Article

MORE ON CONTRACTGATE: AN ALMOST UNBELIEVABLE BREAKDOWN IN WE THE PEOPLE’s LINE OF DEFENSES … plus … PFD: SMOKIN’ IN THE BOYZ ROOM II — WILL TIM BARTINI ANSWER THE QUESTIONS?

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, OCT. 22, 2012) — It has happened again. The sharpest, most astute readership on THE PLANET has put forth an idea eminently doable with exactly the right means … if this was a fair fight, that is, if power rested where it belongs — in the hands of We the People instead of the clutches of the GOB‘s claws.

We credit Ron Kitterman for coming up with it: Why wouldn’t you want to put student carpenters and builders from Taconic High School to work rehabbing the Springside House instead of providing free, coerced labor for a favored secretary of the assistant superintendent of schools and head of the vocational department? Why would you want to put the students at work on a project that would benefit the entire city as opposed to having them used (and we mean “used”) to build a house for a Connected Insider, for her and her alone?

Ron Kitterman, you are a genius. That idea is even better than having students work on a Habitat for Humanity house. Have to bring back the Springside House.

As Ron points out, rehabbing Springside House benefits every citizen of Pittsfield. Building a mansion on Brickhouse Lane for Lynn Whitney benefits Lynn Whitney — all because of her connections.

We have caught them in the cookie jar on this one, ladies and gentlemen, and we have to put a stop to this. 

How? By overturning this vote. The mayor could do it. The city council could do it. The school committee could do it. The superintendent of schools could do it. The State Ethics Commission could do it. We the People could do it.

It must be done.

Pittsfield City Government is on notice, including the mayor’s office, the city council, the school department, and the superintendent: Reverse this bad deal, or forever declare yourself an enemy of honest government.

How Could this Many Safeguards be Skirted? Ah, Everything is Possible in a City as Corrupt as Pittsfield

Anywhere else, one would say with so many safeguards in place, this type of deal could not happen.

(1) First line of defense — You stop this type of syspect dealing from even advancing by having it as a rule that no employee of the school department can apply for student labor. If this policy had been in place, the “legal” rip-off would have have been avoided.

(2) Second line of defense — If your community is asleep at the wheel, and the provision for keeping school department employees from bidding on such free work is not in the works, you stop this deal from happening because you have faith in the integrity of the school department itself. It is a community’s fair assumption that it should have public employees in place (rank-in-file and administrators) that would not seek to profit so selfishly and in such a morally bankrupt manner.

(3) Third line of defense — If you live in a city that cannot count on school department employees possessing ethics, citizens should have a right to expect oversight and accountability from the public school administration. The superintendent would step in and make a unilateral decision: This deal will not be allowed to proceed.

(4) Fourth line of defense — In Pittsfield, the deal orchestrated by Lynn Whitney and her boss, assistant superintendent Frank Cote, began under the long gone (thank heavens) supt. of schools, Jake Eberwein III, under whose watch the rioting mob cleaned out the store. The Whitney contract was executed under an interim superintendent, Gordon Noseworthy, who probably didn’t know about it and, when he did, probably didn’t want to step forward. Such is what We the People get when their representatives hire mercenaries. Protection therefore not forthcoming from the superintendent, the good citizens of an honest city would be able to rely on the school committee it elected. No school committee with integrity would ever allow such a contract to be approved. Ah, but this is Pittsfield, whose school committee had no problem saying OK. Chairman Alf Barbalunga, Jim Conant, Kathy Yon, Dan Elias, and Mayor Dan Bianchi all approved. Kathy Amuso did not vote (attending the funeral of her mother-in-law). Only Terry Kinnas said “No way.” Elias, to his credit, said he made a mistake in this vote. Bianchi hasn’t said a peep on his “yes” vote. THE PLANET has contacted him to explain, and we hope third time is a charm. He has not returned our last two requests for comment (on Spectrum). It will not be well for his political health to go into hiding.

(5) Fifth line of defense — Should the school committee fail the Little Guy, the State Ethics Commission should be counted upon to rectify the situation. In this case, the commission said that Whitney failed to meet three of the five criteria. Nonetheless, the GOB misapplied a loophole and got the matter kicked over to a deliberative body that has no jurisdiction: our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council. The council should never have received this matter.

(6) The sixth line of defense — The council, having received this dubious matter, would, under normal circumstances, have immediately filed this measure, sending it back to the school committee for rebid. But no. Not in the land of Benigno Numine. The council approved, 7-3 (Chris Yon, Jonathan Lothrop, and Kevin Sherman voting no, with Barry Clairmont having recused himself since Whitney is a client). Unbelievable.

(7) The seventh line of defense — The CEO of the city, Mayor Bianchi, could have thrown the bully pulpit against this measure and taken the moral high ground. The mayor, though, already voted to approve in his role on the school committee. As far as that goes, he could move now to oppose this deal, doing as Elias did: Admit his mistake and go after it.

That’s where you stand on this, Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski. Seven lines of defense that, in a community with the minimum amount of honesty and integrity, would have been enough to prevent this legal swindle.

That’s where you stand, Mary Jane and Joe: Screwed. … unless, of course, some last-minute action proves successful. Let’s put it this way: Doug Flutie to Gerard Phelan. Get it?

———————————————————————–

SMOKIN IN THE BOYZ ROOM II

On our little item on the smokers of the Pittsfield Fire Department, we received lots of comment. The policy prohibits any fire fighter hired in 1988 or after from smoking. There’s no question there are fire fighters who smoke. Why, then, does acting chief Robert Czerwinski allow this flaunting of the rules?

When we asked specific question of Czerwinski, he did not respond. We put the same questions to Tim Bartini, head of the fire fighters union. He stated the policy: “Any FF hired after 1988 can not use tobacco products. They would be subject to termination if caught. I will say this that everyone knows of this state law and are aware that there have been cases in MA(not Pittsfield) where the FF or Police officer were terminated.”

We had asked him: “Firemen who smoke. What is the department rule about this? Zero tolerance? How many firemen smoke? The figure I have from my sources is about 20%. That accurate?”

The usually straightforward Bartini, as you can see, did not answer our questions. We ask them again and call upon Bartini to offer specific answers to allay the widespread belief that he is hiding information to protect the puff addicts.

You dodged my question about the smokers. You stated the policy. You did not admit the obvious: There are smokers, hired after 1988. So, “chief,” I ask you point blank:

(a) Are there such smokers on the force?
(b) Do you know who they are, some or all?
(c) Does command know who they are?
(d) Should such members of the department be retained if they refuse to quit?
(e) How many smokers are there. My sources tell me between 10 and 15, probably closer to 15.

And that’s the way it is, Monday, Oct. 22, two thousand twelve.

What, you were expecting Walter Cronkite perhaps?

50 Responses to “MORE ON CONTRACTGATE: AN ALMOST UNBELIEVABLE BREAKDOWN IN WE THE PEOPLE’s LINE OF DEFENSES … plus … PFD: SMOKIN’ IN THE BOYZ ROOM II — WILL TIM BARTINI ANSWER THE QUESTIONS?”

  1. Magic
    October 22, 2012 at 7:01 am #

    Springside House, great idea

  2. Tired of BS
    October 22, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    I’m fairly new to this blog, but why is Czerwinski still an “acting” fire chief as opposed to an appointed one? Aren’t there qualified candidates for the position?

    • danvalenti
      October 22, 2012 at 9:30 am #

      TOBS
      The best answer to that would come from former mayor Jimmy Ruberto and current mayor Dan Bianchi. Ruberto appointed him acting chief. Any “acting” department head is not subject to confirmation of the city council. He serves as the mayor’s sole discretion. That would give the mayor a lot of power over that person. It’s interesting that Bianchi continued the arrangement. It would suggest, though not approve, of course, that the mayor doesn’t want an independent (read: “Strong”) department head but a conformist — someone who won’t “make trouble.” As for qualified candidates, I’m sure the answer to that is “yes.”

  3. FPR
    October 22, 2012 at 7:52 am #

    Dan,

    Another great article. Sometimes Terry Kinnas chimes in on your website but he’s been silent on here lately. Wondering what he’s up to on this unethical behavior of the city?

    You are correct, if this really bad decision on the part of so many is allowed to stand then it forever taints the city of Pittsfield as corrupt.

    I hope you are serious about running for Mayor – you got my full support and I hope next election that every single council member is voted out. Put Joe Nichols back in. Mazzeo started off for the people but slowly turned to the GOB darkside. I’d put her out as she cannot be trusted anymore.

    Dan, with you as CEO of the city and an all new city council, the city of Pittsfield will have fighting chance to be for the people again. Isn’t Mayor Bianchi a crying shame?

    The people of Pittsfield should rise up in this situation and get this overturned. State ethics should come in and really crack down on this unethical behavior that is so obvious.

    The people of Pittsfield should have rose up to stop that stupid airport project also.

    Here is an Abbey Roadish back cover for your album Dan:

    http://i.minus.com/ibrqPBpQHKVT11.jpg

    • danvalenti
      October 22, 2012 at 9:27 am #

      MAny thanks for the support, FPR.

    • AMBROSE
      October 22, 2012 at 11:26 am #

      Dan Valenti will NEVER be mayor of Pittsfield or anyplace else

      • danvalenti
        October 22, 2012 at 11:27 am #

        Nervous, are ye?
        Love it, man. Get converted!

    • Jim Gleason
      October 22, 2012 at 2:55 pm #

      Put Mazzeo out too?DO YOU WATCH THE COUNCIL MEETINGS? OR ARE YOU JUST STUPID/ Or are you a GOB yourself/ Nobody speaks more consistently and passionately for the people, the regular people, of this cesspool of a city, made that way by Squiggy and the Dolts. Get in touch with reality. As far as Dan V. being Mayor of Pittsfield, not a chance.

      • FPR
        October 22, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

        Just stating some opinions is all there Jimmy. Everyone is entitled to one including you.

        What’s with the personal attacks calling someone stupid?

        Are you trying to turn this into Topix.com?

        Dan does have a shot at being Mayor not need to write him off at this point. He seems to be just putting out feelers — a sort of exploratory committee. He’s a long way off. Has to get required amount of signatures and sit down and count the cost of a run.

        No need for the attacks.

        As far as Mazzeo is concerned, putting her support behind and illegal and unethical GOB hatched scheme is not for the people. I used to feel the same as you do about her.

        • Jim Gleason
          October 23, 2012 at 6:54 am #

          Sorry for calling you stupid, I get caught up in the moment sometime. In my opinion, Mrs. Mazzeo has been the best and most eloquent spokesperson for the regular person in Pittsfield in many years.She is far from a GOB. The reason I think Dan V. has no chance to be mayor is that he’s alienated too many groups such as the teachers,Fire and Police to the point of being unelectable. A person can’t get elected without support from a wide demographic of population and Dan V. doesn’t have that support, in my opinion.

          • danvalenti
            October 23, 2012 at 11:15 am #

            JIM
            That’s the standard thinking, but I would point out two things: (a) My candidacy would be unlike any Pittsfield has ever seen. The way I would campaign would charismatically draw a lot of new people from among the electorate who normally would not participate. (b) My support among the unions might be stronger than you realize. My policies concerning the Big 3 would actually make then stronger departments than they are now. The combination of those two, the right amount of money, a decent organization, and the fact that no one would out-hustle me could do the trick.

      • Dawn
        October 22, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

        I voted for her too Jimmy but you gotta admit she’s turned out to be a GOB.

        • Jim Gleason
          October 23, 2012 at 6:56 am #

          Again I ask, do you watched the meetings or have you ever talked to her?

          • Dawn
            October 23, 2012 at 7:23 am #

            I read the Planet. and her Whitney vote was a real surprise to me. Just sayin. She used to fight that kind of a thing jimmy

  4. Tim Bartini
    October 22, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    Dan
    Sorry I thought I was clear.
    A. Are there smokers on the force? Yes I know of about 4 people who smoke but are grandfathered (hired before 1988)
    B. Do I know who they are? some or all? Nobody that can’t smoke has ever been dumb enough to smoke in front of me. I have seen a person use smokeless tobacco and I told him it was not a smart move on their part. He said he was not smokeing tobacco. I said I wouldn’t bet my house on that argument.
    C. Does command know? I know of no one who would be that stupid to smoke in front of command if they were hired after 1988. If they did then they diserve to be fired.
    D. Should they be retained if they refuse to quit? Hell no! They knew that to get the job they could not smoke!
    E. How many smokers are there? I know of 5 members who smoke including office staff. I will say it again I have never seen anyone hired after 1988 smoke in front of me.

    I hope I answered your questions.

    Tim

    • danvalenti
      October 22, 2012 at 11:26 am #

      TIM
      Many thanks for the response.

      • Tim Bartini
        October 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

        Dan
        Like I said Im much better in person or on the phone.
        Ive got nothing to hide. I’ll still think your being fed a line of horse shit from your source. As always I stand by my comments.. Tim

        • danvalenti
          October 22, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

          TIM
          There ARE fire fighters who (a) smoke and (b) who are not grandfathered by the 1988 date. Do you agree? I have multiple sources within the department who agree.

          • Tim Bartini
            October 22, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

            Dan. Maybe there are. But I have never seen them smoke in front of me. I am friends with a lot of the guys but they have not smoked in front of me I’m 53 years old. I don’t hang with the 20 something’s I work with the guys. I don’t hang with them. Do you hang with your students?

          • danvalenti
            October 22, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

            No. I don’t hang with my students, but I can tell you which ones smoke or not.

  5. another observer
    October 22, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    Hey dan , Greatt stuff as usual. Any word on why the fire department is making visits to businessses and telling them they have the wrong liscence for their operation ? is this legit ? or does this have the stink of more sneaky underhanded people trying to make the city more money to cover their $176,000 mistake? its starting to look a lot like the sneakiest players in the game are the alleged enforcers… Keep on em dan, Dont ever stop exposing their poppycock tales ! and their pass the buck show is gettin old too!

  6. AMBROSE
    October 22, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    Springside House – maybe the staff would like to see the student build a house from scratch – do you people realize that you’re talking to each other – most of the citizens of Pittsfield don’t care an iota about contractgate – this includes Joe and Mary K.

    • danvalenti
      October 22, 2012 at 11:26 am #

      Out of touch as ever, my dear fellow. Many care.

    • Magic
      October 22, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      Ambrose,

      I think the citizens of Pittsfield would care if they knew. We only know because we are aware of this site. Still has been no mention in the BB about any of this and I’m sure there will never be.

      You may be right maybe staff wants the students to build a new house, but what is wrong with another project being the Springside house or is it better to give my tax dollars to a contractor. And shouldn’t the students learn how to repair or refurbish as well as build new.

      • Scott
        October 22, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

        I wonder if the Eagle would let a letter to the editor about this slip through. I doubt it but it wouldn’t hurt to try I guess.

        • Stevo
          October 23, 2012 at 6:25 am #

          The answer to that is No. I’ve tried. I’ve also been spiked on the Eagles Disqus forum.

    • Magic
      October 22, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      Ambrose,

      I think the citizens of Pittsfield would care if they knew. We only know because we are aware of this site. Still has been no mention in the BB about any of this and I’m sure there will never be.

      You may be right maybe staff wants the students to build a new house, but what is wrong with another project being the Springside house or is it better to give my tax dollars to a contractor. And shouldn’t the students learn how to repair or refurbish as well as build new.

      • Scott
        October 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

        It appears their parents and the school have convinced them that they are better then that.

        • danvalenti
          October 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

          They’re “The Children,” remember?

        • Tim Bartini
          October 22, 2012 at 6:10 pm #

          Scott Not sure what you mean? I’ve been asked to be on a advisory board and I will make sure every thing is on the up and up

          • Scott
            October 22, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

            I understand but the point is that you want the new construction job for the kids and are willing to ignore the ethics of the situation. New construction is nice! Not too much around these days.

    • Scott
      October 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

      Everyone I mention it t says it’s bs. A clear conflict of interest. As for Dan becoming mayor anything is possible.

    • MaryKate
      October 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

      Ambrose

      Are you always negative or just on PV? Of course the people of Pittsfield care, they care a lot – those who know about it. The BB never reports any thing of importance. Maybe “you people” are just talking to each other, but it has to start somewhere and, as far as I am concerned, we people are just as important, no, sorry, more important, than the dirty players in the GOB. We will make a difference, a big difference. Take a look at past reportings PV has written about…notice that those instances were not allowed to lay down and die a silent death like the GOB would have liked. Know why? PlanetValenti!

      Thank you Dan for your reporting, there are many of us who appreciated it. Should you run for mayor, you have my vote and financial support, (I have had NO desire to donate to any political platform until you announced yours. I hope you go through with it.)

      Signed,

      Mary K

    • Dave
      October 22, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

      Ambrose, that has been the main defense of this going forward, that the students would benefit more from starting from scratch rather than rehabbing an existing structure. While I agree this is probably the case, has every class had this afforded to them? If not, what is the urgency to have this done this year? Is this one of those famous “slippery slopes” where now rehabbing a structure will no longer be good enough? If so, I see a bidding war for any empty land in close proximity to THS. The funniest part of the meeting was when Cote said that one reason people didn’t come forward to bid was because the work was going to be done “by teenagers” and would probably cost the owner more in the long run. Way to stand up for “The Children”!

      • Dawn
        October 22, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

        Yes he did throw the students under the bus.

      • Rick
        October 22, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

        When the Students get out into the real world, they are going to find there is more rehab work than new construction……..

        • danvalenti
          October 23, 2012 at 6:38 am #

          Excellent point, RICK. Those in construction will tell you that rehab jobs offer as many if not more challenges than new work. In rehab, you must re-engineer your way into problems. In new construction, you start from a blank canvass.

  7. Ron Kitterman
    October 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    I’d have to agree with Tim Bartini on this one Dan in G. L. c. 41, Section 101A, smoking prohibited, I would also agree with him about betting the house on it. Translation if the administration wants you gone you would be fired. If you’re one of the team you can smoke em if ya got em.

    • danvalenti
      October 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

      Like a linesman in basketball or a line judge in football: they can call a penalty on every play if they want. Just depends on who has the ball and who doesn’t. Neither games nor city departments should be run on favoritism. It’s up to acting chief Czerwinski to enforce the law.

      • Jim Gleason
        October 22, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

        Dan, there are no linesmen in basketball, only in hockey.

  8. Joe Blow
    October 22, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Why would they get fired? They didn’t fire the cop who was booting steroids.What about the cops and or firemen who were caught on video at Herman’s? Oh and don’t leave out the sheriffs dept.

    • Scott
      October 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

      They get special treatment plus as Ruberto said “it’s a tough job” so he understands and justifies the use of illegal drug use by a cop who has a physically demanding job.

  9. tito
    October 22, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

    I think the Chief is an upstanding person. I was talking with him during the past year and asked him if there were going to be openings at the Fire Department, he steadfastly stated Veterans come first. I think that was admirabale.

    • danvalenti
      October 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

      TITO
      I’m sure the chief IS an upstanding person. We never said otherwise. We said he’s not an effective chief. Agreed: Everyone’s a good guy. That, however, can be and often is irrelevant.

  10. Pat
    October 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

    I voted for Dan Bianchi, but I am not seeing all of the jobs I was hoping he would bring to this city. Where are the jobs? Still waiting and not very patiently. Ruberto didn’t bring any significant jobs to the area and now our current Mayor is no better. I will definitely vote for Mr. Valenti if he runs!!!!!

  11. tito
    October 22, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

    The Red Sox signed John Farrell as manager, what sup? Watch a real Champion tonight, S F baby!

  12. Concerned Citizen
    October 22, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    I don’t know the details of the house contract or ownership of the Springside House but have one thing to chime in people may not realize. In order to work on municipal or state owned buildings contractors usually need to be qualified. Not only do they need to be licensed as a CSL, they usually need to be approved (I believe DCAM is the acronym) by the state. Not only do they need a professional license but need to have usually years of experience and certain insurance requirements in order to meet those qualifications. I’m sure a majority of individual builders and home improvement contractors don’t come close to meeting the state requirements to be qualified. I highly doubt the school department could meet the requirements even having a teacher on-site all the time and probably doesn’t have the budget to carry the necessary insurance.
    I’m not a fan of how the whole contract came out and was awarded, it stinks. On the other hand if the city spent as much time worrying about the 150k worth of labor for the house as and the175k at issue with the solicitor a couple of weeks ago as the millions of dollars our public works needs to maintain services the way they need we could have prevented these 2 issues that are making our city a laughing stock.

    • Scott
      October 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      I imagine the teacher or whoever oversees the projects has a csl and the department is insured I would guess with the liability and higher potential for risk giving that it’s a school with minors performing construction. This isn’t the first time insurance has been brought into the discussion does anyone know what the schools insurance policy is for this type of thing? I know when my son and I slipped on the ice at his last school the principal assured us if it was needed he could connect us with their insurance liability policy holder.

    • Demitrius T. Gladiator
      October 22, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

      Keep in mind unless I am mistaken the vocational stuents are at work on a city owned property right now, that job expires in November. So they obviously must be qualified to do work on municipal owned property. The city owns Springside House. Good points on the Spectrum mess.

  13. GMHeller
    October 23, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    Mr. Valenti,
    No more passes for Mayor Daniel Bianchi.
    The fellow has turned out to be a big disappointment to anyone who thought they were voting for clean government and a clean-up of the various poisons plaguing Pittsfield — those underground, in the air, as well as the kinds infecting the judgment of those who run Pittsfield’s governing institutions.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but so far Mr. Bianchi has accomplished NOTHING in his first year in office.
    Worse though, he’s shown indifference and even spinelessness in failing to stand tough against even petty corruption (if one considers petty Ms. Whitney’s free construction job worth six-figures).
    Mr. Valenti, it’s time to acknowledge what is now becoming painfully obvious about Pittsfield’s clueless Mayor.