JAE IN STIR-FRY PAN AFTER FRAUD CHARGES; SOURCES DIFFER ON NATURE OF AUDIT AT COUNTY LOCKUP; WHO’s INVESTIGATING AND WHAT HAVE THEY FOUND? PLANET SEEKS COMMENT FROM SHERIFF TOM BOWLER
BY DAN VALENTI
ADD # 2 FROM THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, 5/12/11
JAE CHUNG: FROM STIR FRY PAN TO THE FIRE
Yes, The Planet had the story about insurance fraud claims against Jae Chung and his wife, owners of the now defunct Jae’s Spice. No, we did not publish it. We KNEW the Boring Broadsheet would cover, and we trusted our good friend Tony Dobrowolski to handle it competently. He did. Tony’s story ran this morning in the BB above the fold on page one. We are glad to give Tony Dobro a Planet Pat on the Back.
The Planet did hear about these charges, and we do support the reasonable claim made by Jae Chung’s attorney, Richard O’Brien, that the AG’s office should have at the least talked to the Chungs. O’Brien told Dobrowolski, “If [the AG] had taken me up on my invitation, then I am convinced they would not have filed this complaint because there is no basis to it.”
It’s the Address that Sticks Out as Odd — Could be Nothing, Could be Something.
The Planet reminds one of the presumption of innocence that is at the heart of our legal system. We will note one oddity, though. Dobrowolski writes, “According to documents on file in Central Berkshire District Court, Jae H. and Suzanne Chung filed an insurance claim in July 2009 that stated the appliances had been stolen in May 2008 from the basement of a commercial building that they owned at 137 North St.
137 North Street is Crawford Square. The Planet had our offices there from 1980 to 1984, when it was known as the El-Glo Mall. We moved across the street to 150 North St., the Shipton Building, in 1984. The oddity is that we though the building was owned by another person and not the Chungs. Did the Chungs own 137 North St. as the story claims or did they not? The building has just gone through an extensive remodeling. The present owner has owned the building for a number of years, many prior to 2008, the the best of our knowledge. That doesn’t add up.
SOURCE DISPUTES CLAIM THAT JAIL HOUSE AUDIT FOUND THINGS AMISS
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MAY 12, 2011) — The Planet has heard from a source close to Sheriff Tom Bowler, who says, “To the best of my knowledge, the state completed its audit and found no issues whatsoever.” The source also says information at this site making accusations to the contrary is “completely untrue.”
We recall Tom Bowler’s pledge, made more than once during the campaign and personally to The Planet, that once in office, he would conduct his own audit. At least, that’s the impression we received. In other words, we understood Bowler saying that whatever the state did for an audit, he would be conducting his own investigation in the jail’s operations.
We will attempt to get word from the sheriff on what the story is. The possibilities, based on the alternate sources):
(1) The sheriff is doing or has done his own audit and has found irregularities.
(2) The state has completed its audit and found nothing irregular.
Is There an Audit Under Way at the County Lockup?
When Tom Bowler became sheriff, he promised a fresh start from what he called the calcification and crud that had accumulated under his predecessor, the High Sheriff Carmen Massimiano. Bowler said he would dismantle the empire Massimiano had built and not create a new one. Repeatedly during the campaign, Bowler mentioned how important it was to re-establish the public’s trust in the sheriff’s office by not creating an empire.
Part of the fresh start, Bowler said, would be to conduct a stem-to-stern audit of the sheriff’s department. Has he held true to that promise? The Planet received this message from a commentator which address this. Joe Blow wrote yesterday:
This is off topic but I was just talking with a life-long friend who works at the jail and was sickend by what he told me. He said the new sheriff is conducting an audit and has found money, cars, and other things missing. Someone’s nephew was driving a brand new ford suv back and forth to school. I have had it with taxpayers getting the shaft from the g.o.b’s!!! How do they get away with all of this fraud? Dan please look into this audit and report the truth!
The Planet tried calling the Sheriff’s Department several times (at least four) throughout the day and could not get the call through, hearing only a busy signal. We want to know the following:
* Did Sheriff Bowler fulfill his campaign promise for an audit? We will share that we heard from an unofficial source not authorized to speak for the department but with the department that the answer is yes. The Planet asked if the audit had turned up any signs of fraud, corruption, malfeasance, misappropriation of resources, and things of that nature. Again, the answer was yes. The source would not provide any other details. We have not had official confirmation from the department on this information.
* If an audit was ordered, has it been completed? If so, when will the results be made available. If not, how far has it progressed? If it 10% done, 50%, nearly finished? If not, when does Sheriff Bowler expect it to be done?
* If there is evidence of wrongdoing, will the sheriff press for prosecution?
Joe Blow is citing “a lifelong friend” who works at the county lockup saying the audit has found “money, cars, and other things missing.” Is this in fact the case? The Planet, on behalf of We The People and taxpayers, want answers to these fair questions. We would urge Sheriff Bowler’s office to contact us at the sheriff’s convenience. The Planet will request an interview at the jail as soon as is mutually convenient.
Bowler Became a Candidate While Massimiano Was In the Race
The timing of Bowler’s declaration of candidacy was interesting to say the least, in the month of January, 2010, a month that would prove fateful for both men. In that month, Bowler declared himself “in” at a time that Massimiano had still said nothing about his intentions and therefore was assumed to be ready for another term. Then in early to mid-February 2010 Conor Berry and Tim Farkas wrote the following story in the Boring Broadsheet.
“Cloud over sheriff’s past”
By Conor Berry and Tim Farkas, Berkshire Eagle Staff, February 11, 2010
Pittsfield police twice have interviewed a Pittsfield man who claims he was sexually assaulted as a child by current Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr., The Eagle has learned.
No charges were ever filed against Massimiano, who has been unavailable for comment about the allegations over the past four weeks. Massimiano hasn’t returned the newspaper’s phone calls or responded to written requests for a meeting with reporters and editors, and numerous attempts to speak with him at his home have been unsuccessful.
On Wednesday, The Eagle called Massimiano’s office a final time, asking for a response before the allegations were published. The call was not returned.
Pittsfield police interviewed Massimiano’s accuser, James E. Monahan, in 2004 and 2008, according to law enforcement sources who have knowledge of the interviews. The sources said police made a written report of the first session and a video of the second. Monahan verified to The Eagle that he was interviewed twice and that the second interview was recorded on video.
Monahan, now 46, has told The Eagle in four face-to-face interviews over the past three months that he was fondled by Massimiano as a 7-year-old in 1971 and then again in 1976. Monahan also brought up the 1971 allegation during a live radio broadcast last month.
Massimiano, now 65, was in his mid-20s and was a probation officer in Berkshire County when the first assault allegedly occurred. He was in his early 30s and was chief of probation for Berkshire Superior Court when the second assault allegedly happened. Massimiano has been the county sheriff since being appointed to the position by Gov. Michael S. Dukakis in 1978.
One of the sources told The Eagle that Pittsfield police did not launch an investigation of Massimiano because the statute of limitations had expired on the accusations, which were 33 and 28 years old, respectively, in 2004. The source said the 2008 interview was conducted so that the allegations could be more formally documented.
Monahan said Pittsfield police approached him first about both interviews. He said police set up the 2004 meeting after hearing about the sexual assault allegations from one of his friends. The 2008 interview came about because police wanted to get Monahan’s accusations on video in the event that any other allegations would be levied against the sheriff within the statute of limitations, according to Monahan.
Monahan said he never approached Pittsfield police because he was embarrassed by the nature of his accusations.
Monahan told The Eagle that Massimiano fondled him in 1971 in a restroom at the Pittsfield Boys’ Club and in 1976 in a public restroom in downtown Pittsfield.
Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless and Pittsfield City Attorney Richard M. Dohoney have declined to comment to The Eagle about Monahan’s allegations.
Police have not responded to the newspaper’s oral and written requests for a copy of Monahan’s 2008 video interview, which has been kept at the Pittsfield police station.
Monahan, who works in the health and human services field, told The Eagle he never pursued civil action against Massimiano because he wasn’t interested in getting financial reparations. Monahan said he just wanted an apology from Massimiano.
Monahan said the sheriff apologized to him this year during a phone conversation on Jan. 10.
Massimiano didn’t specify his reason for apologizing and did not admit to any wrongdoing, according to Monahan, who said his 2008 interview with police spurred him to seek the apology.
On Jan. 10, Monahan said he checked himself into Berkshire Medical Center after suffering an anxiety attack triggered by that day’s Eagle article about Massimiano’s political career.
The next day, according to hospital records, Monahan received a phone call from “a prominent Pittsfield official” while Monahan was being treated by BMC medical personnel at the Jones II unit for voluntary inpatient care. Monahan was at the facility for several days.
“During our interview this official did call in to Jones II and we had a brief phone conference,” according to a two-page report that is part of Monahan’s medical records at BMC. “Jim was able to articulate himself well and communicate that he wanted to have a meeting with this gentleman in the supported community of Jones II.”
The report went on to say that the official said he would not meet with “a group of people” but would come to Jones II to speak with Monahan privately.
The physician who filled out the report told the official that a private meeting “would not be beneficial to Jim.”
“After a brief discussion, it was decided that we would end the phone conversation and Jim would contact him [the official] further if we decided to follow through with arranging for a meeting,” the report stated, noting that despite his prior substance-abuse issues, Monahan’s “toxicology and blood alcohol levels have been negative.”
Monahan said Massimiano knew he was at BMC because Monahan had told him the previous day that he planned to go there.
Monahan came to The Eagle in late October to state his accusations against Massimiano, but Eagle editors who were at the meeting decided against publishing the allegations until they could be investigated.
The newspaper’s investigation heightened after Monahan repeated the 1971 allegation against Massimiano during a live radio call-in show on Pittsfield station WBRK on Jan. 15, and also after Monahan held a press conference outside of the Pittsfield police station the day before.
Only four people — Monahan, two Eagle reporters, and an Eagle photographer — attended the press conference, even though the Sheriff’s Office and the Pittsfield Police Department had been notified of it.
Massimiano has not spoken with The Eagle since saying in the Jan. 10 article that he would seek re-election in November. On Jan. 14, veteran Pittsfield Police Detective Thomas N. Bowler became the first person since 1980 to challenge Massimiano for the sheriff’s position. That same day, Massimiano withdrew from the sheriff’s race, citing his and his wife’s “ongoing health issues” and the difficulty of upholding “the duties of his office” while managing a re-election campaign.
More than two months before his withdrawal, Massimiano was campaigning for re-election to the Pittsfield School Committee, but he became the only candidate eliminated in a seven-way race for six positions.
“I found it curious,” Massimiano told The Eagle for the Jan. 10 article, referring to his defeat.
At Massimiano’s last School Committee meeting, on Dec. 16, Mayor James M. Ruberto hailed the sheriff as a key member of the board.
“There’s no stronger advocate for the students of Pittsfield, and no stronger advocate for at-risk children in our city,” Ruberto said.
Massimiano’s health issues, which he cited in announcing his exit from the sheriff’s race, weren’t specified until Jan. 27, when he released a written statement saying he has been “dealing with a bone marrow deficiency over the past several years” and has been receiving blood transfusions for it. He also said in the statement that he has no plans to leave his job as sheriff before his six-year term expires on Jan. 4, 2011.
The statement came amid speculation that health issues would force Massimiano to resign. He reiterated his commitment to the job in a full-page advertisement he took out in The Eagle on Feb. 3. In the ad, he also touted his accomplishments as sheriff, including the construction of the $34 million Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction in 2001.
During the WBRK “Talk Berkshires” program, which is hosted by Sherman Baldwin, Monahan — who did not immediately identify himself on the air — called to say he knew why Massimiano had withdrawn from the sheriff’s race. The caller, however, said he didn’t want to specify the reason. He eventually was persuaded to do so, and he stated his allegation about what happened to him as a 7-year-old.
Baldwin responded with shock.
“Whoa!” he said. … “Can you give me your first and last name, sir?”
Seconds later, Baldwin told his audience: “We have a caller now making a very harsh accusation.”
After asking his producer to get the caller’s name, Baldwin read it over the air.
“His name is Jim Monahan, folks.”
That same day, WBRK officials said, a representative from Massimiano’s office requested — and received — a recording of the “Talk Berkshires” segment, which lasted 5 minutes and 12 seconds.
WBRK President Willard “Chip” Hodgkins has not returned phone calls seeking comment about the segment, and neither Massimiano nor the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office has commented about it.