Article

PLANET HEARS FROM PRINCIPALS IN THE SHERMAN-YON ACT CALLING FOR NO-CONFIDENCE IN CITY SOLICITOR … BIANCHI AND DEGNAN, CONCILORS SAY, MISLED AND MISREPRESENTED THEM … STILL WAITING TO HEAR FROM THE MAYOR … plus … SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEMBERS, SAVE AN IN-HIDING JIM CONANT, EXPLAIN THEIR ‘YES’ VOTE IN CONTRACTGATE, WITH LOTS OF REGRETS

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, OCT. 5, 2012) — THE PLANET has still to hear from Mayor Dan Bianchi on the petition that will be filed by city council president Kevin Sherman, at-large, and Ward 1 councilor Christine Yon. The Sherman-Yon Act requests the council to issue a “no-confidence” vote in city solicitor Kathy Degnan. THE PLANET will point out that it’s unusual for the mayor not to respond to our request for comment.

In an interview, Yon, who initiated the petition and then sought and received co-sponsorship with Sherman,  made clear that “this petition is not intended to be personal in any way. It’s strictly a measure taken based on her professional conduct, particularly in the Spectrum case.” She said she sought the co-sponsorship of Sherman because of his status as council president and because she “didn’t not want to be out there alone with this, without support, going in.”

Spectrum, of course, is Spectrum Health Systems, which will be putting a methadone clinic to treat heroin addicts in downtown Pittsfield, in the Yon Building (no connection with Chris Yon) on Summer Street, above Berkshire Nautilus.

Yon mentioned a meeting with the mayor in the corner office. Also present was Donna Mattoon, the mayor’s director of administrative services. The meeting took place on June 12, 2012:

“I was asked by Mayor Bianchi to meet with him,” she said. “Mayor Bianchi told me we had a settlement agreement [with Spectrum] that needed his signature. He told me we were giving Spectrum $100,000, and they were locating to Stoddard Avenue. That’s the first time I had heard about the money or the location. I was shocked that he wouldn’t have let me know, before an agreement was reached, since that’s my ward. Those are my constituents. I went home from that meeting with a sick feeling, totally upset. I couldn’t believe they had done this.”

Yon said that after Bianchi informed her of the $100,000 and the location, she asked him “how we came to this settlement without input from anyone. I asked the mayor how he could unilaterally come to a settlement like this. He didn’t answer me. I also asked why we were giving Spectrum $100,000, because I was under the impression [the city was] winning the case. I also asked about the location, why a residential neighborhood. The mayor said it wasn’t a residential neighborhood. I told him it was. He said it wasn’t. We couldn’t agree on that, and after, the mayor asked me not to tell anyone about the settlement agreement. I honored his request and told no one about it, not the agreement, not the $100,000, and not the location. Nothing. I said nothing. I kept my word.”

Later, when word got out about the agreement, Yon says, Bianchi accused her of leaking the news. Yon vehemently denied that, and a heated conversation followed. That was based, Yon said, on other parties who learned of the agreement from a source other than her. She mentioned Bob Skowron, who works at the county jail for Sheriff Tom Bowler.

On June 13, Yon said, she got a call from Debbie Dwyer of Dwyer’s Funeral Home, located next door to the proposed Stoddard Avenue location. Yon said Dwyer asked her “if I knew anything about the methadone clinic on Stoddard Avenue. I asked Debbie who provided her with this information. Debbie informed me … that Bob Skowron, who works at the jail for Tom Bowler, was her source.”

This becomes critical, Yon says, because the next day, June 14, two things happen: (1) Skowron sends a hot e-mail to Mayor Bianchi about the location of the clinic. (2) Solicitor Degnan calls Spectrum’s attorney Paul Holtzman, who is not in. She leaves a voice mail that Yon says “placed the city and myself in a serious potential liability situation.”

Here is a transcription of Degnan’s voice mail to Holtzman, who, remember, would like nothing more than to be able to go to the judge in court and be able to prove Pittsfield is opposed to the clinic because of illegal discrimination against the handicapped (heroin junkies).

[DEGNAN TALKING]: “The mayor has every intention of signing the settlement agreement, but he was trying to allay and get rid of fears of this one councilor [Chris Yon] that I told you about, that she was absolutely certain now Spectrum is going to be awful for Pittsfield and there are going to be people running around in their johnnies. The world is going to come to an end, I guess if that happens, so the mayor wants to allay their fears.”

“I never said any one of those things,” Yon said, calling into the question the integrity and the veracity of Degnan and the mayor. “Attorney Degnan never consulted with me regarding the statements given. I never made any of the statements mentioned in the voice mail. However, regardless of where the statements came from, Degnan provided damaging information to Spectrum against her client, thus opening a fresh case of discriminatory actions [by Spectrum] against the city of Pittsfield.”

In fact, Spectrum used Degnan’s voice mail to Holtzman, along with the mayor’s well-publicized timeline, to file a motion for a preliminary injunction against the city, that the judge granted. According to Yon and Sherman, this demonstrated gross incompetence resulting in a damaging finding for the city on a case in which it had prevailed three times in court and was, in the process, about to set precedent that other municipalities could use in lawfully keeping Spectrum from setting up shop inside their areas.

Bowler and Bianchi, readers may recall, were closely involved in each other’s campaigns in 2011. Matton, who is Bowler’s sister, managed Bowler’s campaign.

Several sources, including councilors, suspect Bowler as the source of the initial leak. Yon said that because the mayor’s office painted her as the source of the leak and also as the cause or “agitator” of the neighborhood protest over the Stoddard Avenue location due to Degnan’s represetations in court, she, Yon, had been personally liable and open to a lawsuit by Spectrum on the basis of violating federal law, specifically, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Yon said it got to the point where she even had to hire her own attorney.

Yon blamed the poor work of Degnan in court, representing the city against Spectrum for this.

“She’s my attorney,” Yon said. “As city solicitor, she represents me. I’m supposed to be able to trust her, but she went to court and basically threw me under the bus, blaming me for the neighborhood protests over the location. I was only doing my job as their representative. I had an obligation to represent their concerns, and that’s what I get for it.”

Here is Sherman’s explanation of the dramatic and unusual move:

Yes, this matter is on the agenda for Tuesday October 9, 2012.  Councilor Yon and I spoke with the Mayor on September 6 to discuss our concerns, many of which stemmed from the actions taken by the Solicitor during the Federal Lawsuit with Spectrum though there are other examples of questionable judgement/advice as well over the past nine months.  Following that conversation in which we asked that our concerns be addressed, I had multiple follow up meetings and conversations with the Mayor.  I attempted to meet with Ms. Degnan and the Mayor but that meeting never came to fruition.  I also reached out to Ms. Degnan last week but a meeting never materialized.   

Given a month from the start of the conversation, it was unclear how or if the concerns would be addressed.  This petition is one of last resort as I would have preferred a collaborative resolution.  Unfortunately, I was left with no choice but to support my colleague, Councilor Yon, who was directly effected by the behavior in the course of litigation along with the residents of Pittsfield who elected me to protect their best interests.  I believe that is what I’m doing in this case.  The concerns that I have, that I’ve heard from colleagues, and that I’ve heard from members of the public are based in fact and is not personal in nature.  The bottom line is there is little evidence that we as a city and as a Council are being represented effectively and, therefore, there is a lack of confidence from that standpoint.   

The effect of the vote would be to put our concerns on the record and to vote accordingly.  If the vote is 11-0 or 0-11 it holds no weight other than to show the extent of the concerns.  Believe me when I say this is the last thing I wanted to do but feel it is my responsibility as Council President and At Large City Councilor to stand behind the residents and my colleague.  If any other department head caused as much harm to another colleague I would follow the same course of action:  Address the situation with the managing authority and attempt to meet with all parties involved to find a resolution.  At the point in time that it appeared a resolution would not be forthcoming, I would take the next necessary step which is what I’ve done here.  I can’t stress enough that this is an action of last resort. 

In my last conversation with the Mayor I stated that if a vote of no confidence was put forth, following that vote no matter the outcome, I would be in his office the following weeks to continue to work with him and his administration on matters vital to our community.  I will not let this one issue grind government to a halt.  I know that we will rise above as professionals once this issue is put to bed and work for the best interest of the City. 

Both Sherman and Yon also agreed. According to them:

* That Degnan’s work on matters other than Spectrum’s also has been subpar.

* That the city of Pittsfield and its citizens are being poorly represented by Degnan, who, they say, is in over her head and incompetent.

* That as a consequence of what they say is her incompetence, the city faces constant risk now any time she has to represent it (meaning councilors, citizens, and any other municipal interest) and that this will eventually come back to haunt the city, “big time,” as it already has, they say, in the “unnecessary” $100,000 payout to Spectrum.

* They tried multiple times to resolve this in a collegial manner with Mayor Bianchi and Degnan, but each time they, especially the mayor, rebuffed their efforts.

Again, THE PLANET tried to get comment from the mayor’s office, but they failed to return our request.

Moreover, as a result of Degnan’s characterizations of Yon’s alleged comments, which Yon denies in total and without qualification, Yon also was subpoenaed on June 26. [EDITOR'S NOTE: THE PLANET INITIALLY REPORTED THAT DEGNAN ALSO WAS SUBPOENAED. THAT WAS INCORRECT. ONLY YON RECEIVED A SUBPOENA ON JUNE 26. IT WAS SENT TO HER THROUGH DEGNAN, WHO WAS YON'S ATTORNEY IN THE CASE]. She was asked Next week, likely on Monday or Tuesday, THE PLANET shall have more about the subpoenas and other aspects of this nightmarish case — nightmarish for the city and its poor, bedraggled, misrepresented residents.

It comes down to this: If counselors cannot rely on their own attorney for advocacy, and even worse, have to worry about that same counsel acting in a way that violates attorney-client privilege and supplying friendly information for the other side, nothing good will come of it going forward. THE PLANET arrives at this position from a neutral, objective, dispassionate review of the record. It’s not about GOBs or non-GOBs. It’s not about politics, primarily, though politics does enter the situation. It’s about whether or not the city of Pittsfield has first-rate representation  on any court actions — and there are plenty of them — that affect the municipality.

In a brief interview later this afternoon, Barry Clairmont, councilor at large, said he would advise solicitor Degnan to appear at the Oct. 9 council meeting with an attorney, who would speak for her “and explain to us why we are wrong. I don’t think that case can be made.”

Ask the question: Would you want to go into court with Kathy Degnan as your attorney?

As Perry Mason was never quoted as saying, “Yikes.”

—————————————————————————–

SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEMBERS EXPLAIN YES VOTES ON CONTRACTGATE

On the case of Contractgate — the agreement reached between Lynn Whitney, the secretary of the direction of vocational education in the Pittsfield Public Schools, Frank Cote, and the PPS to have free slave labor for Whitney to build her a new house courtesy of  Taconic High School carpentry students — we polled various members of the school committee, the ones who voted for this sickening deal, to explain their vote.

The matter is now before the city council. Council president Kevin Sherman confirmed that the matter is on the agenda for Oct. 9, which ought to be a hum-dinger of a meeting.

“I have great concerns on the legality of the bidding and poor perception.” Sherman told THE PLANET. “I have a standing policy of allowing any item brought forward to be placed on the agenda. That way there is no bias or discrimination. I believe in open government.” Sherman says that “as it stands currently, I will not be in support of it.” He did say he reserves the right to change this position pending open debate.

Here, we post, without comments, the responses of school committee chairman Alf Barbalunga, Dan Elias,  Kathy Amuso, and Kathy Yon. We have already covered the only lone dissenting vote, Terry Kinnas, who first and alone uncovered the extremely odd irregularities of the contract.  Amuso and Dan Bianchi were not present for the vote. Barbalunga, Elias, Jim Conant, and Yon voted for the deal. We did not receive a response from Conant, who apparently is in hiding from accountability.

We are publishing the responses verbatim, as we received them:

ALF BARBALUNGA

before the 8/22 meeting & vote i was not aware that lynn whitney was a pps employee.  when we found out, mrs. yon asked on-the-record (obviously all these meetings can be viewed & my comments confirmed) if there was any conflict of interest issue, and the response was no.  that is why i voted yes

i would like to note that at this past September 27th meeting, all seven school committee members, including mr. kinas & mayor bianchi, voted to approve and forward this contract to the city council for final review.  that being said, i stated that i absolutely disagreed with the ethics opinion, which stated that this may be a permissible contract.  furthermore, i believe mrs. amuso wisely asked our attorney at least once, what action the school committee should take.  the response was to approve and forwards to the city council.  finally, i stated in my opinion this was also a curriculum issue, and these students were told that this construction project would break ground on September 28th, and we had duty to attempt to follow through on that arrangement, with the understanding we were already behind the eight ball 

i have full faith in attorney russ dupere; to the best of my knowledge there is no precedence for this type of ethics opinion & unfortunately attorney dupere was not kept in the loop by the city solicitor, informing him of legal advice she was providing others.  it is also not for a lack of this chair over the past five weeks, repeatedly requesting details and further information.  i believe our attorney, on behalf of the impacted students, was trying to make the best of a challenging official state ethics opinion

i have no official recommendation to the city council on this matter, unless i am specifically called upon.  i have full confidence in council president sherman and the other ten councilors to vote in the best interest of “the city”, which can sometimes be a conflicting analysis.  i will also say that no individual school committee member should officially represent the school committee as a whole at anytime, with limited exceptions of the chair doing so
if the city council does not approve this agenda item at the October 9th meeting, i would be supportive of rebidding the entire project, with a revised policy, including enhancements regarding public notice, and restrictions on who may be eligible to respond 

finally, some general comments:  i would like to note this process commenced before dr. noseworthy & dr. crowe assumed leadership of our school district.  on a personal note, i back in the early/mid 80’s my grandfather’s construction company partnered with the pittsfield public schools.  however, i believe the formula was the students would provide labor for the curriculum experience of building a new home, and then the home would be put on the market.  there was no predetermined home recipient, and it was the contractor’s obligation/liability to sell the home for whatever the market value may have been.  if we continue with this program, this is a practice we may want to return to

—– 00 —–

KATHLEEN AMUSO

We received limited applications for this project.  I feel this was the
best project for our vocational students.  It should have been
investigated more before the vote.  Sometimes, because of timing, we do
move things along a little quicker than we should and not spend enough
time reviewing them.  We should have done a better job with the proposal
and the process.  I would recommend that the city council approve this
project.  I would like the students in the vocational program to begin
working on the house.  If the ethics ruling came back differently, then
I would say that we need to rebid.  We should have done things better on
the front end of this process.  I do not want the students penalized.  

—– 00 —–

DAN ELIAS

I put faith in the fact that administration would produce a document that was legal and moral.  To be completely honest with you I was only half paying attention at the time, my mind was on the situation with Bill Sturgin and radio problem.  I was very bothered by what took place and my mind wandered.  I have approved these vocational building projects year after year and wrongly assumed that there would be no problems.  Do I regret the vote, absolutely.  I would have never voted under any circumstance for a project to be built for a school employee, I did not make the connection and I am disappointed it would progress to us in the first place.  I had no problem in sending it to the city council because I felt they would not approve it and would force us to re bid.  My biggest regret is that so much time has elapsed and the Students will now pay the price.  

—– 00 —–

KATHY YON

Yon replied to our inquiry in person, in a chance interview conducted on the fly in Pittsfield. Essentially, she said that she voted for the deal because of assurances given to the committee on Aug. 22 by the committee attorney and by the school department administration.

—– 00 —–

The matter is now in the hands of the Pittsfield City Council. The council, because it is not the school committee and therefore not in conflict with the contract between the schools and a school department employee, represents Lynn Whitney’s last chance to get this deal pushed through. If the council approves, the deal is on. THE PLANET also says that if this happens, there will be an uproar on the part of all good citizens who are interested in honest government. If, on the other hand, the council rejects this, the matter can be rebid again, under equal terms with everyone getting a shot, and the carpentry students at THS can get to work.

———————————————————–

WHEN THE FIRST YOUNG CARPENTER IN WHITNEY’S BOUNDLESS MIND A WORK TO OUT-DO IMMORTAL ROME DESIGNED, CONVINCED, AMAZED KINNAS CHECKED THE BOLD DESIGN AND RULES AS STRICT THEIR LABOR’ED WORK CONFINED.

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.


103 Responses to “PLANET HEARS FROM PRINCIPALS IN THE SHERMAN-YON ACT CALLING FOR NO-CONFIDENCE IN CITY SOLICITOR … BIANCHI AND DEGNAN, CONCILORS SAY, MISLED AND MISREPRESENTED THEM … STILL WAITING TO HEAR FROM THE MAYOR … plus … SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEMBERS, SAVE AN IN-HIDING JIM CONANT, EXPLAIN THEIR ‘YES’ VOTE IN CONTRACTGATE, WITH LOTS OF REGRETS”

  1. Lawrence McClellan
    October 5, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    What a convoluted Pandora’s box this opens for the real winners of Spectrumgate, the media law lawyers who specialize in defamation, slander, and libel. The internet is evolving into a cash cow for these type of tort actions. I trust Ms. Yon, Mr. Sherman, Mr.Clairmont, Mr. Lothrup, Mr. Krol, et al, have homesteaded their properties as civil action is a two way platform and can be heard outside of Berkshire county. Their public statements must be absolute and definitively the truth in regards to the mayor and Ms. Degnan or they can be subject personally and perhaps collectively to civil censure. For example, can they beyond a reasonable doubt prove that the mayor is and intended to be a”liar. Not only have reputations already been impugned , but it would be relatively easy to show future potential earnings and careers have been damaged.
    DV a subpoena could be headed your way from an adverse plaintiff.
    Let the games begin.

    • danvalenti
      October 5, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

      LAWRENCE
      Well, yes, anything can be actionable. Winning, however, is the thing. Someone could sue the councilors you mention claiming that their statements during session actually contain coded messages asking people to burn down the White House. A suit could be filed. Could such a suit be won? Doubtful. I can’t speak for any of my Right Honorable Good Friends, but I have a strong sense they have given this matter a lot of thought, soul searching, and care. I believe Yon and Sherman when they both say they did not take their action of no-confidence lightly. They both said it was a measure of last resort. I don’t sense, despite my first inclination to the contrary, that the actions from the councilors you mention is first and foremost politically motivated. Do politics enter into it? Only they can answer. Perhaps so, but based on my independent review of the case, after hearing from both sides, I judge everyone to be acting first in the best interests of the city. The political fallout that may come seems to be gravy, if you will. And Lawrence, they are not “games.” This is serious business. A person with the solid character of Kevin Sherman doesn’t do something like that to play games. That’s why one has to stand up and take notice: The action is extraordinary. Thanks for the post.

    • B. Clairmont
      October 5, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

      Lawrence,

      For the record, I never called the Mayor a “liar”. I did say, in my opinion, I believe the administration materially misrepresented the facts. I stand by that statement.

      Barry

  2. anytime
    October 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    DV by far your site has had the best coverage of any of this. The BB story today is just a rehash of your work. You ought to get a commission on eavery copy they sell which I understand isn’t that many these days.

  3. Scott
    October 5, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    See it’s for the kids leave it alone so they can get to their project and remember if it falls through they can come work at my house. (I wouldn’t want the children to suffer.)

  4. Wilson
    October 5, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    No one representing Pittsfield is “first-rate”, certainly not Yon, who sounds like she is just worked up because she feels slighted. It’s not a matter for the Council, but one she should have resolved by punching or sobbing into her pillow

  5. Tim Bartini
    October 5, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

    Dan, As a parent of a senior carpentry student at Taconic, I wish you would stop using the term “Slave labor”. This is a poor choice of words that my son says insults him immensely ! The students do the work by their own choice and they enjoy it. I know using these words makes your writing more sensational ands led your readers excited, but maybe you should think about what others feelings first.

    • Scott
      October 5, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

      The term is being used due to the nature of the exploitation of the students by administration. Tell your kid to get thicker skin and to contact me if this don’t pan out I’ll put him to work.

      • Tim Bartini
        October 5, 2012 at 7:43 pm #

        Scott My “Kid” doesn’t need your “free labor experience “. He knows how to replace siding . O’h by the way he’s a very good painter also. What he would like is experience building new construction . When he applies at University of NY Dehi.it would look best on his app that he has new construction experience . To say that the work that these students do is “slave labor” is a injustice to all citizens who have family who grew up in slavery! My son and his class mates enjoy working and learning about construction.

        • Scott
          October 6, 2012 at 3:43 am #

          I’m sure they do and it’s disgusting that the administration is exploiting that for their own benefit. You have my info feel free to contact me if he needs side work while in college those people have been the best workers for me.

    • danvalenti
      October 5, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

      TIMMY
      With all due respect, you are over-reacting, as a protective dad should do at times. Your son has unfortunately come of age in a school system that has been indoctrinated in political correctness. “Slave labor” is a phrase that adequately describes the situation. It is accurate, and moreover, it contains the connotations that your son is reacting to, however he is misreading them. The phrase implies how Ms. Whitney and Mr. Cote have apparently attempted to use their inside position to their own selfish benefit. Also, I journalists had to consider the “feelings” of every potential reader, nothing would get published of a substantial nature. We both agree, Timmy, that it is unfortunate that the carpentry students got caught in the middle of this regretful play. The blame for that, however, is not on the people who blew the whistle or who publicized why the whistle was blown. The blame goes to a couple of ethically challenged administrators who thought they wouldn’t get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. That’s where your outrage, and your son’s, should be directed. Appreciate your views.

      • Levitan
        October 8, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

        Dan, Tim has a valid complaint. The students’ relationship to the work and projects is apprentice. The reward of training takes the place of cash payment.

        The students have a reasonable complaint about the denigration of their labors.

        • danvalenti
          October 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

          LEV
          From the standpoint of Ms. Whitney, she’s getting free coerced labor. The term is not to denigrate the students but the recipient of their work. The term stands.

  6. Gene
    October 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    When I first heard of this I also thought these guys were being “political” but having read through the documents and tried to follow arguments as best I can I think the concern of councilors is legitimate. Looks like attorney Degnan gave city underwhelming representation.

  7. Ron Kitterman
    October 5, 2012 at 2:50 pm #

    I heard Councilor Clairmont’s explanation on the reasons why they could not address this matter in executive session and am not totally satisfied that this matter, can not be addressed in executive session as it relates to her reputation.

    • B. Clairmont
      October 5, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

      Ron,

      Call the Attorney General Office yourself if you don’t believe me.

      Ask for the people who handle open meeting law questions.

      Barry

  8. Richard Fitzwell
    October 5, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    This Town Needs an Enema!

  9. CONCERNED
    October 5, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Dan would have to agree with Tim Barnini, slave labor comment is out of line

    • Berkshire Ex-Pat
      October 5, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

      DV is an exceptionally precise rhetorician, and his term “Slave Labor” is not far off. We are talking about labor that is both FREE and INVOLUNTARY. Aside from negative connotations regarding our nation’s shameful history regarding slavery, how is this NOT slave labor?

      • Tim Bartini
        October 5, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

        Berkshire Ex Pat. My son enjoys learning how to build different things. He also had a choice if he wanted to be in this program .I’m pretty sure the people who where abused as slaves didn’t have a choice. Your reasoning scares me . You do know this is 2012 ?

      • Vin
        October 5, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

        How is it INVOLUNTARY if the kids are getting credit and gaining exposure to an industry within which they hope to build a career? If I’m a builder looking for new hires, I’ll probably take the kid with the experience building houses, as part of a team, vs. the kid who built a few bird/dog houses in woodshop.

        • Scott
          October 6, 2012 at 3:40 am #

          Actually I’ve learned in my own business it’s better to train people I’ve had better luck with people who have very little experience in the trade then the people who claim to know it all. No one is saying the kids don’t deserve to be involved in the project the issue is with the person who “won” the bid.

          • Vin
            October 6, 2012 at 4:48 am #

            Two different skill sets. A monkey can paint.

        • Scott
          October 6, 2012 at 8:58 am #

          Vin your attempt to insult me failed I know not anyone can paint and I do more then just that. I like how you cowards come online and insult people but are too afraid to use your real name. At least if I knew who you really were I could maybe feel something otherwise you’re just a fictional character with a chip on it’s shoulder. A monkey get’s more respect then you.

          • Vin
            October 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

            Not meant as an insult Scott, just a fact. You should take your own advice and get some thicker skin if you can’t handle that.

          • danvalenti
            October 6, 2012 at 5:44 pm #

            GENTLEMEN, GENTLEMEN
            Please, keep the debate hard-hitting but above the belt.

      • Levitan
        October 8, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

        Have you ever heard of apprenticeship? That’s how a tradesman learns his craft. They don’t really teach it in school.

        • danvalenti
          October 8, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

          Apprenticeship is all well and good. I was one myself, learning the trade of drafting back in high school. What makes this case exceptional and unacceptable is that these students are being exploited by two school administrators who, on the basis of their inside positions, engineered what amounts to a rigged deal. No good, and it must be stopped.

    • Scott
      October 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

      Not if it’s comprehended correctly. Word association is imbedded it’s a major part of how we learn. So when you say slave the average white middle class kid would automatically think black and who want’s to be compared to “those” people?

      • Tim Bartini
        October 5, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

        Scott. My son has taken US History classes and he has studied about slavery . He knows what the people of color have gone through. He has good friends who are minority. Being a middle class white person has nothing to do with it

        • Scott
          October 6, 2012 at 3:38 am #

          Maybe they should teach ethics next then he would understand the conflict.

  10. joetaxpayer
    October 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    Since this vote is non-binding,what is tthe point.Sounds like Mrs Yonn feels disrespected.There is no reason for this.Lets be adults and see if they cannot talk this out.If not I hope the other councilors do not back this.Nothing posittive well come out of this.

  11. Evian
    October 5, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    I’m with Berkshire Expat, I think DVs term ‘slave labor’ is accurate enough it also has a certain pizzazz that Mr. Bartini admits. Keep using it Dan. On council, I hope they vote to support Yon petition.

    • Tim Bartini
      October 5, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

      Evian. I didn’t say pizzzzzazz. I simply stated that Dan used it to rile up the Planet faithful . I think I made my point !

      • Berkshire Ex-Pat
        October 6, 2012 at 5:56 am #

        I think Mr. Bartini could use a martini.

  12. Terry Kinnas
    October 5, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    Point(s) of Clarification and Editorial

    Mr. Barbalunga should do his due diligence before voting and responding as Chairman of the School Committee. If Mr. Barbalunga had actually read the information packets provided by the school administration on Fridays before the school committee meetings it was clearly stated that Ms. Whitney is an employee of the Pittsfield Public Schools. Additionally, there was no motion to approve and send the contract to the City Council; the motion was to send the contract to the City Council. Please read the minutes of Sept. 27th. Additionally I read the section from the State Ethics Commission letter that stated the reason that the City Council had to vote on the contract. Mr. Barbalunga also has a copy of the letter. I did talk with the school department attorney after the Aug 22nd meeting and made a determination on the information I received not to file a complaint with the Board of Overseers. The information that was provided by a school administrator was deceptive at best.

    The main reason that I voted no was the point that the public advertisement and the actual contract were not the same. It was an obvious violation of the law. If Mr. Barbalunga had read our own policy manual and the City Charter, the City Solicitor is the School Committee’s legal advisor. Mr. Barbalunga, as to your comments on your being the sole representative of the school committee, check your facts again. You cannot rule it is ok to break the law; remember we have a fiduciary responsibility to all the taxpayers as well as an oath of office.

    Editorial: Mr. Barbalunga, please, as a representative of the City of Pittsfield’s School Department, get your grammar and spelling together. Do you remember what a proper noun is? I feel sorry for the students that may not have an immediate opportunity to practice their trade. However, if all those adults were really concerned about the students, they would have done their due diligence so these problems would not have been created. I ask the city council to file so the process can be done correctly.

    Mr. Barbalunga, I did make a motion to go out to bid again: there was no second.

    • Scott
      October 5, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

      You can tell you were in the students best interest because you noticed the roofing conflict but even you were not aware that she was an employee but now you’re saying you were? I think that’s a huge conflict you guys should draw names out of a hat next time.

    • taxmano
      October 6, 2012 at 5:13 am #

      Alfie Barbalunga could care less about the school committee or the students it serves. He clearly is using the experience as a stepping stone to ascend to city council. This well connected young man is ambitious (read: power hungry), as evidenced by his hostile take over of the school commitee after only one term of experience. However, voters should remember that when it comes to Alfie actually showing up to his do-nothing job, he has been far less ambitious. This is documented.

  13. Tom Verizer
    October 5, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    Mr. Kinnas, thank you for your explanation and your work for taxpayers. DV thanks for the outstanding work on this site.

  14. Pauly
    October 5, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Tim Bartini is a joke takes from the city any chance he gets, if it benefits him in any way.Does he use his position as fire dept. union pres to line his pockets? Has he payed union dues his entire career? Doesn’t surprise me that he is in support of corruption as long as his family benifits from it.

  15. dusty
    October 6, 2012 at 12:55 am #

    I think it’s truly truly sad that people would get themselves on a committee dealing with the education and welfare of children and then use that position for purposes other than that. How do they sleep at night?

    • billy
      October 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

      what other purpose are they using it for? we all have other purposes in life. striving for higher office is not a bad thing. it is who you really serve while your in there. yourself or the people who elected you.. only time and your voting record of service flushes out the public servants from the politicians

  16. GMHeller
    October 6, 2012 at 2:07 am #

    Alfred Barbalunga, Jr. writes:
    “before the 8/22 meeting & vote i was not aware that lynn whitney was a pps employee. when we found out, mrs. yon asked on-the-record (obviously all these meetings can be viewed & my comments confirmed) if there was any conflict of interest issue, and the response was no. that is why i voted yes”

    Mr. Barbalunga fails to state the name of the person who responded to Ms. Yon’s question with the answer that there was “no” conflict of interest?
    Just how, in any stretch of the imagination, could an arrangement be considered legitimate wherein as much as $150,000 of free student labor is provided to a senior school system official’s personal secretary?
    How could such a deal not be replete with conflict-of-interest?
    None of this passes the smell test.

  17. FPR
    October 6, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    So, while interesting all the he said she said, fact is what happens now? Is there enough time to save the THS Carpentry program for the students this year? I’m sure there is another house that can be built that would satisfy the requirements for the vocational education of these students.

    As far as Mr. Cote and Ms. Whitney are concerned, they should face disciplinary action of proper proportions for any ethical and legal violations of the laws here.

    As far as “Slave Labor” terminology is concerned. It is not always tied to what happened in America. There have been times in history when people volunteered to be slaves for a certain term. The term used in this situation accurately describes the situation from the point of view of Ms. Whitney.

    There should be no offense taken for these words. This whole political correctness in society is way over the top.

    • danvalenti
      October 6, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

      FPR
      Right on, brother, especially you last two sentences.

  18. billy
    October 6, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    i feel sad that people disparage alf s reputation.with out stating any facts.to support it.`when he was not` chairman he was a gracious member of the school commitee,not allways agreeing but following the the protocol that was established.when he became chairman he was lambasted for several weeks but kept his civility he is trying to find i middle ground in these tough economic times get a great education and deliver value for the tax dollar while not getting paid`

    • taxmano
      October 6, 2012 at 6:58 am #

      @Billy,

      For starters, here are some “facts to support” critiques concerning Alfie’s character.

      http://www.thetranscript.com/ci_15155729

      Let us know if you need more. . .

      • billy
        October 7, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

        yes i remember that has a ruling come down, it said there was a independent investgator, if they find fault then your argument holds water but until then its the rough and tumble land of politics. and im sure the barbalungas have there share of detractors

  19. CONCERNED
    October 6, 2012 at 6:22 am #

    I don’t agree with FPR First of all these young adults take offense to it. I agreed with him political correctness is over the top. But they are not slave labor. They are doing these projects to learn and at the same time helping some families ( I thought ) I also thought these projects were done to better a family in the low income, that could not afford a home??? Guess I was wrong

  20. billy
    October 6, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    when their are issues that arise anyone on the school commitee can approach their lawyer,if it does not pass the smell test.i am domfounded why that did not take place and how it found its way to the city council and the city solicitor?

    • danvalenti
      October 6, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      BILLY
      That’s it, precisely: Contractgate doesn’t pass “the smell test.” It didn’t from the moment this surfaced.

      • billy
        October 7, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

        what does the school dept lawyer do was he sleeping at the coffee machine. he should be the filter through which all those types of programs are screened for such irregulairties
        `

  21. C. J. Haralson
    October 6, 2012 at 6:33 am #

    Dan: Did you edit or redact some of your own writing and statements ? I read your statements early on when first posted and in order to more fully comprehend the events. I talked to other Planet readers and they also noticed the changes. For example, you no longer include anything about Ms. Yon’s daughter and he experience as a nurse at Baystate or Ms. Yon asking Chief Mike Wynn to accompany her to her deposition or even some quoted words from Ms. Yon’s heated exchange with the mayor. Why the change ?

    • danvalenti
      October 6, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      CJ
      Yes, I did, to reflect a more accurate representation of the story based on our interviews.

  22. tito
    October 6, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    Alert! This weeks King of the Swamp’ award goes to Terry Kinnas…for showing his allegiance with his NO VOTE on the Taconic debacle, then throwing Alf under the bus in today’s commentary. He truly is the voice of the people!

    • dusty
      October 8, 2012 at 12:56 am #

      Are you sure that Alf did not crawl under the bus himself? Looks that way to me.

  23. Ben Weldon
    October 6, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    If Degnan was a good attorney wouldn’t she have her own practice or be employed by a reputable law firm? I believe she will cost the city big buck$ if she is not replaced. BTW, why did Ruberto can her?

    Ben Weldon

    • joetaxpayer
      October 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

      Ben 66 k does not get you perry mason.

      • danvalenti
        October 6, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

        Where is the Hon. Samuel Landa, esq., when we need him?

      • billy
        October 7, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

        rich dahoney then was worth what hecwas paid. you can be penny wise and pound foolish. ex… spectum

        • billy
          October 7, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

          oops sorry spectrum

    • danvalenti
      October 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

      BEN
      I asked Jimmy Ruberto why he dismissed Degnan. His answer: “Because she’s incompetent.”

      • dusty
        October 8, 2012 at 12:57 am #

        And Ruberto should definitely recognize incompetence when he sees it.

  24. Not buying it
    October 6, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    Perhaps Mr. Kinnas should iniatate a no confidence vote on Alf. This city is infested with people in power positions who do more harm than good. At least there’s one consistent element to the town. It doesn’t what things cost, when you simply pass it on to the taxpayers. I sure wish I had a bottomless money source!

    • Not buying it
      October 6, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      Sorry, should read “It doesn’t matter…”

  25. Mike
    October 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Looks like ‘Billy’ and Alf should attend the same remedial grammar and spelling classes together, if that doesn’t violate the laws of physics.

    • danvalenti
      October 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

      MIKE
      Don’t know about the laws of physics but it definitely would violate one of the laws of diminishing returns.

    • billy
      October 7, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

      keep it civil mike .you a english teacher

  26. Gene
    October 6, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

    Term “slave labor” is okay by me. DV makes a good point about too much political correctness. Whitney contract stinks and council should kill it. On city solicitor, I applaud Mr. Sherman and Ms. Yon for speaking up. Hope council aproves no confidence vote.

  27. joetaxpayer
    October 6, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Slave labor is so last century get real good luck to alll phs teams girls soccer rule

  28. FPR
    October 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    Hey Dan,

    Maybe the Liberals can turn this whole thing around and make you apologize for Slavery in America.

    Or maybe they can get Judge Vega to issue a court order to make you apologize for Slavery in America.

    After all that is the issue here. Let’s not lose focus.

    • danvalenti
      October 6, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

      FPR
      Yes, those are excellent suggestions. Amazing how Contractgate has turned into a debate on slavery. You’re right: Slavery is the fault of Dan Valenti. Dan Valenti should be forced to make a public apology in Park Square that there was slavery in America. That will see that the story doesn’t get sidetracked.

      • BEE
        October 14, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

        And let’s make him stand on a wooden crate

  29. Pittsfield Patriot
    October 6, 2012 at 8:19 pm #

    D VALENTI does not have a messiah complex. They really are expecting him to save them. From what, though? DV how does it feel to be the most notorious and loneliest man in town?

    • FPR
      October 6, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

      GOB? In fact your dialect gives you away.

      Dan’s not trying to save anyone from anything but as a journalist reporting the truth he excels beyond your wildest imagination.

      Sometimes the truth stings a bit doesn’t it?

      Dan’s not lonely Mr. Pittsfield Patriot. I got his back. As well as many others. So should you. Cliffy? Ms. Whitney? or whoever you are.

  30. FPR
    October 6, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    2012 and Political Correctness:

    Remember Archie Bunker? All in the Family? One of Thee most popular shows in the history of television. Do you think they could air that show today?

    Meat Head, you people is you people, dumb pollock, etc. Do you know how many spin offs of that show happened. George Jefferson, movin on up to the east side………

    Ok, how about Hot Dogs. Armour Hot dogs? What kind of kids love Armour Hot Dogs? Fat kids, skinny kids, kids who clime on rocks, tough kids, sissy kids even kids with Chicken pox love hot dogs, Armour hot dogs, the dogs kids love to bite.

    Do you honestly think they could air that commercial today?

    Hmmm?

    No, because why?

    Its Politically incorrect. Yet, this was only 30 years or so ago?

    Yet my child is offended over the use of “Slave Labor”. ????

    So we’ve gone light years ahead in our “Evolutionary process” in 30 years where we cannot utter the phrase “Slave Labor” ?

  31. Ron Kitterman
    October 6, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

    Dan’s gonna ‘put y’all back in chains’

  32. dusty
    October 7, 2012 at 2:14 am #

    I would like to see written comments from Clairmont, Lothrop and Krol as to their feelings about contractgate. I mean a real comments not some blathering skirting the issue.

    No, I am not holding my breath

    • billy
      October 7, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

      They probably will they are dealing with one mess at a time

      • billy
        October 7, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

        its called showing leadership. seeing a wrong and doing what they were elected for and righting it.and protecting the city . they didnt cause the mess . when something is so bla.ntently wrong you dont ignore it because your elected to serve the best interests of the city.

        • dusty
          October 8, 2012 at 12:59 am #

          They seem to ignore it just fine…unless it helps them denigrate the mayor…then it’s full speed ahead. Like I said before…they are very selective about which wrongs they want to right. Very selective indeed.

          • billy
            October 8, 2012 at 11:58 am #

            denigrate the mayor? what cave have you been living in? these fine men are elected officals . , enough people saw that and voted them into office. your harsh statements are just that harsh stetements.,… the wounds that have happened to the solictor and those invoved were self inflicted.as court documentd and a welll written editorial illustrate..when will accountability and self examination become the norm instead of deflection and denial of the facts that are in front of us and are what caused the problem we found are self in. if your talking about being selective please back it up with something instead of snipping at the heels of honorable men..

          • danvalenti
            October 8, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

            Agree, BILLY, accountability and stepping up like a man (or woman) is in short supply in public office, and in society, these days.

        • BEE
          October 14, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

          billy, I agree with you, in fact I Agree with most of what you write.

    • B. Clairmont
      October 8, 2012 at 4:30 am #

      I can’t comment. I have a conflict on the issue and will abstain from voting.

      Barry

      • danvalenti
        October 8, 2012 at 7:42 am #

        BARRY
        As I understand it, you conflict is that Ms. Whitney is a client? Is that correct? If so, you have done the right thing.

        • B. Clairmont
          October 8, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

          Correct.

  33. Scott
    October 7, 2012 at 3:53 am #

    “GENTLEMEN, GENTLEMEN
    Please, keep the debate hard-hitting but above the belt.”

    Dan, that’s the price I pay for using my real identity. But you know what, whatever I say on here I would say in real life in an actual verbal exchange. I think if you made everyone use their real name the conversations would go further and have more veracity. It starts to get a topix mentality where people just hurl insults and avoid the real issue. Do I personally think its fair to the kids? No I do not. But that anger should be directed at the school admin not you or anyone else for their opinion. It’s also unfair to society especially someone who could really benefit from the kids hard work with this program but instead the administration has raped it and used it for their own perverse and selfish needs. By all means shoot the messenger.

  34. CONCERNED
    October 7, 2012 at 5:14 am #

    You can use the phase “slave labor” all you want. However it does not fix here with these young adults trying to learn a trade and help people. Slave laborer had no choice but to do what there master tells them to do. These young adult have a choice and are doing this because its what they want to do. This is my only point about the phase.

    • Scott
      October 7, 2012 at 5:58 am #

      Good point and I bet there is someone more deserving and in need then the secretary the kids could help that would leave everyone feeling better about the program.

  35. tito
    October 7, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    A project this large and costly should prohibit any employee from benefiting from this program, period. Just the fact that she has immediate access to the project as secretary to the administrator, sending a red flag. How could the School Committee vote in the affirmative after seeing the contract language as such. It is clear the school committee is passing this to the council to correct their decision. Where was the city attorney on this one?

  36. Tim
    October 7, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    Elias actually said he wasn’t paying attention?! What?! And his excuse was the radio program that they did nothing about? I hope that is remembered during the next election.

    • dusty
      October 8, 2012 at 1:01 am #

      At least he was honest about it. Most of them seem to be non responsive for some reason. Wonder why.

      • danvalenti
        October 8, 2012 at 7:42 am #

        DUSTY
        I agree. Honesty shows through in Dan Elias’ comments. How can one not admire that?

        • Tim
          October 8, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

          He’s incompetent, but its ok because he is honest about being so.

          • Levitan
            October 8, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

            His ‘honesty’ betrays a lack of diligence.

          • danvalenti
            October 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

            TIM
            I don’t think Elias is incompetent. He is, on the whole, a solid member of that committee. He made a mistake on this vote, and he was man enough to admit it.

          • dusty
            October 8, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

            His honesty makes his incompetence a tad more acceptable than the others who are just plain incompetent , without the honesty to own up to it.

  37. billy
    October 8, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    does that mean he’s the smartest dumb guy?

    • Levitan
      October 9, 2012 at 6:07 am #

      80% brains on the School Comm belong to Kinnas and the Mayor, the others share the 30%.

      Have you sat in on one of those meetings. Most of the members are slumbering away, and look around the room before they cast a vote.

      • Levitan
        October 9, 2012 at 6:10 am #

        *20%. Yeah, brains are hard to find some days.

  38. Tim
    October 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Dan, ill agree to disagree on that one based on my experiences…