OT and Disability Claims Drive Police Department into Debt … Fire and Personnel departments also in the red … Taxpayers have to cough up the difference to take care of the nearly $800Gs in over-spending … ‘Free Cash Follies’ continue in Pittsfield, ripping off taxpayers … plus … Former Arts Commissioner O’Connell Remembers Kitty Lichtenstein


PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, JULY 24, 2012) — The fiscal good news: the city of Pittsfield’s health insurance program ran at a surplus last year. The city pays for employee health insurance through the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC), which takes advantage of pool coverage.

Now the bad news: Instead of returning the surplus to taxpayers (since that’s what a surplus is in government: residents were taxed more than they needed to be), the city transferred the savings into the Police Depeartment to make up for a $455,000 deficit recorded there.

The Police Department was the worst of three departmental offenders, which each ran up deficits. The other two were the fire department and the personnel department. In all, the city robbed Peter Surplus of $773,066.94 to pay Paul Deficit, once more forcing taxpayers to “assume the position.” The fire department sucked $270,128.28 from the city’s workers’ compensation fund. Again, that’s money that could have been returned to citizens to lower their taxes.

Overtime and Disability Costs: Out of Control?

Two troubling aspects of the police deficit, according to a report by acting chief Mike Wynn, were (1) excessive overtime and (2) the number of officers on disability. As for (1), fire and police department overtime have long been golden geese laying eggs on behalf of union members at the expense of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, Pittsfield’s bedraggled Little Guys.

THE PLANET realizes that in police and fire work, some OT is unavoidable, but can chiefs Wynn and Bob Czerwinski, acting fire department boss, honestly justify every minute of OT?

As for (2), how much longer will citizens put up with the disability scam being perpetuated by public employees? Again, THE PLANET recognizes that in the course of police and fire work, some disability claims will arise and some will be justified. There are others, however, that simply fly in the face of justice. The files are full of personnel, perfectly healthy save for their declared “disability,” who milk the system, tax free, when they could be doing other departmental tasks, thus freeing up manpower elsewhere.

PERAC Guildelines on Disability of Public Workers

One of the PERAC guidelines is a section on “Health and Fitness Standards.” There, we learn that police officers and firefighters appointed after Nov. 1, 1996, must be able to pass the health and fitness standards set by the city. A police officer or fireman is NOT CONSIDERED DISABLED for pension purposes if they can’t pass the physical.

THE PLANET asks: How many cases in both departments stem from a simple inability to meet the physical standards imposed routinely on department members? One is one too many.

Disability is allowed to “any member … whose permanent incapacitation, due to sickness or injury, is not job-related, prevents him/her from performing the essential duties of his/her position.”

Here are two other questions: (a) What standard determines if an employee is disabled? (b) What is the definition of an “essential duty.”

Here are the official answers:

(a) To be considered disabled, your retirement board must find that you are permanently disabled from performing the essential duties of your position.

If you are applying for an accidental disability retirement, your retirement board must also find that your incapacity is the natural and proximate result of sustaining an injury or undergoing a hazard as a result of, and while in the performance of your duties, at a definite time and place, without willful and serious misconduct on your part.

(b) Essential duties are those duties or functions of a job or position that must necessar­ily be performed by an employee to accomplish the principal object(s) of the job or position. The essential duties are those that bear more than a marginal relationship to the job or position. Your employer makes the determination of what constitutes an essential duty within the context of the PERAC guidelines.

When You’re on Disability, You Collect 72% of Your Highest Year’s Pay, Tax Free

The disabled received 72% of their annual salaries computed as the “highest 12 months of regular compensation.” That money is tax free. The state may require follow-up exams once a year for two years after disability is granted, with the rule that “no member will be evaluated more frequently than once in any 12-month period.”

Such a system is loaded with a potential for abuse.

THE PLANET’s question, for the departments in question and for the Pittsfield Retirement Board, located in Room 109 at city hall, 70 Allen Street, is this: What assurance can you give taxpayers that every case of disability involving public employees in the city of Pittsfield is legitimate? We pose this to board members board administrator Karen Lancto, and members Sue Carmel, Tim Hannigan, Gerry Miller, Ed Reilly, and Jim Mooney. Which one of you wants to respond to THE PLANET?

Mary Jane and Joe K will be the first to want to help someone truly in need, but they are loathe to offer their money to freeloaders, especially since they are having such a hard time making ends meet.

Disability Fraud Can Be Hard to Detect

Disability fraud is harder to detect than most other forms of bunco, since most of those receiving disability payments are not at first glance disabled (not using a wheelchair or in an iron lung, for example). We’ve all heard stories of the cop or fire fighter on disability who is spotted each day pumping iron at Gold’s Gym and working another job.

Czerwinski sais his deficit ($270Gs+) stems from retroactive pay raises. Pay raises? Those in the Dreaded Private Sector might not know what those are, but fire fighters and cops sure do.

Our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council approved the fund transfers, essentially taking the surplus funds out of taxpayers’ pockets and giving them to the Special Interests to keep afloat departments that, for whatever reason, could not live within their budgets.


At-large councilor Barry Clairmont, who has yet in his capacity of councilor to meet a tax hike he didn’t love and want to marry, told the Boring Broadsheet that he “thought all along the Fire Department budget was too low to begin with.” Right. We wonder if Clairmont ever considered the alternative: How about giving taxpayers a break and reducing the back-breaking burden they are carrying to pay for public safety? Guess out Right Honorable Good Friend couldn’t CPA his way to an equitable answer on behalf of taxpayers. That’s the sort of action that either makes you a one-termer or gets you elected for life, depending on turnout.

As for the personnel department’s $111G deficit, councilors, at Carmel’s urging, raided the city’s contingency fund.

The Little Guy doesn’t stand a chance, but we think you knew that.



THE PLANET wonders how much police OT taxpayers will be hit with the get the city all nice and shiny for Her Highness Michelle Obama? We learned last week how Richmond Town Manager Kufflinks Kerwood wrenched his back getting potholes filled for Her Majesty. Now, it’s Pittsfield’s turn.

MICHELLE "OTOMA" OBAMA: Her Royal Highness Spurs a big case of the Spiffied, and taxpayers will foot the bill.

The Police Depeartment has a new gimmick — OTOM. OTOM satand for Operation One Team One Mission (shouldn’t it be OOTOM, with the extended short “o” sound?). On the cops’ Facebook page, we learned that on Saturday, they made four arrests, conducted dozens of car stops, made “several searches” [doesn’t say search what, where, or whom], [and] conducted field interviews.” On Sunday, we read of “six arrests (1 OUI), 1 criminal citation; 89 field interviews; 65 car stops; two cars towed; 1 K-9 search; 41 fake IDs seized, and a mutual aid response to Cheshire for an armed barricaded subject (successful negotiation, gun recovered … a good night’s work.”

Don’t tell anyone, but the fake ID’s were seized at the GEAA, and they were all (or nearly all) camp counselors.

Great work, fellas, but how come a decent citizen can never find a cop pounding North Street’s meanery when they are getting help up at knife point?

Patti Jo Dunn Andrews had the most apt comment on the Police FB site: “Political propaganda web site is all this is.” Patti, THE PLANET thanks you for this honest insight. It comes as a refreshing relief. We wonder: How much of OTOP is being done in the name of Her Majesty, Michelle I?



Don’t you love the term “free cash?” City government uses the term to indicate surplus money paid into the coffers by the general public.

Of course, politicians think of all government revenue as their money from the second they wrestle it out of your pockets. “Free cash,” however, is even worse. It’s money leftover from the budgeting process that you never get to see. By assigning it into a labeled city account, “free cash” lists on the books as a cost of government, when it is exactly the opposite. It’s one of the longest-running civic budgetary scams going.

Here’s how it works. Say Department A has a budget of $1000. In the course of the year, it uses $800. The $200 should be returned to the rightful owners, who paid too much for that line item, right? Well, the money goes into “Free Cash.” For every line item, the “free cash” represents money government taxed you for but that it didn’t need in the budget. Next year, that money shows up as an account. Voila! Legal theft! For a more detailed explanation, ask Councilor Clairmont. He’s a CPA, don’t you know!

We Ain’t Singing One Hosanna

And yet …

We’re supposed to sing hosannas and dance on with one foot off the cliff and the other on a banana peel when a politician deigns to give you back some of your own money. For example, we have the $1.7 million “leftover free cash” that will be used to be applied to the Pittsfield tax rate. It’s OK and all, but nothing short of emptying that account and applying all of it will do.

Pittsfield has a contingency fund for the unexpected. It doesn’t have to raid “free cash.” The free cash account should be emptied, with the full amount applied to lower taxes for both residents and businesses in the city.

Another approach would be to demand more accurate budgeting from department heads. If the mayor began demanding that departments come in on time and under budget, working from real numbers and not dream lists and wishful thinking, we would not need a cent in “leftover free cash” to bail out departments when they run up deficits, as did police, fire, and personnel. Why should the poor budgetary abilities of department heads be paid for by taxpayers?

When will “accountability” be re-introduced into the city’s budgetary process? We know — and “How high is the moon?”

Free Cash to Pay for Tearing Down Grossman’s/Pennell

Here’s another “free cash” error being committed by Mayor Dan Bianchi. To pay the bill taxpayers received for the demolition of  the Grossman’s/Pennell Building on upper East Street, the mayor has proposed and the council has agreed to raid the “free cash” account for $223,636. That’s $223,636 that could have been used to lower your taxes.

Now it will be used for an expense the city never should have incurred in the first place. It could have pressed the owner of the building to pay and go to court to attach assets amounting to $223,636. Why do that, though, when you have taxpayers?




TO THE PLANET —  Kitty Lichtenstein passed away om June 26, 2012.

In her 29 years of association with the citizens of Pittsfield she brought the arts to the average citizen in a manner that was both physically and economically accessible to all.
Her development of the Lichtenstein Center for Music and Art at 28 Renne Avenue was very unusual in that although she fully developed the building that once housed Stanley Electric Company into the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts and gave the building to the citizens of Pittsfield she long after paid the mortgage and development costs of the building even though she no longer owned the building. Her development of the Arts Center, Public Stage, Public Murals, Live on the Lake and Berkshire Writers Room beginning in 1983 was her contribution to the average citizen, although the GOB tried to take credit for all of her achievements in 2004.
Kitty planted the seeds for the arts to be enjoyed by the community only to have her legacy stolen by the GOB during the “cultural renaissance” years later. To this day, there is no signage leading visitors to Pittsfield to the Lichtenstein Center on Renne Avenue because of this control by the GOB’s. The average citizens cultural center is almost fully ignored. I hope this changes in the future so that generations to come can find and enjoy the little guy’s place to be a part of the arts in this community. Kitty would want it no other way. — Dan O’Connell [The writer is former long-time arts commissioner for the city of Pittsfield]

45 Responses to “OT and Disability Claims Drive Police Department into Debt … Fire and Personnel departments also in the red … Taxpayers have to cough up the difference to take care of the nearly $800Gs in over-spending … ‘Free Cash Follies’ continue in Pittsfield, ripping off taxpayers … plus … Former Arts Commissioner O’Connell Remembers Kitty Lichtenstein”

  1. Chet Hunter
    July 24, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    Dan The retirement board moved to Fenn St a few years ago

    • danvalenti
      July 24, 2012 at 10:02 am #

      Thanks, Chet. We took the information from the current state website.

  2. Former Pittsfield Resident
    July 24, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    Just from reading about what is going on Pittsfield it would seem as though the taxpayers have a never ending supply of cash for the City.

    Just keep raising taxes always seems to be the answer in Pittsfield.

    Expand the airport at taxpayers expense so a few rich people can land their planes – ignore all protests – fill in the pristine wetlands and just raise taxes to pay for it. And yet there is no outrage. Seems people there enjoy it. I never knew the people were so rich in there.

    The only limit is the sky which is when all your money goes to the City. What then? I guess they just take your house away and give it to someone who can afford all the tax hikes.

    After all, its all just “Free Cash” for the City of Pittsfield.

  3. Dave
    July 24, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Driving down Bull Hill Rd last week I passed two Deputy Sheriffs on new motorcycles. What, other than a parade do they need these for? Is this just more “spend it or lose it” mentality?

  4. Ron Kitterman
    July 24, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    Thanks to Dan O’Connell for the letter to the Planet. Sincere sympathies and condolences for your loss, she was one in a million.

  5. Scott
    July 24, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    Very informative Dan. I wrote the Mayors office on the Alegrone tax break matter and asked for a pass on my water bill I’m still waiting for a response I won’t hold my breath.

  6. B. Clairmont
    July 24, 2012 at 10:29 am #


    I was talking about the budget for FY 2013, not the one that we to make the transfer for (fy 2012).

    The FY 2013 budget was originally $155,000 for overtime. In the last 5 years, overtime wasn’t below $300,000 for any year. I was questioning how it could be cut in half, and if it could, why didn’t we do it years ago.

    The answer I recieved was the $155,000 was an error and the Mayor bumped it up to $255,000. I questioned if that was enough because I didn’t want to be here a year from now making the same tranfer that you are complaining about in todays blog (using free cash to pay for a deficit).

    You see Dan, I’m a realist. The Mayor budgeted for one less fireman for FY 2013 that we had in FY 2012. Will that cause more overtime? Will we have rotating fire station closures, which the chief said may happen? The later is unacceptable to the citizens I speak with.

    Ask yourself, pay more in overtime by eliminating a regular pay position and covering with people on time and a half, or fund the position? No brainer from my standpoint.

    BTW, all 11 Councilors voted in favor of the transfers.

    One more point, I’ve never met a single person who could prepare a budget that came in exactly as budgeted. Some items are over and some are under, that’s why we have to make transfers at the end of every year. Do you prepare a personal budget? If yes, does it come out exact every year? If it does, you are a better man than I.

    One thing you forgot to mention concerning budgets… I was the one who challenged the Mayor and the teachers union to roll back step raises from the 3 – 5% per step to no more than 1% in their current contract negotiations. This is be the biggest cost saving proposed in years. Lets see if they step up and accept the challenge.


    • danvalenti
      July 24, 2012 at 11:03 am #

      We thank our Right Honorable Good Friend, yourself. I wasn’t aware of your question, which is a great one: If the OT budget could be cut in half this year, why not before. The answer is even better, though: “It was a mistake!” Our question would be: “Why doesn’t the mayor begin demanding that departments stay within budget, particularly for OT, which has been abused for years. You also make a good point about budgets: They are spending plans, living documents that need to be adjusted as conditions change. But with so much data available for going into departmental budgeting and with so much historical information upon which to rely, it would seem that departmental budgets could be done with a high degree of reliability for accuracy. I think the problem has been a disengagement of the Corner Office to actually manage staff by requiring more realistic financial positions, something I know you respect. Finally, I congratulate you on your challenge to the mayor and teachers’ union to roll back step raises. That’s a great move, and I would like to see more of my Right Honorable Good Friends on the council back this. Time to put pressure on the mayor and the teachers to acknowledge that the raises are unaffordable and unsustainable. Remember, those raises will become the basis for the next contract. It will continue to be a killer. Good move, Barry. Thank you for your informative post.

  7. Beacon Hill Mob
    July 24, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    Hi Dan,

    1) Fat Azz MOB, and Devil Patrick hosting a 20K dinner for the Man who hates America is disgusting. Got any CHANGE LEFT?

    2) Maybe do a piece on the GOBs stealing almost all of the Kaminski farm, not just the latest fleecing by the Airport/City/State

    • danvalenti
      July 24, 2012 at 11:05 am #

      Excellent idea. The Kaminskis, from what I’ve heard of the story, got robbed for a project that (a) is not needed (b) will cost Pittsfield taxpayers milions, and (c) has a design that a veteran airline pilot describes as a “virtual death trap.” This is the kind of outrage citizens should NOT ALLOW in their government.

      • Chet Hunter
        July 24, 2012 at 11:27 am #

        Sorry but the Kami skis were paid well over 1 million bucks. Not too shabby!

        • Beacon Hill Mob
          July 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

          For how many HUNDREDS or acres?

          I see 1/2 acre lots selling for $100K

          You a realtor or banker?

          • Beacon Hill Mob
            July 24, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

            One more time take HUGE lot worth AT LEAST $100K

            TIMES 100. WHAT DO YOU COME UP WITH?


            I was a good friend of Nache KAMINSKI.

            He worked harder EVERY day of his life than ANYONE I know.

            He was a PILOT, BEFORE the POS AIRPORT, that shut him down.

            Many Rectums assert Mr. Kminisky as a…………dirt farmer

            Well, Nache and John, BOTH outworked you, AND were better CiTIZENS.

            I wasw HIRING, would trade 1 Nache Kamiskys, for 100 dirt bags in shorts that hang 10″ below their unwashed azz.

            But he had, owned , and piloited , an AIRPLANE, on the Kamisky property

          • Beacon Hill Mob
            July 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

            Please forgive for the rant, typos and such above.

            Nache and John , Kaiminsky were dear friends.

            Perhaps the most honest, hardworking, and trustworthy men I’ve known

            They were POOCHED so bad by the POS GOBs it can not be written in less tHAn A BOOK!!!

      • Chet Hunter
        July 24, 2012 at 11:57 am #

        Dan. How about the $600 thou. that Mr Cachet got for his lot on Tammarack rd that he paid $200 grand only a year before? Boy some people got robbed!

        • Beacon Hill Mob
          July 24, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

          P.S. Chet a farm is heaven, when the city steals it against your will, you have been sent to hell.

          Maybe the city will take YOUR house, for a pittance, to run something useful and remedial, like a SEWER LINE

          • Chet Hunter
            July 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

            Sorry Beacon but Kaminski farm was a eye sore and nobody had lived there in years. His nephew made. Ton of money. What happened to all the junk that littered the whole area?

          • Beacon Hill Mob
            July 25, 2012 at 9:31 am #

            The Watroba family got the final SCREW from the city.

            Want to talk EYESORE?


            An EYESORE paid for by me, you and Mary Jane and Joe.

            What Mr. Kamisky owned and kept was HIS PROPERTY, THIS IS AMERICA , COMRADE.


            Don’t like it move away, really far I hope. I am SURE YOU can afford to.

            I was a good friend of Mr. Nache Kaminski, he worked harder in one day ( myself present) THAN YOU HAVE IN YOUR LAZY LIFE .

            Want to prove me wrong poser? Lets bail some hay. At 50+ I’ll work your lazy butt under the ground

      • Levitan
        July 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

        1) Fat Azz MOB, and Devil Patrick hosting a 20K dinner for the Man who hates America is disgusting. Got any CHANGE LEFT?

        I’m surprised you dignified this post with an answer.

  8. Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
    July 24, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    You gotta like the fact that Dancin’ Barry stepped up to the mic….

    • danvalenti
      July 24, 2012 at 11:08 am #

      We do indeed. We give him all the credit, and we hope this represents a thaw in the Cold War. We are certainly willing for that to happen. Despite the fanciful portrayals of THE PLANET as a monster, we actually prefer working relationships with officials, bureaucrats, and politicians. Our track record shows that. What they sometimes don’t realize is that when they stop talking to us, it doesn’t stop us from getting the story. It only prevents their POV from being heard, which defeats their purpose. Press and pols will always have a tense relationship, but it can be a productive one, provided both sides are willing to deal and dish in good faith.

  9. tito
    July 24, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Barry’s small potatoesin the grand scheme of things.

    • danvalenti
      July 24, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

      Small potatoes can make the sweetest potato salad, if it’s seasoned correctly.

      • Scott
        July 24, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

        Chives, rosemary and sage with some lemon balm.

  10. Gene
    July 24, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    I’d like to focus on the point that DV makes here, why is it so difficult for the mayor to insist tht department heads budget properly. Why doesn’t the city pull in the reigns on excessive OT? Also like mr Clairmont’s idea at the end, to roll back to step raises. In this economy it just can’t be done. At some point soon the money will run out. Does the union want massive layoffs instead of a reduction but still a pay raise??

    • danvalenti
      July 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

      Perceptive, GENE.

    • Tim
      July 24, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

      Yes that is exactly what unions do, and how they leverage or market themselves to non-unionized companies or organizations. Its a “what have you done for me lately” kind of world and they would rather tell current and prospective members that they got them raises and benefits than that they did nothing other than keep the status quo and keep jobs.

  11. dusty
    July 24, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    Hey Dan, your blog deals a great deal with openness in govt. So I ask you, knowing you are a Romney supporter, “how do you feel about Romney not revealing his income tax reports?”

    Straight, no spin.

    • danvalenti
      July 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

      He should release as many returns as Obama.

      • Scott
        July 24, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

        Are you saying that Romney should be held to the same standard as Obama or maybe higher? If not then whats the difference or the motivation to vote for him? It can be compared to mixed martial arts, the champ has nothing to prove it’s up to the challenger to overcome. (it makes for some boring title bouts.)

        • Larry
          July 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

          I can think of several reasons to vote for Romney…. One being that the current POS sucks and will surely bankrupt this once great nation if he has the opportunity to do so!

          • Scott
            July 25, 2012 at 5:51 am #

            Bush got us into the war and Obama pulled out of Iraq but is keeping Afghanistan going and killing hundreds with his predator drone strikes what’s your point?

      • JB
        July 24, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

        How about as many as his father did. I grew up in MI and I think there is a family photo of my dad and Romney Sr somewhere…..R, Sr was well respected in that day.

  12. tito
    July 24, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    Put the meth clinic @ Hermann A’s they’re all set up for it.

    • danvalenti
      July 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

      Good place for it.

  13. tito
    July 24, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    What the he’ll are we talking about Beacon…Green Acres?

  14. joetaxpayer
    July 24, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Why not hire part time police and firemen? Or any other positions in the City that are costing us overime,janitors, dispatchers and public works.

    • Johny V/
      July 27, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

      Have you ever been to a town with part time police officers. It is scary what this state and others are allowing out on the streets these days. I don’t disagree that persons in every profession try to screw the pooch in disability but part time public safety personnel is not the answer, trust me someone will get hurt.

  15. Browning
    July 24, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    That would work, but of course, the unions would claim a threat to public safety and would pressure the politicians not to do it. Actually, the city of Pittsfield could well and easily be served by an all-volunteer fire department, though the fire department wouldn’t want you to know that.

    • Larry
      July 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

      I’m not overly sure of that Brownie

  16. ShirleyKnutz
    July 24, 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    Barry should be telling the school committee to do away with step raises and put teacher’s raises through the same way the rest of the city gets them.

    • danvalenti
      July 24, 2012 at 7:19 pm #

      THE PLANET agrees, Shirley.

  17. Rick
    July 24, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

    Why are the Deputy Sheriffs responding to anything? I thought county govt was abolished years ago. Just another layer to deal with. The old jail was supposed to come down for a playground for Morningside school because it was so old and hard to heat. Seems to be ok now that the white elephant on the Cheshire road is up and running……. One more thing….How can a personnel department be over budget?

  18. internet marketing
    July 24, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    The city of Medford is looking to update its nearly century-old infrastructure for fire alarm systems. However, the City Council does not believe the $300,000 project should be funded with borrowed money, as recommended by Mayor Michael J. McGlynn.

  19. Gene
    July 25, 2012 at 6:47 am #

    I had that same question RIck. Personnel? Overbudget? Explanation please, Mr. Bianchi.