten wind of what Pittsfield politics are like and said, “I’m outta here. Yur all nutz!” He goes back to his job at Allied Waste, and he won’t have to take a drastic paycut to $85,000 a year after all.
Yon, now acting director of maintenance Yon, enters a job that’s tough by any standards, especially filling in the large muck boots of Ernie Fortini. Is he qualified for the position? Will the personnel in the department accept him? Respect him? We must wait and see. We wouldn’t want to be in that spot, but he apparently does, and we wish him well.
As for Farley-Bouvier, Ruberto rewards her for loyalty, but, since he took the matter away from the council, will he be able to grant her the pay raise (between $10,000 and $15,000)? We don’t know how that aspect of the acting appointment will shake out. The Planet believes that the council will at least retain control over the compensation.
‘Go for It,’ We Said. He Did.
Ruberto told The Planet on Friday he was contemplating such a maneuver. We told him “go for it” if that’s what he wanted to do and thought it best. Let’s be clear. The mayor wasn’t asking The Planet’s advice. That’s not how our relationship works. And please, spare me any of the hysterical “Planet Tell Mayor What to Do” baloney. That’s not what this was. Grassy knoll us no grassy knolls.
How much of the move is because the mayor believes these Yon and F-B are necessary for the new posts and how much of it is to shove it down the council’s throats also remains to be seen. Ruberto believes in these two people. He’s also as competitive as bantam.
We can’t expect certain members — Mazzeo, Nichols, and Sherman — will take this quietly.
Sources tell The Planet that Mazzeo had prior to this new development inquired with the attorney general’s office about the appointments, and we can reasonably guess that this new move by the mayor will hasten her daybook with Martha Coakley, woman to woman.
Maybe someone will wake Lee and Paul Capitanio out of their comas and tell them that Jimmy Carter is no longer the president. Same for Jonathan Lothrop, also we guess that J-Lo will have a pin-up made for his bedroom of the mayor’s Bobby Fisher king-takes-pawn maneuver.
Look to see if John Krol, Peter White, and Peter Marchetti will be more strident in their criticism of the mayor’s April Surprise. Mike Ward will likely sit this one out, a bow to his lame duck status. Christine Yon of ward 1 and wife of Greg will say nada, since she can take the high ground and recuse herself.
We have word even in these early hours of the story that City Hall is abuzz with word of the April Surprise. It’s going to be an interesting building in which to be tomorrow.
Steroids and Cops
We post this excerpt from the March 2011 issue of “Police Chief : The Professional Voice of Law Enforcement.”
“NEGLIGENT RETENTION: Agencies have a duty and a right to maintain fit officers and to protect the public from impaired officers. They must exercise reasonable means at their disposal to ensure that officers are fit. Both national and local standards regarding the use of [anabolic steroids] support the idea that officers abusing such substances could be at risk for impairment and could even be involved in criminal activity related to the use of these substances.”
We hope that if Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn does not subscribe to this industry journal, that he do so immediately. The Planet will be sharing more from this eye-opening article shortly. The article is titled, “Anabolic Steroid Use and Abuse by Police Officers: Policy and Prevention.” It is written by Commander Kim R. Humphrey, Phoenix, Ariz., police department.
LONG DAY’S MOVED INTO NIGHT NOW BACK INTO AFTERNOON. LOVE TO ALL!