PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, OCT. 9, 2012) — Counting down the hours until tonight’s showdown city council meeting, in which my Right Honorable Good Friends tackle two marquee issues:


ADD #1 10/9/12, LATER IN THE MORNING: Isn’t it interesting that despite the meeting tonight  showing all signs of being memorable and certainly of high relevance for every citizen of Pittsfield, the Boring Broadsheet has not a single word telling citizens about it. You’d think they were trying to downplay the agenda, eh?  Nonetheless, they will wake up a reporter out of hibernation and send him or her to ostensibly cover the meeting, when what the BB will file in the paper will most likely be pure interpretive fiction. For some reason, the BB seems mighty uncomfortable covering Contractgate and Solicitorgate. Wonder why?



Agenda item 12: The no-confidence vote in the professional competency of city solicitor Kathy Degnan, as petitioned and submitted by Council president Kevin Sherman and Ward 1 councilor Christine Yon.

Agenda item 13: Contractgate, wherein Lynn Whitney, secretary to the assistant superintendent of schools, Frank Cote (the man who sought the bids!) wants to receive up to $150,000 free slave labor from carpentry students at Taconic High School to build her a new home, a clear and present ethical violation and probably a legal one.

The meeting will be televised on PCTV. It will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Some Idle Thoughts 

* On Sunday, Oct. 7, Venezuela went to the polls and re-elected Hugo Chavez to another six-year term as that country’s president. He narrowly won against a strong bid by challenger Henrique Capriles and a revived opposition. THE PLANET refrains from the political aspects of what this might mean to Venezuela, its allies, and the United States. Here’s the thing, though: Would anyone care to guess the turnout? More than 81% of the electorate voted. Kind of puts the United States of Amerikant to shame, eh?

* Kudos to … Kevin Sherman for backing councilor Yon on the no-confidence position … Melissa Mazzeo for her impassioned defense of Degnan in a phone conversation with THE PLANET Sunday night … Terry Kinnas for being the only school committee member to sniff out the irregularities in Contractgate, after his colleagues approved 5-1 (Kathleen Amuso was not present for the vote; THE PLANET had mistakenly counted her as a yes vote, when the “yeahs” belonged to Dan Elias, Jim Conant, Mayor Dan Bianchi, Kathy Yon, and Alf Barbalunga. … Elias, for admitting his mistake in voting to approved the Whitney contract with the School Department. … Yon, Amuso, and Barbalunga, for returning our inquiries on their vote (Conant did not respond; we did not ask Bianchi for comment, since we had mistakenly thought he had not voted on it) … Jim Schulman and all the great volunteers who built the Berkshire Carousel, which will be treasured for generations to come … the select board in Lanesboro, for demonstrating how much they realize the aesthetic and communal benefit of this hard-carved treasure … register-of-deeds-elect Patsy Harris, for her warm hospitality to MR. and MRS. PLANET on Sunday at a gathering at her lovely home high on a hill in Hinsdale … Barry Clairmont, for recusing himself on Contractgate, since Whitney is a client of his accounting firm. … the City of Pittsfield for putting council agendas and packets online, a production, we suspect of city clerk Linda Tyer. Okay, enough with the medals. We don’t want to have people think we’re going soft, now, do we?

* Why not have Taconic High School carpentry students help build a house at 166 Dewey Ave? The city obtained the parcel through foreclosure proceedings. Plans are to sell it to Habitat for Humanity for $1, so the group can build a new house. Don’t you think that’s a perfect fit? The carpentry students get practical experience in home building, and HFH benefits from the savings. The idea seems to good and perfect, so good, in fact, that someone will come along and tell us why it can’t be done. THE PLANET is here to tell you otherwise. It CAN be done, if only there is the political will for this to happen. Perhaps after they reject the Whitney-Cote contract tomorrow night, our Right Honorable Good Friends on the council can recommend to the school committee to allow the student carpenters to work on the new HFH house.




You’ve heard the term before. Virtually everyone, including all who are not GOBs and some who are, admit they exist: Good Ol’ Boys. At various points and on occasion, THE PLANET will have to “define” it for one of the GOB apologists, usually someone down on the totem pole, sent to do the “massa’s” bidding.

A GOB refers to a local person of power, not necessarily but usually male, who uses that power for selfish rather than altruistic purposes. The term also extends downward to include acolytes, that is, those who don’t have power yet but crave it, usually by praising everything a GOB does and running errands such as fetching water and tell lies out of school against those who would dare stand in the way of a GOB agenda. An example of an acolyte would be most (not all) of the membership of Berkshire Young Professionals, a subgroup of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. BEEPERS, as we fondly call them, realize that in an area where corruption is king and who you know is too often good enough, sucking up can’t hurt. What’s a little self-respect among friends?

True of most “secret” societies, there’s no GOB membership list per se, but you can tell if you look closely enough. Judge them not by their words, which are hollow, but by their actions, which are unacceptable.

You want a list? Sure. The following listing of people comes from Berkshire United Way (BUW) and its Siss-Boom-Bah (Humbug!) initiative called Pittsfield Promise. Cute, eh? Pittsfield Promise. We like the alliteration.

What is Pittsfield Promise? Who cares? No one except those who have their name on the letterhead, likely, and their relatives. For the record, PP is, according to a six-page (!) press release from BUW, “a city-wide coalition … pursuing improvements in grade-level reading proficiency for elementary students.”

Er, escuse us, but isn’t that the job of (a) parents and (b) the Pittsfield Public Schools? The goal is by the end of the program to get 90% of third graders reading at third grade level. Think about that. They are OK with 10% not reading up to grade level. PP’s existence is another sign of how badly the Pittsfield Public Schools are failing students, parents, citizens, and taxpayers.

Anyhow, as part of the press release, an attachment lists the members of PP. Not all of them are GOBs, though many of them are, including PP’s “Executive Vice President,” John “Friend of Angelo” Bissell. Angelo at some time previously “sent” many others on that list (“Tell ’em Angelo sent you.”).

Many of those who are not GOBs are acolytes, who don’t mind being used if it will somehow get them “Connected.” There are a a small handful of names that would easily fit on the fingers of one hand who do not fit into either of these categories. No, we won’t name them, because anyone who gets caught on this sort of roster deserves this odd kind of faux-innocence-by-association.

Take a deep breath:

Pittsfield Promise Partner – Organization

Individual Representatives

Berkshire Chamber of Commerce

Mike Supranowicz  (Ashley can’t continue this phone call. She got called into a meeting just now, Mr. Valenti);

Massachusetts State Representatives

Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Ben Downing (TFB Rides Again!)


Church Cotton;

Berkshire United Way

Kristine Hazzard;

Berkshire Athenaeum

Ron Latham;

Greylock Federal Credit Union, South Adams Savings Bank, Berkshire Health Systems

John Bissell, Chair; Denise Marshall; Ruth Blodgett; Ed Perlak (John Bissell, now where have we heard that name before?);

Mission Bar + Tapas

Jim Benson;

Group Restoration

Deb Blatt;

Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

Nat Karns;

Berkshire Community College

Jeff Doscher;

Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Berkshire Bank Foundation

Jennifer Dowley, Peter LaFayette;

Berkshire County Head Start

Eloise Stevens;

Berkshire Museum

Van Shields, Craig Langlois;

Pittsfield Police Department

Acting Chief Mike Wynn;

Sheriff’s Office

Dept. Superintendent for Programs & Treatment Julia Sullivan;

Pittsfield Public Schools

Jake Eberwein, Superintendent [sic]; Sue Doucette, and Kay Latham (uh, someone tell them to update their website; Jake is no longer superintendent. He got kicked upstairs at North Adams State College, where Mary Grant presides (small world, ain’t it?).

Mayor’s Office

Donna Mattoon;

Literacy Volunteers of Berkshire County

Karen Wallace;

Department of Early Education and Care

Dr. Killins and Erin Craft;

Morningside Initiative

Gail Krumpholz;

El Sistema

Marie Montilla;

Berkshire Children and Families

Carolyn Burns;

Department of Children and Families

Laurie Sullivan;

Early Childhood Education Think Tank

Doug McNally (Mr. Think Tank himself);

Berkshire Compact for Education

Cynthia Brown;

School Leaders Network

Bamby Neale; (star of Bamby Meets Godzilla?)

Community Advocate for Education Mass Dept. Developmental Services

Susan Lombard, Shirley Edgerton.

—– 00 —–

You want more than this list of a few A-listers, lots of B- and C-types?  Just go round, get the rosters of board members of almost any useless organization such as PP, and you shall find more “usual suspects” than Claude Raines.






  1. GMHeller
    October 9, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    Just what the Hell was Hizzoner thinking?
    Did he even know and understand that upon which he was casting his ‘Yes’ vote?
    Mr. Valenti, I don’t know about you, but Dan Bianchi as Mayor is turning into this year’s second biggest disappointment.
    What happened to all the talk about Bianchi doing something to put a stop to all the corruption and underhanded dealings in Pittsfield City government?

    • Joe Blow
      October 9, 2012 at 8:17 am #

      Bianchi and Roberto are both liberal democrats….when will the people of Massachusetts wake up?

      • Levitan
        October 10, 2012 at 7:06 am #

        Next you’ll be calling the Register of Deeds a liberal democrat?

  2. joetaxpayer
    October 9, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    Since the no confidence vote is non-binding I don’t see the point.If mrs Yonn and Councilor Sherman want to pick a City soliciter I suggest they run for Mayor.

    • danvalenti
      October 9, 2012 at 8:36 am #

      A “no-confidence” motion/vote is basically the same as a vote for censure. The point is to demonstrate that a ruling body has no confidence in an appointed member of the government. On the state level, often no-confidence comes with consequences, such as in Germany or Israel, which requires the ones expressing no confidence to propose a candidate of their choosing for the position. In other countries (UK, Canada, Australia) a no-confidence vote would require the prime minister (or head of state) to dissolve the government if that vote were expressed against him or her. Here, in Pittsfield, the councilors (Sherman and Yon) would use this to register their extreme displeasure over the conduct of an official, in this case, the city solicitor. The point is that it puts pressure on the appointing authority (the mayor) to make a change. It also can have huge political consequences, and remember, there’s a municipal election next year. In a consensus government such as you have in Pittsfield, this type of vote, while having no legal consequences, can have an enormous effect on government going forward.

  3. Teecha teecha
    October 9, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    Pete Lafayette has done a lot for the city. It’s a shame he was named

    • danvalenti
      October 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

      REmember, we said not all of the people on that list were GOBs. We didn’t identify the guilty, because, like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder.

  4. Ron Kitterman
    October 9, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    The vote of no confidence seems to be a little like a witch hunt, October surprise or ambush to say the least. I would like to see the matter tabled myself. There seems to be some prior inconsistent statements coming from the councilors, she hand delivered the letter emailed it. In light of the Mayor appearing on the radio tomorrow maybe this would shed some more light on the subject, however but seems justice has to move swiftly on this one. It’s not a matter of confidence rather than respect on this one from my point of view. To the councilors, yes I have read the documents.

    • joetaxpayer
      October 9, 2012 at 9:53 am #

      Agree with you Ron.What would they need for a vote to table.

  5. Stevo
    October 9, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    Shame on the Eagle. Whether the reasoning behind the BBs lack of coverage of the cesspool that is official Pittsfield is simple laziness, a severe lack of journalistic curiousity or a broader conspiritorial attempt to enable the entrenched corruption and incompetence is open to debate. The results are not. Having the platform as the dominant news source in the city should bring a journalistic zeal to get it right. I can’t imagine squandering the privlige and position that the Eagle could hold in this city. I don’t know the circulation numbers for the Eagle but suffice it to say that way too many folks in town rely on the local paper to inform them of the goings on in town. PV is an excellent additional source of information available to a limited number of the local population. The paper of record is too important to ignore. I’m beginning a one man letter to the editor campaign to the BB. A simple attempt to embarass the Eagle regarding the lack of honest investigative journalism at the paper. I have no illusions of success but I care enough about this city and the good folks that live here to do something.

    • dusty
      October 10, 2012 at 1:53 am #

      Good luck with embarrassing the Eagle. I don’t think it is possible. Whomever runs that show either does not give a stool, or is owned by the GOB and does not dare print anything critical of their doings. Maybe both.

  6. Gene
    October 9, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    I like what you have said Stevo and my thoughts are the same. The Bb has squandered its responsibility. We canceled our subscription.

    • Stevo
      October 9, 2012 at 11:43 am #

      Thanks Gene, I was going to forego my BB subscription also but part of the fun of getting the paper is to see firsthand the lack of coverage provided in comparison to the other outlets available. I’m looking forward to the Eagles interpretation of tonights meeting. Call it my guilty pleasure if you will !

  7. Ron Kitterman
    October 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    Thanks Dan for painting a accurate picture for us about the $150,000 of free labor that the city is providing through the Taconic Students. Thanks also to Terry Kinnas for bringing the matter to our attention.

    • danvalenti
      October 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      We are glad to provide such information, which the daily newspaper tries to keep from you and the rest of We The People.

  8. Ron Kitterman
    October 9, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Okay I get it Solicitor Degnan isn’t Gloria Allred or Jeanine Pirro, but she did provide to School Committeeman Terry Kinnas a pretty good outline of chapter 30B in regards to, if any attempts to renegotiate it after the bid was received if there was an appearance of impropriety, conflict of interest, dishonesty, fraud,deceit,and misrepresentation. Shouldn’t that count for something ?

    • Levitan
      October 10, 2012 at 5:56 am #

      Yes. And to continue your point, I don’t see anyone here, myself included, who amount to the levels of the astounding. Degnan has not been accused of conflict of interest, laziness, of professional lapse. As one member of the community said at the open session, who is going to be the next target of a vengeful councilor? And what honest man or woman would seek public work with the threat of political destruction over their heads?

  9. Ed
    October 9, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    A GOB active or acolyte may also subscribe to common agendas that lead to maintaining power or influence. For example, a political acolyte is given his first political job by an elected figurehead; another acolyte volunteers as a campaign treasurer for the same figurehead and later volunteers on the committee to elect the first acolyte; another GOB forges an alliance for a government job promotional recommendation with the same figurehead of the first and second acolyte: still another GOB’s spouse receives a controversial appointed position with indifference to qualifications and standard approvals. And still another closet quiet GOB has family lineage to the smoke filled back room of the elected figurehead’s crony support group. No political agenda ? Of course not, Just read the absolute and politically correct documents as created and suggested by everyone’s right honorable friends.
    Sorry, Want to buy oceanfront property in Stockbridge ?

  10. joetaxpayer
    October 9, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

    Sounds like Yon,Clairmont and Krol. If it looks like a duck and quaks like a duck, it must be a duck.

  11. Elizabeth
    October 9, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    Stevo….just read the bb online. That way you don’t get the cheap ink all over your hands AND your recycling is a lot less. DV will keep you updated on the local stuff:)

    • Stevo
      October 9, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

      Good tip. I’ll do it !

  12. Italia
    October 9, 2012 at 5:06 pm #

    Mr. Sherman, Paul Capitanio, Jerry Lee had a 5 P.M. meeting

    today. Curious to why. Conflict????

  13. joetaxpayer
    October 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm #

    Wow, what a meeting thought I saw the ghost of “the aging Greek god”.He was laughing his a$$ off.Same $hit different council. Time to vote out some of the wind bags.Lothrop should be out.

    • Tim Bartini
      October 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm #

      SorryI thought Councilor Lothrip was very clear where he has problems with the solicitor

  14. joetaxpayer
    October 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    He was very clear,and I disagree with him.

    • Tim Bartini
      October 9, 2012 at 6:44 pm #

      Ok that’s your opinion

  15. Larry
    October 9, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    So, what happened at the meeting? Are Taconic students going to provide free labor for the school employee?

  16. tito
    October 9, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    It hasn’t come up on the agenda Larry. They just botched up the request of a no confidence vote by Councilor Yon’s request to a vote to file. I think they shied away to vote no confidence when it was brought up that any employee could be scrutinized. This whole situation was to embarrass the Bianchi administration. The bottom line is Bianchi was left with a shit sandwich that is not even a sixteenth of a way finished, this administration will never be given the chance to succeed.

    • Levitan
      October 10, 2012 at 6:00 am #

      Actually, as Bianchi said himself, the Spectrum issue is finished. It’s done, done, done.

      It’s certain Councilors who are trying to extract some capital out of it that is not finished. Wasting our time and dollars on the politics of personal destruction. I could have been at home with my daughter but instead made an appearance to throw in my two cents on the account of this malfeasance.

  17. joetaxpayer
    October 9, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    Agree Mr Clairmont is not a lawyer, but sleep at a Holiday Inn last night.He was a regular Perry Mason on crack.

    • dusty
      October 10, 2012 at 2:04 am #

      Yes, just what the hell did he think he was accomplishing? I think he wants to be Johnny Cochran. He lost his audience early on but continued to blather on into space ad nauseum rambling on with stuff very few understood or could follow. I was in disbelief of what I was seeing. His effort was more about Barry s ego than the city solicitors deficiencies.

      • taxmano
        October 10, 2012 at 6:07 am #

        Right on ,Dusty. Yon, Krol, Lothrop, and Clairmont showed how truly despicable they are, and to what lengths they will go to feed their massive egos. I pity Yon, as she seems to have some personal issues, but Lothrop, Clairmont, and Krol think they actually have the stuff to get into it with real attorneys! They looked ignorant, foolish, and made an excellent case of why they should be voted off the council. “Don’t boo, vote!”

        • billy
          October 11, 2012 at 8:39 am #

          i hope i hear some actual rebuttal of fact then the mentality of name calling and the wishing of peoples personal demise.I have never heard one qoute of fact to defend their points against the book of info that those councilors presented.. you have diffrences than state them with facts you can back up.. if you dont like their service than vote them out… but none of you state an ounce of fact on why the solicitors beahavior was professional with Yon and how she hid her intentions from the council and not from the court…. read what she said in court….

      • billy
        October 11, 2012 at 8:20 am #

        dusty you atack Barry saying it is his ego?you never state any facts why do you make it personal.? there was plenty of questions about the solicitor and the were stated. there seems to be a mob mentality like the one at the council meeting. a different opinion should be met with a healthy rebuttal not name calling or put downs of a elected offical

        • danvalenti
          October 11, 2012 at 8:57 am #

          I agree with that last sentence. Well said.

    October 9, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    This meeting is a total disgrace to the City of Pittsfield. Clairmont, Lathrop, Yon and pretty boy showed me how they could care less about Pittsfield, but its all about them Cairmont being the worse. Im so disgusted with these people.

  19. tito
    October 9, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    Councilor Simonelli stated this is not the first time a employee of the City reached out for a service like an oil change etc….Anthony, this is tens of thousands of free service, not an oil change or a dent fix! Good night all, I think I’ll read about it tommorow. Cote reminds me of the warden in the Shawshank Redemption, visually, that’s a complement.

  20. kevin jennings
    October 9, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    wow that Clairmont is freaking nut, reading the text of mass gen law for 20 minutes. Must be Butch’s best buddy. He served illegally on the liquor license board for YEARS.

    Clairmont “What happened in the past doesn’t matter” UHH hello? If my business was reprimanded buy this GOB with the golden fleece,back when he was there illegally there would be some more lawsuits for Degnan.

  21. FPR
    October 9, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    Yes this is agonizing. Video feed is choppy. Its getting late.

    Don’t even know why they are entertaining this very Clear conflict of interest. Very clearly unethical and most likely illegal proposal.

    Dan, looking forward to reading about the outcome tomorrow in your article online. Won’t waste my time looking in the BB.

    Good night.

    • Tired of BS
      October 10, 2012 at 6:03 am #

      The live streaming was so choppy I couldn’t hear much. Tried to watch on two laptops, so waiting for the details here.

      • danvalenti
        October 10, 2012 at 9:19 am #

        Yes, the live streaming was dead on arrival. A poor job not worthy of the good citizen’s of that forsaken city.

    October 9, 2012 at 8:26 pm #

    After hearing the facts in the Whitney house I would vote to prove also.

  23. Magic
    October 10, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    BB only reported on Ms. Degnan, I thought maybe the Whitney house wasn’t brought up. Guess I was wrong. Can’t wait for your report Dan

    • danvalenti
      October 10, 2012 at 9:21 am #

      The BB didn’t stick around for Contractgate. They were either given orders not to cover it or their reporter was too lazy to stick it out.

      • Levitan
        October 11, 2012 at 6:19 am #

        Yet, they continue to rail against the City’s lawyer. Pity, I would have liked to have heard their version.

  24. Giacometti
    October 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

    The Community Development Office and the City of Pittsfield have long ignored one of the last remaining examples of a cottage from the Guilded Age right in the center of Pittsfield which is in dire need of restoration…it has favrile glass windows made by Louis Comfort Tiffany ( one over the main floor fireplace ), ornate carved wooden mantles, marble floors, tile inlaid walls, leather wall paper in the main study and oak flooring throughout. It is an historical dwelling which would be an educational learning tool for the Taconic High School Construction team over a period of years. It needs to be saved and the City must save it…The Allen House ( long championed
    by the Aging Greek God ) it could be dedicated to his memory. A fitting remembrance to one of Pittsfield’s Finest Statesmen.

    I think a far better use of Taconic High School Students work over the next few years…Don’t we owe it to his memory ?

    • Levitan
      October 11, 2012 at 6:21 am #

      It sounds like a worthy cause and a good study for the apprentice.

  25. joetaxpayer
    October 11, 2012 at 8:39 am #

    I really think the 100k was getting off cheap. Google settlements for Methadone clinics, the money paid in other areas was much greater than Pittsfield. Settling out of court can be a cost saving option.

    • danvalenti
      October 11, 2012 at 8:56 am #

      Maybe, but maybe not. Why did the city have to pay out ANY money. That’s the part we don’t know, and no one “in the know” wants to answer that. Why? There was no court order for the payment, so why do it? Why, with better horse trading, couldn’t the city have said to Spectrum: Look, you’re right. We can’t block you. Please, set up on Summer Street. We’ll help you as best we can to run a good facility. Why wasn’t that enough? Was the payment an extortion on the part of Spectrum? Did the city needlessly offer the money when it didn’t have to? We needs answers.

      • Levitan
        October 11, 2012 at 10:38 am #

        Settlements are not court ordered. And, it would not be in Spectrum’s interest to not settle as that would embolden communities to arbitrarily block them.

        It is not extortion, Dan, it is called establishing precedent.

        • danvalenti
          October 11, 2012 at 11:08 am #

          Precedent could have been established, too, in federal court. Ms. Degnan’s own attorney admitted that the city could have won there. She said it could go either way. That would have been precedent. If your explanation is the right one, why doesn’t the mayor simply explain the payment. His refusal to do that only leads to speculation, most of which, if not all, is and will be incorrect.

          • levitan
            October 11, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

            When I say precedent, I mean the precedent a legal party establishes to prevent claims of implied agreement.

            If Spectrum does not force a settlement, then they have a weaker argument in court when challenged by other communities. That condition applies if the court can be convinced that a party is not in the habit of asserting an interest.

            I seriously doubt in the light of their stake in ease of siting and lost cost of revenues that Spectrum would just let it drop without compensation. And to continue, I am assuming (correct me if I am wrong) that if the conflict went to the Federal level, Spectrum would not even be a party to the suit.

          • danvalenti
            October 11, 2012 at 5:54 pm #

            Can’t say if Spectrum would have been a party to a federal suit in court, and your point about compensation is reasonable. However, why doesn’t the mayor tell us straight out if that was the case? Agree with your point about precedent.

    • Levitan
      October 11, 2012 at 10:40 am #

      It’s called, cutting your losses and businesses do it all the time. We likely had a line item in the budget to provide for this sort of situation.

      It is poor business to cry over $100K and dump $1,000K.