!! PLANET EXCLUSIVE !! SOURCES: PITTSFIELD FIREFIGHTER SUSPENDED WITHOUT PAY FOR ALLEGED THEFTS IN SUPPORT OF DRUG HABIT, MONEY PROBLEMS … SEARCH FOR NEW SCHOOL SUPER IS NOT ADDING UP … plus … PLANET BOWS OUT OF KROL-MAZZEO DISCUSSION
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, FEB. 28, 2012) — On what is three out of every four years the last day of February, THE PLANET has a few interesting items to share with you.
SOURCES: PITTSFIELD FIREMAN SUSPENDED WITHOUT PAY FOR ALLEGEDLY STEALING TO SUPPORT HIS DRUG HABIT
Not long ago, one of our regular commentators, CONCERNED, asked if anyone heard of a fireman being caught up in some kind of internal scandal. We hadn’t then, but we have now after some investigating.
We have it on good authority that a Pittsfield fireman is currently suspended, without pay, for stealing from his brothers on the force. The alleged thefts appear to be of the desperate kind, the kind associated with a drug habit and an urgent need for money.
Here’s what we have confirmed, according to sources, including high-ranking members of the Pittsfield Fire Department. They spoke to us on condition of anonymity:
Fire Fighter Alan Catalano Suspended Since January Without Pay; Source Says Police Charges Pending
According to sources within the department, fireman Alan Catalano, 34, has been suspended since early January, without pay, for an alleged series of thefts. The alleged thefts included stealing from the firehouse coffee money, theft of old equipment (brass couplings, hoses, etc.) from the firehouse basement, and an outside job of stealing from the Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club.
According to sources, internal suspicion began with the alleged coffee fund theft. When a local scrap yard confirmed that it had received stolen equipment, signed for with an ID, Catalano was suspended without pay, pending an internal hearing on the case. THE PLANET contacted union president Tim Bartini about the case, but Bartini would not comment for the record. The same is true for acting chief Bob Czerwinski. Catalano could not be reached for comment.
One high-ranking firehouse source says the Pittsfield Police Department has notified Catalano of impending charges. That could not be independently confirmed as of press time. The source says that Catalano, who’s been a member of the force for four years, is the son of a former deputy chief at the fire station. Catalano, according to sources, has been in trouble within the department prior to this.
Sources: ‘He has money issues. … Drugs are involved.’
Sources say Catalano was called in before chief Czerwinski for prior issues stemming from concerns about domestic violence. Sources say Catalano has four children from three different women. THE PLANET doesn’t know if he was married to any of them. Sources say Catalano allegedly has a substance abuse problem, which they speculated may have been behind the thefts. Sources say the department had repeatedly tried to intervene and get Catalano help. He is reportedly now in a 24/7 rehab facility, although one fire source says Catalano has been spotted “out at night.”
“He has money issues,” the source said. “Drugs are involved. He hangs around with the wrong crowd.” Another department source said of Catalano, “Nobody wants to work with him. We don’t want this guy on the force. We don’t trust him. I don’t feel sorry for him. I feel sorry for his parents. It’s humiliating.”
To be clear, Catalano has not been formally charged with wrongdoing by the police. Legally, the presumption of innocence must apply. He is currently on suspension, without pay, pending further action based on internal allegations. Asked for an opinion about the disposition of the case, qualified sources say it appears “near certain” that Catalano will either be fired or given the option to resign.
For Firemen, Gaining and Retaining the Public Trust is of Prime Importance
One source said, “We are a Band of Brothers. We must rely on each other all the time. There’s no way I will work with Alan. You don’t cross your brothers the way he has. We have a good reputation in the community, one that I think is well deserved. This kind of thing is a slap in the face to all of us. Believe me, there are a lot of upset guys [in the department] right now. I don’t envy [chief Czerwinski] his job in dealing with all this. We all deserve better — his parents, the department, and the public.”
In a Pinch, the Bond of Trust Is Imperative, as Fire Fighters Well Know
THE PLANET agrees with our good friends in the department. Fire fighters literally go into people’s homes, enter into their lives, often at crucial and heart-breaking moments. They are first responders to what are often the last things anyone would want to happen to them. People need absolute trust in the firemen, and for the most part, they can invest such trust in the Pittsfield force.
We will also say that We The People, who support the fire department as generously as possible, cannot afford to have one deadbeat on any force, be it professional or voluntary. A bad apple will show up from time to time, human nature being what it is, and when it does, they have to be tossed out of the basket.
SCHOOL COMMITTEE PLANS HURRY-HURRY-HURRY IN SUPT. SEARCH, BUT SOMETHING’s NOT ADDING UP WITH THE ‘WHY?’
On “Good Morning, Pittsfield” yesterday, host John Krol had school committee member school committeeman Terry Kinnas as his guest. Krol asked “What’s new?” and Kinnas told him. Kinnas broke the news that, apparently without any public input, the school committee has approved an ad looking for a new school superintendent. Kinnas criticized the lack of public input.
He also said that he, as a committee member, did not find out about it until after the decision had been made. Apparently, school committee chairman Alf Barbalunga decided to get an ad out there and begin the search for a new superintendent, ASAP. Kinnas said the ad asked for replies by March 14 from those interested in the job. March 14 gives about two weeks. For a top executive job such as this, this isn’t enough time.
Distant Rumblings: Will Eberwein Stick Around Until the End Of June, and If Not, Why Not?
We have calls into Kinnas and Barbalunga on this. Kinnas said our remarks were accurate. Barbalunga did not respond to us by press time.
THE PLANET had earlier advised a more deliberate search for a new super. First, by his own word, lame duck school Supt. Jake Eberwein will be staying on until the end of the school year in June. Second, the committee will be making use of an executive search service offered for free by the Massachusetts agency for school committees. Third, it behooves We the People if the school committee has an open discussion about and agree upon exactly what they are looking for in the new person.
A mad rush to advertise and hear from candidates is a mistake, like a wine sold before its time.
THE PLANET has heard distant rumblings that might explain the rush. It involves a scenario under which Eberwein leaves his position far earlier than previously indicated and not for the best of reasons. The reason for such a hasty exit, should it occur, would be of important concern for the public and the school committee that represents it.
Even if Jake had to leave the job tomorrow, though, there would still be no need to get a new person hired instantly. Don’t We The People have Assistant and Associate Superintendents coming out the wazoo averaging $100,000 a year in pay? Couldn’t one of them take over as “acting” super in the meantime? Moreover, don’t We The People have a say in this process via the entire school committee and at least one dedicated public meeting?
Something’s not adding up with this picture. We have a series of dots that need to be connected. What kind of picture will it produce?
PLANET BOWS OUT OF KROL-MAZZEO DISCUSSION
As best that we know, the discussion THE PLANET set up between councilors John Krol and Melissa Mazzeo will occur Wednesday, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. — without THE PLANET. We wish the show well, but we shall not be in the studio.
The idea of a public discussion between the two councilors began when the two conducted an e-mail exchange centered around the Jeff Ferrin St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. In one of her e-mails to Krol, Mazzeo suggested having a public discussion moderated by THE PLANET. We responded positively to this idea, as did both councilors.
We basically fished out two possibilities: Conducting a three-way between the two councilors and THE PLANET on PCTV or do a three-way on WBRK as part of the Bill Sturgeon Show. When we informally mentioned our intention to Sturgeon prior to our taping of “Out Front TV” appearance a week ago today, he said he wouldn’t not make two hours of his show available unless he could serve as co-moderator. We thought that was reasonable.
The Sequence of Events, More or Less
Backs and forths among and between us four (together and in pairs) took place during the week. We agreed in principle, finally, to the Wednesday time slot. For THE PLANET’s busy schedule, that worked fine (but barely) and also meant a far easier option for us than to line up and produce a show on PCTV right quick. We do have lots of other slices in the toaster, you know.
On Thursday, Feb. 23, we sent this e-mail to Sturgeon:
The Fat Man responded with this:
Hi all – I want to be clear about the show. It is not about Dan or myself. This show is a discussion between Melissa and John and their issues. I don’t see the hosts having a very active role in this production. I believe that my listeners want to hear from Melissa and John not Dan or me. I really don’t care who gets the production credits.
This is how we answered:
BILLI had a different production in mind. Go ahead with my blessings to do the Wednesday show with MM and JK. I only ask for a credit in my role to bring this meeting about.I will follow up with PCTV to do something on my own, if there is a need.Thanks,DAN
Dan, I really don’t care for the way this event is developing. If you are going to be part of the event then let me know. if you are coming to report for the Planet, then I will invite other print media. Please let me know if you are coming and in what capacity (participant or reporter) by noon tomorrow. I think that is the only fair and professional thing to do.Bill
Not the Time, Not the Place, and Not Room Enough on Talk Radio for Four
THE PLANET responded, “We won’t be there.” Sturgeon answered: “Once again, that is your decision. It’s too bad I think that it will be an exciting event.” We also did not like the way things were proceeding, and thought, therefore, that it would be best if we did not participate.
We can’t say whether it will be an exciting show or not. We have no control over that. THE PLANET can say, however, that two hours is an hour too long to basically let two councilors talk without adequate moderation. Also, with the Ferrin case having lost some of its sizzle, many in the listening audience will be asking, “So what?” well before the first hour is up.
Here’s one case where Bill and THE PLANET can respectfully disagree.
We disagree with this: “I don’t see the hosts having a very active role in this production.” An inactive host invites two ways for the candidates to act: shouting heads or lots of fluff without substance. The host’s role is to keep the conversations moving, keep them on target, and insert the pointed questions that will otherwise not be asked. The other pragmatic reason for not making a two hour show is that it will take a four-hour chunk out of a mid-week day with a lot on the plate.
Thinking all this through, THE PLANET has decided not to participate in Wednesday’s show. We believe the better forum will be on a non commercial medium with a length of one hour.
THE PLANET retains an interest in producing a series of community discussion on hot topics. These we see being held at live venues, where the public can attend and ask questions (for example, the auditorium at the Little Cinema or the small auditorium, K-111, at BCC), and/or on live TV.
We welcome your thoughts.
THAT’s ALL FOR NOW. HE THAT IS DOWN HAS NO NEED TO FEAR FALLING. SHE THAT IS LOW WILL NOT SUFFER FROM PRIDE. THE CURIOUS AND INFORMED HAVE THE PLANET TO READ, WHILE THE HUMBLE HAVE GOD TO GUIDE.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.