PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, MAY 10, 2012) — When Alabama’s Joe Namath signed with the New York Jets for the-then astronomical sum of $400,000, he created a lot of enemies in pro football at a time when most players were making the league minimum ($6,000 a year) or a little more.

In an exhibition scrimmage against the Boston Patriots in the 1964 preseason, Namath took a snap from center, rolled right, only to meet a blitzing and unblocked Nick Buonoconti, the Patriots’ Hall of Fame linebacker. Buoniconti leveled Namath with a ferociously legal hit, looked down into the rookie’s face, and said, “Welcome to the pros, son!”

Namath, of course, went on to a stellar career, and he often joked about the value of Buoniconti’s bone-rattler. He learned from it, and it made him a better football player by showing him that nothing would come easy, 400 Gs or no. Will Mayor Dan Bianchi?

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, it looked like he had (and will).

Dan Bianchi’s Week that Was

Bianchi got his bell rung right good this week.  Bianchi’s week featured:

* The 3rd Thursday fiasco: He canceled then reinstated. One of those decisions has to be correct.

* His awkward defense of spending nearly $7 million on parking garage, a sum that includes a questionable $700,000 contingency fund borne not by the contractor but by taxpayers.

* The roughing up he and the city solicitor took  Tuesday night at the hands of the city council over licensing board personnel. The council attack, led by Dancing Barry Clairmont (now being called “Barry Mason” for his frustrated-lawyer tactics that have fast become excessive) centers around the removal of Albert “Butch” Pisani, a three-decade+ member of the board, which has a central role in the granting and administering of the much-coveted liquor licenses. Liquor licenses and politics mix as smoothly as gin and vermouth, olive optional. Fortunately, Bianchi came out swinging and put up a stout defense.

THE PLANET eschews the personalities involved and — for the moment at least — most of the politics in licensing lallapalooza, since they have as many undertones as undertows. We need to let the waters clear of the mud the council kicked up at Tuesday’s meeting. This will not prevent us from sharing what we’ve  heard as well as an informed analysis.

Licensing Board: Two “Butches” is Two Too Many

Bianchi and the city solicitor argue that since Pisani is listed in state records as a member of the board at GEAA, an establishment that serves liquor to the public via city license, Pisani must be removed from the board as a matter of simple state law. My right honorable good friends on the council disagreed, 8-2 (Paul Capitanio correctly recusing himself due to his ownership of the East Side Cafe, Melissa Mazzeo and Kevin Morandi as the “2”).

The eight councilors argued the existence of a letter  that allegedly certifies Pisani’s resignation from the GEAA office, hence removing the conflict of interest. Does the letter exist? Does it say what it is alleged to say? Has GEAA filed false records with the state in listing Pisani as a current officer?

The issue reduces to a clear broth: Does Pisani serve on the GEAA board or not? If he does, the city’s interpretation of state law justifies his removal. If he does not, eight councilors rightly opposed the mayor’s actions.

There is another consideration, however, and that is one of tenure (“tenure” let’s be clear, and not of “age”). How healthy can it be for a person to serve for more than three decades on a politicized board in a town with the official inbreeding of Pittsfield’s? About as healthy as swine flu, THE PLANET would propose.

The licensing board consists of: Carmen “Butch” Massimiano, chair; “Butch” Pisani, Bob Quattrochi, Dana Doyle, and Tom Campoli, members. To the best of THE PLANET’s knowledge, neither Quattrochi, Doyle, nor Campoli bear the nickname of “Butch,” one good thing in their favor. “Doyle” does bear a last name that conjures up the city’s recent Dark Ages, but that has no bearing here.

How many ancient, calcified Butches” are too many for one city to endure? How about “two” as the answer.

The first three names  of the board roster — Butch, Butch, and Bob — have been on that board forever (the better part of a collective century), an ensconcement, we would submit, that makes them, despite their best intentions, incapable of fresh and objective judgments in administering the numerous licenses gilded by the city.

The permits regulated by the board include the king’s gold star for auctioneer, vending, bowling alleys, conveyance commodities (what normal people call trucks), restaurants, car dealers (used, new, and junk), entertainment, fortune teller (we kid you not), hawkers and peddlers, hotels and lodging, junk collectors and dealers, limousines, lodging houses, parking lots, pool halls, popcorn wagon, taxis, vendors, Christmas tree sales, and booze.

Anyone wishing to do business in these areas in Pittsfield has to crawl before these five lords, essentially agreeing to whatever terms they impose. These would include whatever , if any, secret   “unofficial understandings” someone like the chair might wish to have included in the decision to grant a license (for example, cash kickbacks, free meals, free snow plowing, free booze, and worse). THE PLANET does not for a moment suggest that any member of this board, as presently constituted, would stoop so low, of course.

Open the Windows and Let Some Fresh Air Inside

As you can see, having the rights of issuance to this metric ton of licenses carries with it enormous political power, which explains why councilors squawked so loud, especially Clairmont, an accountant who practices law from the council bench.

Four months into the new council’s tenure has revealed Clairmont to be little more than a mouthpiece for the GOB. He got into power with the Establishment’s blessings and money, and he administers that power using talking points provided by his masters in the Vested Interests. No wonder he’s afraid to respond to THE PLANET’s questions, for a man who is not his own man has too much to remember to risk speaking on the record, live, and in real time.

THE PLANET heard though not officially confirmed through our network of spies, gumshoes, and sources that in doing her due diligence for the city prior to seeking Pisani’s removal, solicitor Kathy Degnan, who — unlike Dancing Barry is a lawyer — tried to obtain a copy of the alleged resignation letter of Pisani from the GEAA board. There wasn’t one. There was only a letter that claimed Pisani resigned. Such a latter letter [sorry, we couldn’t resist] would be a different matter. Does the latter letter have Pisani’s signature? Is it his actual resignation, or is it a claim from someone else that he resigned. These are two entirely different matters.

One version of the story claims the city called Pisani’s bluff, and there was no satisfactory letter. Another version claims a letter but questions its provenance (a fancy word for fakery, rhymes with bakery). In this version, there’s a letter, all right, but one made recently and back dated. At the meeting, councilors backing Pisani produced the “latter letter.” The letter, they say, claims Pisani resigned from the GEAA board two years ago. As far as we know, the letter was not made available to the city or to members of the press.

How convenient.

Based on our preliminary investigation, it appears the city has the best case. Even if there is a legitimate letter, if it’s proven that Pisani sat in the licensing board at any time while serving as an officer at GEAA, he should be bounced from the board. Pisani has a conflict of interest, proven by the simplest understanding of human nature. He haunts the GEAA. He’s a card-carrying member of the GOB. Of course that will shade his decisions as a licensing board member. For that reason, state law is explicit about conflict of interest.

Clairmont as Sigmund: Shrill and Off-Key

The council’s operatic defense of Pisani, led by alto Barry Clairmont in the role of Sigmund, the GOB Stooge, produced shrill and off-key arias that can be roughly translated as: “Butch Pisani is one of the Boys, you follow? He’s a good guy. You follow?? He stays right where he is.” We got that translation from “Butch,” a linguist who lives in the secret underground tunnel that connects the East Side Cafe with Remo’s, a few yards North.

Pisani himself uttered lines at the council meeting that could have come right out of Goodfellas: “[Bianchi] will hafta take legal action to get me off the board. If you want to get rid of me, do it right and proper.” Even the most talented screenwriter couldn’t write dialogue so apropos.

My right honorable good friend Tony Simonelli, councilor in Ward 7, as quoted by Dick Lindsey of the Boring Broadsheet, said Pisani “has put in more than 30 years on the board, and I think we owe it to him to follow every process available.” Simonelli is right, and that’s what the city has done. As for “owing” Pisani, taxpayers don’t “owe” him anything. He chooses to serve, and he has for too long occupied a seat that has turned self-serving. He owes Us.

Degnan was smooth, professional, and straightforward in explaining why Pisani has to go: “Once a person is involved directly or indirectly in the sale of alcohol, the vacancy [on the board] is immediately created. The mayor is not removing anybody. It’s a matter of state law.”

The GOB, though, can’t be swayed by law. They wish to make this a personal attack because that is how they operate, as Clairmont so deftly proved in his absurd questioning of Degnan.

This is where Bianchi stepped up to the plate.

Bianchi Empties Both Barrels

“This is absolutely an incredible line of questioning,” the mayor thundered. “Either accept or reject the appointment [of Miriam Maduro, the mayor’s choice to replace Pisani]. Bianchi then pointed at Clairmont: “Councilor, you’re way out of line.” It was Bianchi’s finest moment as mayor, and it eradicated the sting from earlier in the week. He had reclaimed his turf.

That’s the part of the movie where the audience erupts into cheers, the good guy having told the bad guy “what for.”

To sum up, Bianchi is right and the council, minus 2, are wrong: Pisani has no right to sit on the board. His presence, in fact, by all indications, is illegal.

We would remind all that, even in the fiefdom of Pittsfield, Divine Right of Kings withers in the musty basement (and abasement) of local history. No one has the “right” to serve forever. “Apriamo le finestre!” (“Open the windows”). It’s time to let fresh air into the unhealthy atmosphere of the licensing board.



Not to make a federal case of it, but this marks THE PLANET’s 500th posting since Sept. 29, 2010. That’s 500 columns in 590 days, or a presentation rate of 85%. With all modesty, we hold forth this literary/journalistic production rate as unparalleled in Berkshire County history by any single author, writer, editor, journalist, or scribe.

This output amounts to 701,029 words, or the equivalent of seven full-length novels. We can’t attest to the literary merit of each of these words, but we can say with honesty that we have tried to produce the best quality writing with the most reliable and necessary content that lies within our abilities to conjure up at any given time, mindful that the latter commodity always runs in short supply.

PLAENT VALENTI’s output is on top of an adjacent and precedent literary output (for paying clients, editors, and publishers) of roughly 150,000 or so words a year. These are published words. They do not take into account the words written and either not sold or deliberately withheld from sale (for example, the contents of this writer’s journals).

A Linguistic and Communications Experiment Called THE PLANET

We have engaged in this linguistic and communications experiment called THE PLANET asking nary a penny in return. We have rebuffed all attempts to allow this sacred space to be soiled by the commercialism of ads, and there have been several offers to buy space on lucrative terms. We have consistently gained in readership and circulation, a phenomenon that does not escape notice among players in the business world and brokers whose job it is to “rent” space on sites like this on behalf of clients.

THE PLANET has but one intention: to serve as a conduit of news, information, and commentary, presented at highest quality to a public that otherwise would be denied our version of the truth.

We want to be the cyber “water cooler” where the community can come to shoot the breeze and share their views. We strive to be exciting and provocative, knowing that the linguistic provocateur, alone among The State’s political, economic, social, and civic structure, has the power to bring Truth to the surface by calling falsehoods, suspected and actual alike, up from the shadowy depths. We do not use any weapons other than A through Z, the 26 characters of the alphabet. They are the most effective weapons of all in The Little Guy’s eternal fight for a fair game.

THE PLANET takes Edgar Poe, Ambrose Bierce, and H. L. Mencken are our literary fathers, seeking to carry on in this far-flung corner of Paradise their work of puncturing the fatuous hot-air balloons that the pompous, the snooty, and the scoundrels insist on launching, from which they drop their bombs of bombast and inhumanity on The Little Guy.

We shall always post under our real name. We will not hide behind the skirts of anonymous identity. We will “man up,” always ready to cash the checks our pen fills out, drawing coin of the realm from the exchequer of the public life which, to some extent, we all share.








  1. Sam
    May 10, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    Dan, I was told that the people on the Licensing Board get paid, could you please verify this, thanks.

    • Jim Gleason
      May 10, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      They get $500 per year, the Chairman gets $700 from memory.

  2. Ray Ovac
    May 10, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    DV, why are we only finding out now about Mr. Pisani’s illegal occupancy of a seat on the city’s licensing board? If Pisani has been illegally sitting on a licensing board seat simultaneous with being a member of GEAA’s board, then why didn’t Mayor James Ruberto take care of this small bit of housecleaning sometime during his two terms as Mayor? Bianchi can hardly be blamed for seeking compliance with state law, but Mayor Ruberto certainly should be held to account if it turns out he did nothing when he should have done something.

  3. Jim Gleason
    May 10, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    As I wrote yesterday, Clairmont, Barry Mason, is playing front man for the Gob, taking that role away from John Krol on the council, although Krol spouts nonsense every morning on his propaganda hour, A.K.A. Good Morning Pittsfield. His rantings on that air have produced complaints to the Ethics Commission as a conflict of interest as he,as a city councilor approves the budget for the school dept., WTBR being in that budget. Krol, in my opinion, is trying to reduce his ole of bad guy because he wants to run for Mayor at some point and needs to tone it down to appeal to a wide section.He may be toning it down as bad guy but, in my opinion, is still a moron and the ultimate GOB.I’m amazed that supposedly intelligent councilors can’t see the obvious, that Pisani violated the law by being a board member at GEAA. It is written for all to see in MA General Law. This was repeated several time by Solicitor Degnan, but couldn’t cut through the fog in some councilor’s heads. Pisani may be a good guy and has served for 32 years, but how many of these were illegal, thus making any decision he made illegal? It’s nice to know we finally have a Mayor who will stand up for the law instead of trying to find a way to violate it.(Yes, I’m talking to you ruberto, in the violating the law section)

    • Nomad
      May 10, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      Not only was any vote by Pisani illegal, but I watched several Licensing Board meetings while it was a 3 member board, with only 2 members present. Pisani being one of them. If the violation of state law applied at the time…then there wasn’t a quorum, and the entire meeting was illegal.

    • holy cow
      May 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

      lawyers circling in the bloody waters-if you got your license suspended for a time or taken away by an illegitamate 2 person board during the times Pisani was on both boards. City liable for
      loss of revenue? The transfer of licenses during this time, are the legit? This is a can of worms that should have stayed at the bottom of the tequila bottle!

    • holy cow
      May 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

      lawyers circling in the bloody waters-if you got your license suspended for a time or taken away by an illegitamate 2 person board during the times Pisani was on both boards. City liable for
      loss of revenue? The transfer of licenses during this time, are the legit? This is a can of worms that should have stayed at the bottom of the tequila bottle!

    May 10, 2012 at 9:29 am #

    Didn’t the Bob you mentioned in Butch, Butch, Bob sit on the board when he was a car dealer. If so all those votes must have been illegal. Just wondrin

  5. Ray Ovac
    May 10, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    DV, are there sitting members on any other city boards who have conflicts of interests which make it technically illegal for those persons to be sitting on those city boards? Bianchi might as well make a clean sweep of all city boards whose members have illegal conflicts.

  6. Nomad
    May 10, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    I was aware that Clairmont was a CPA, but I didn’t realize he was also interested in becoming a lawyer. He must be studying for his law degree at Guantanamo University.

    • Jim Gleason
      May 10, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

      Isn’t that where Jake got his doctorate?

      • taxmano
        May 10, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

        Good one Jim! And on the city’s dime, I hear…

      • Just a thought
        May 10, 2012 at 8:50 pm #

        So true Jim, and that’s not all he did on the schools dime or in schools. However, some staff will really miss him when he leaves to spend more time with his family. Some school leaders grew to be so fond if him and were so close to him. In return they did a great Job for him, making the schools the Pittsfield Public Schools an very exciting and very close work environment.

        • Jim Gleason
          May 13, 2012 at 7:50 am #

          Like a certain principal at a school on Brooks Ave.?

    May 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Licensing Board: Mr Mayor handled it wrong. 30 years is way way too long to be on any board. The board dos not need another lawyer, there are two on it now. Marian (Goodman) already served some time on the board, she is a Lawyer.

    May 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

    Oh one more. Mr. Pisani did his job and should just accept he is off and the City should acknowledge him for all his years of service. I for one wants to say Thank You Mr. Pisani.

    • levitan
      May 11, 2012 at 6:27 am #

      Bianchi did acknowledge his 30 year service. It is Pisani and the Council who are raising hell.

      • danvalenti
        May 11, 2012 at 7:17 am #

        Yes, great point, Lev. Bianchi was classy and gentlemanly in all his comments on Pisani and Al’s long service. The spitfire came from the other side.

  9. Joe Blow
    May 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    This is a big story but there is a HUGE story that all residents have the right to hear.

    • Bonnie
      May 10, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

      Would it happen to include court officers ppd and BCHC employees?

      • Ed
        May 11, 2012 at 8:37 am #

        If it does and if evidence is involved. Will it mysteriously disappear and will the assistant junior g-man grade magistrate from Westfield be riding in on his white horse to save the day ?

  10. Luxor Rex
    May 10, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    What story is that, Joe?

    Oh, and congratulations to DV for hit HR #500.

    May 10, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    JB- what’s up? Don’t leave us waiting.

    DV- good job. Keep exposing the hidden stories.

    • danvalenti
      May 10, 2012 at 7:39 pm #

      Will do. More on the way!

  12. Scott
    May 11, 2012 at 4:16 am #

    Reading the article today about Gary Sampson a confessed and convicted murderer here in Mass was the first person to be sentenced to death under new federal laws that allow the feds to execute people even in states that do not have the death penalty. (I’m for it.) What I find interesting in all this after reading through several articles on the matter is the governor at the time when all this went on was Mitt Romney and he opposed the execution of this waste of human life. That adds another thing to the list of why we may not want him as president.