!!PLANET EXCLUSIVE!! TWO ODD (AN ODDLY TIMED) LETTERS SENT TO SCHOOL CHAIRMAN ALF BARBALUNGA, PLUS EXECUTIVE SESSION TONIGHT AT COMMITTEE MEETING, HAS BUZZED THIS QUESTION: IS THE GOB OUT TO SILENCE TERRY KINNAS? … CRUCIAL MEETING TONIGHT MAY REVEAL THE TRUTH … plus … TAILGATE-GATE CONTINUES TO RATTLE THE WINDOWS AND SHAKE THE WALLS
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, DEC. 12, 2012) — Yesterday, one of our correspondents, DOWNTOWN DWELLER, did us all a huge favor in posting the agenda of the school committee meeting, slated to begin tonight at 6 p.m. in the PHS library. Here is the link: http://www.pittsfield.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/file/Dec%2012%20Agenda.pdf
Playing a Hunch
We have the feeling you won’t want to miss the action, which should come about midway through. We’re playing a hunch here, folks, but stay tuned to the school committee meeting tonight. After reading the tea leaves, reconstructing the clues at the crime scene, and piecing seemingly random items together, THE PLANET has that old-time feeling that there’s going to be some serious grooming, zooming, booming, and pooming.
Couple the agenda with a couple of odd pieces of paper in the school committee packet, THE PLANET has apparently stumbled on a story … and it could a “A Story” with initial caps. Let us explain.
If you open the school committee agenda for tonight, a tantalizing item flashes in neon: “VII Executive Session: * Discussion of Complaint Against a School Committee Member …” From this, it appears the committee will be going after and possibly eating one of its own. But who? And why? The agenda doesn’t say, but we think we’ve put it together.
After examining the agenda, THE PLANET remembered two documents that appeared in the information packet given to each committee member, and, upon request, to the public and the press. In our packet, we saw two letters addressed to school committee chairman Alf Barbalunga that, at the time, seemed odd in a way we couldn’t fix.
‘Milky’ Malkas, ‘Koochie’ Koocher Make Missive Misgivings
The first was from Barbara Malkas, former #2 honcho under previous school superintendent Jake Eberwein III. The second was from Glen Koocher of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, who is assisting, so called, the Pittsfield committee on its superintendent search. THE PLANET actually reads through this stuff. The letters focus in an odd, even orchestrated way, on the behavior of committeeman Terry Kinnas.
Are these two letters related to the call for Executive Session? THE PLANET has no proof of this, but we will make a prediction. We predict, using these letters as Exhibit A, that the executive session will target Kinnas.
Letter #1: Malkas Still Pitching the Bull, but Why … and Why Now?
Malkas was notable during her stint in Pittsfield for being one of Jake’s most loyal disciples. She acted for the Special Interests and against Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski. She set and implemented policy, and she had a hand in the coming and going of a lot of money. That latter fact alone is cause for anyone to have the Ray Walston antennae on high alert (OK, gang, Trivia Time: Name the pop culture reference here).
Malkas left the district last year, with Jake, after she did not get Jake’s job. She’s now employed elsewhere, palming paychecks from others in the Land of the Jolly Green Gullible. Why, then, would this relic from the dark though not dim and distant past be piping up on Dec. 4 with a letter to committee chair Alf Barbalunga?
What earth-shaking communication did she have to make? Well, get this:
Out of the blue, Malkas decides to write to the chairman to complain about Kinnas’ opposition to the purchase and funding of the iPad Pilot Project. Yes, that iPad Pilot Project … from months ago … long since past … dust finely settled. It makes no sense, unless … we’ll get to that in a moment. Malkas writes in her third paragraph:
“On July 19, 2012 a posting in a journalistic blog appeared questioning the purchase of the iPADs are being legal. In the posting, Mr. Kinnas responded to the question regarding the legality of the purchase with, ‘I’m not sure, but you can be sure I’m going to try to find out.’”
“A journalistic blog” — Gosh, do you think she means PLANET VALENTI?
Unbelievably, Malkas seems to be complaining to Barbalunga, five months later, that a school committee member would try to find out information on behalf of his constituents. Forgive our density, but we fail to see the NEWSFLASH!! there, unless, of course, the letter has a political and not a practical purpose. Kinnas did not even say the purchase was illegal. He said he didn’t know but would try to find out. Isn’t that his job? Isn’t that what you would want a committee member to do? So why would Malkas write now, a mere days before the school committee meeting. Could it be to begin the Kinnas kangaroo-court trial?
We ask again: Why oh why would Malkas all of a sudden, a week before a school committee meeting that will be going into executive session to answer a complaint against one of its members, be inspired to write this letter? Did she do it of her own accord, or was she asked to do it to provide “evidence” against Kinnas. If so, she did a poor job, because her descriptions of Kinnas’ actions would show him to be responsible, judicious, and promoting the good of the community.
‘I Am Not a Crook’
Malkas closes by accusing Kinnas of “purposefully impugn[ing]” her reputation as an administrator. We searched the record, and we can find no instance where Kinnas did anything even remotely of the kind, to her or anyone else. Malkas then produces a litany of how great she was and how all her appropriation of funds were “appropriate and legal?”
“Appropriate and legal.” The words jump off the page. Who said they weren’t? Why would she be inclined to head that one off at the pass? There may be a perfectly good reason, but from the evidence of the letter itself, we cannot find it. Her statement about her “appropriate and legal” handling of money reads rather like Richard Nixon declaring at the height of Watergate that “I am not a crook.” We all know how that worked out for The President. This is not in any way to make any claim one way or another about Malkas. This is only to point out how incongruent we find her statement about appropriations. Why would she have to point our the “appropriate and legal” nature of her money handling? Why would she have to do that in the context of a personal attack on the one school committee member who might start poking around, and — GASP! — ask questions on behalf of his constituents?
In plain English, are there certain parties who are getting mighty nervous that Kinnas might be asking too many questions about funds and other matters?
Letter #2: The Koochie Koocher Dishes Bad Hooch
Then we come to Glen Koocher’s letter on MASC letterhead. Like Malkas’ milky missive, “They” would have us believe Koocher’s letter came out of the blue, unbidden, and at his own initiative. Yes, it, too, targets Terry Kinnas. Koocher’s letter is sent to Barbalunga, at his home address. Think about it: Two letters, each sent to Barbalunga, only four days apart, each targeting Kinnas only days before a hearing that will go after one of the committee members.
Folks, its beginning to get awfully ripe, and not just in Denmark.
So here we are, expected to swallow that Koocher all of a sudden decides to write to Barbalunga, basically saying that Kinnas is responsible for the paltry numbers of candidates applying for the Pittsfield superintendent’s job. And we are being asked to believe that Koocher has written this, by mere coincidence, within four days of Malkas doing the same thing.
Koocher offers not one shred of evidence to support his claims against Kinnas. Instead, he writes some paragraphs that leave a neutral party aghast. For instance, he writes,
“Be assured that the presence of one of more deportmentally challenged members of a school committee, or even inappropriately behaving members of the community at large, will discourage individuals from applying.”
Oh, really, Koocher? And certainly, the poison politics of the school department and the city of Pittsfield have nothing to do with why so many smart people want no part of this area’s school district? Contractgate? No, that wouldn’t cause a smart person second thoughts now, would it? The unexplained $9,000 theft, still unsolved, of prom money? Nope, that would not induce pause. The recent state audit, that laid the lumber to Pittsfield schools? — nah, that couldn’t possibly be why few are applying. No, it’s Terry Kinnas, the one committee member who does his job, day in, day out, and isn’t afraid to ask questions. Terry Kinnas is to blame.
Folks, we got a sneaking feeling that the GOB is trying to set Terry up for a fall. If that is the case, you cannot sit silently by and allow it to happen. A good first step is to show support for Kinnas, through e-mail or phone to the school committee (Chairman Barbalunga, firstname.lastname@example.org / 413-442-4279, 32 Brookside Drive, Pittsfield), through attendance at tonight’s school board meeting, through letters to the editor, or through contacting Kinnas directly at email@example.com or 499-2989 (14 Cooper Parkway, Pittsfield).
What is ‘Inappropriate Behavior” from the Public? Tell Us, Koocher
And while we’re at it, Koocher, what’s your definition of “inappropriate behavior [from] members of the community at large”? Are you referring to the Kapanskis, Mary Jane and Joe? Are they citizens who ask questions and demand answers. Are they they good, honest, tax-paying members of the public who want and expect quality performance and accountability from alleged public servants such as yourself and school department employees? Are they We the People, who are the true owners of government?
Koocher, like Malkas, mentions the “blogs” and says that candidates for superintendent learn from them about the “interpersonal, professional, personal[,] and operational challenges they may confront.” Gee, do you think he, too, means THE PLANET?
See, didn’t you know it all along: It’s not the rampant corruption, tarpit politics, and notorious political inbreeding of an underperforming department that eats up $90 million of the city’s budget that is keeping the candidate pool low. It’s Terry Kinnas and the “blogs.” Dan Valenti, by the way, is also responsible for the Lincoln assassination, the Patty Hearst kidnapping, the financial crisis of 2008, President Obama‘s win over Mitt Romney, and Global Warming. Don’t tell anyone, but he also kicks the canes from old ladies and steals candy from the mouths of laughing babies.
Koocher writes, “It is now clear to me that Mr. Kinnas has, through various tactics, undermined your ability to attract candidates for your superintendency.” Koocher then makes a list of allegations against Kinnas, each of them vague, unspecified, over-generalized, and unsupported by evidence. He mentions Kinnas’ “[a]ntagonistic public comments, extensive and hostile interrogation of staff at meetings, probing into areas of administrative operation, a tendency to talk at extraordinary length at public meetings…”
Ladies and gentlemen, THE PLANET has known Terry Kinnas for a couple of decades. Never once have we known him to be ANY of that. Rather, he has shown himself to be the model citizen of participatory democracy.
— “Antagonistic public comments?” Name them, Koocher.
— “Extensive and hostile interrogation”? Where and when? Be specific! And is the word “interrogation” loaded, or what.? Koocher, isn’t that what Schicklgruber‘s SS men and Gestapo used to do? You don’t want to take back that word, do you?
— Koocher, do you know of time limits on public discussion?
— Koocher, do you not think that a school committee member would have as his or her very job definition the mission to “probe into areas of administrative operation”? THE PLANET does, as well as 99% of the general public. It’s only the GOB 1% who want to limit free speech and crush the one TRUE public servant who dares to ask questions about the multitudinous list of questionable actions and omissions being committed in the name of taxpayers by the inept and corrupt Pittsfield School Department.
— Koocher, who are you to make these unsupported claims? Why did you write this letter at this time? Whose water are you carrying? Please clarify.
Is There a Witch Hunt in Progress to Silence Terry Kinnas, the Best Public Servant in Pittsfield?
Ladies and gentlemen, and all my good friends out there, reading the tea leaves, THE PLANET has reason to believe there is under way and underfoot a concerted effort to silence Terry Kinnas. We can’t be sure of this until we learn which member is the topic of tonight’s executive session. Presumably, that session will produce testimony, evidence, and accusers. At that point, we will know much more.
And to think: All this is occurring a mere nine days before the End of the World according to the ancient Mayan prophecy (FULL DISCLOSURE: DAN VALENTI IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT, TOO).
SPEAKING OF SO-CALLED ‘WITCH HUNTS’ HERE’S ONE THAT ISN’T
On Tailgate-gate, the questions continue to swirl. THE PLANET has learned that Dr. Gordon Noseworthy has been apprised of the situation. He seems to be taking the situation seriously but appears to be reserving comment until the “local investigation” being conducted by Taconic High School principal John Vosburgh is complete.
Meanwhile, many allegations, snippets of information, speculations, rumor, and innuendo continue to abound about Tailgate-gate about the participants, including the THS football coach, Vinnie Barbarotta. We won’t go there. Contrary to what our legion of critics like to say, THE PLANET does not spread gossip. With that lead in, we share this Letter to the Editor, sent to us yesterday by “THS Senior Mom”:
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‘Shame on Mr. Valenti’ (for Telling the Truth)
Comments: Ok, I’ve kept quite long enough! It must really be a slow news week in Berkshire county when something like this “tailgating” issue makes the front page of the Berkshire Eagle. It reminds me why I don’t purchase it any more, it’s our own National Enquirer. Let me state for the record that the THS mom who started this whole thing was totally full of it!!
Seems to me that she may have her own agenda for saying the things she did, shame on her!! Also shame on the coaches (that were drinking, because I know for a fact one of them was not drinking) for doing something so irresponsible when they were entrusted with people’s children and their safety. What an example to set for the students.
I’m sure they never thought that it would turn in to a total witch hunt, but nothing like giving them the matches to send them up in flames. As for the students, I can guarantee you that they never thought that there college football experience would turn into the nightmare it has become, all because they made some poor decisions. Notice I said their poor decisions. These are young men who in a few short months will be unleashed into the world as adults.
As for the three or four students who chose not to drink, good call, your parents are very proud of you & you should stand tall. To the coach who was not drinking, thank you for being responsible & trying to keep an eye on the others when it was most definitely not an easy situation.
I’d also like to say shame on Mr. Valenti for not trying to find out the facts before allowing a letter from “THS mom” to start all of these half truths that put even more stress on all the parties involved. I would think you would wonder why someone would be so willing to volunteer information on such a sensitive situation & not questions that person’s motives. Especially since that would only be information that people with direct knowledge of the incident would have. What parent does that? Not someone looking out for their child’s best interest, way to throw your kid the the wolves.
Does anyone think that the other students can’t figure out who’s parent is responsible? As for myself I think people need to get over it & let the officials do what they will. I find it so sad that a fun day for a group of seniors had to turn into something that was totally blown out of proportion because of the poor choices of a few of the coaches, who thought that bringing alcohol with them was a good idea and someone with questionable motives leaking half truths. — THS Senior Mom [EDITOR's NOTE: THIS LETTER WAS EDITED FOR GRAMMAR AND SPELLING BUT OTHERWISE PRESENTED AS RECEIVED]
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How We Work: Rumors? No. Tips? Yes … Depending
THE PLANET would respond first by making this point: Folks would not believe the amount of information that comes into the Secret Squadron over the transom, many of it of the “Have you heard about such-and-such?” and “PLANET, you should look into it.” We receive massive amounts of mail, and it stands to reason: We are the only game in the region when it comes to fearless investigative journalism, news, and commentary of the Biercean-Menkensian mold. Where else would the tipster go? The Boring Broadsheet? Stop us if you’ve heard that one before.
THS Senior Mom answers that, correctly, in her first paragraph. The BB put Tailgate-gate on page one because THE PLANET’s enterprise reporting forced them to do so. They were asleep while we got the goods. We broke the story, they played a weak, watered-down version of catch-up, and found enough substance in the allegations to run it. THE PLANET should also note in passing that nowhere does the BB credit us for breaking the story, as is the unwritten journalistic law and universal J etiquette.
No Time to Say Hello Goodbye
Even with a force as vast as THE PLANET’s, happily and secretly ensconced at our Fortress of Solitude HQ high on a mountaintop overlooking the city, we would scarce have time to microwave our Poptarts if we tried to run down all the tips that come into us. There are no enough hours in the day, as Sophie Tucker once told us.
After 37 years of being in the business, we have developed a reliable “sixth and seventh sense” about tips and tipsters, and indeed, we have broken countless stories because the tip happened to be a good one. We have a reliable cadre of embedded sources in many offices and places. These are the ground troops that have, over time, proven trustworthy. When we receive information and intelligence from them, we know we must snoop around.
Most of the other tips, though, either turn out to be phantoms or, if having substance, lacking in relevance. We don’t have exact figures, but it’s fair to say that of every 100 leads that come our way, we probably investigate six or seven. Of those, three turn out to be something. One or two receive coverage. Thus, THS Senior Mom, you are as wrong as the Birthers and the Flat Earthers: THE PLANET does not casually publish rumors, but we DO check out and vet stories as best we can and to the stringent levels of The New Journalism, which we are in the process of helping to create.
THS Senior Mom makes some interesting admissions:
— She admits that there was in fact underage drinking.
— She admits coaches imbibed along with their students. ”[S]hame on the coaches … What an example to set for their students,” she writes.
— Then, in the same breath, she calls the attention the story is getting “a total with hunt.” On the one hand, she praises the kids and the coach who didn’t drink, then at the same time cuts the irresponsible ones a break (the boozing coaches are being unfairly torched while the drunkard kids made “poor choices”). Folks, that’s known as a “total disconnect.” Such disconnective ignorance is as astounding as it is appalling.
— THS Senior Mom then tops all of this. After she herself has made the case that what was alleged to have happened did in fact happen, she writes: ” … shame on Mr. Valenti for not trying to find out the facts before allowing a letter from “THS mom” to start all of these half truths that put even more stress on all the parties involved.” Help us out, here? Did we miss something? THS Senior Mom first admits the story we broke has proven to be accurate while at the same time claiming we did not try “to find out the facts” before publishing! Our story is inaccurate but accurate. We would hazard a wild guess here: THS Senior Mom probably is a product of the Pittsfield Public School system.
Ladies and gentlemen, THE PLANET normally disdains exclamation points in prose. They are overused. PROF. PLANET counsels his writing students to omit exclamation points except for true exclamations. You’ll notice, though, my good friends, that we have used an “!”. We do this in a futile attempt to express our stupefaction.
THS Senior Mom makes the unwarranted assumption that we did not vet the original e-mail alerting us to the situation. She assumes, again, incorrectly, that we did not question the source’s motives, but she then admits the source had “direct knowledge of the incident.” Incredible. It could wrench you’re back just thinking about this woman’s logical inconsistencies.
She accuses our original source of “throwing [her] kid to the wolves.” She then implies that the other students have figured out who she is, in the process also implying some kind of unspoken threat. Apparently, THS Senior Mom did not consider the possibility that the child of our original source was one of the boys who did not drink. Do you think that good mom might have been peeved that the THS football staff would take charge of children and lead them astray in such a duplicitous and irresponsible manner?
So tell us, THS Senior Mom, where are the “half truths”? Why was our original source “full of it!” when her information turned out to be accurate? She will notice that no persons involved have denied any of the allegations. THS Senior Mom actually admits the charges were true! (Yes, “!”). Why is this a “total witch hunt?”
THS Senior Mom, looks like you are having a “senior moment.”
The big questions are still unanswered:
* Who did what to whom?
* Who did the drinking and who did the thinking?
* How loaded was the driver on the way home from a tailgate party that had at least three 30-packs of brew?
* Who did the driving?
* Who procured the booze?
So many questions, so little courage from officials in answering them.
PLANET, JOE PINHEAD ‘DO LUNCH’
And finally, and quickly, for those keeping score at home, THE PLANET had lunch with Joe Pinhead yesterday at the fabulous Red Lion Inn. We dined in style, and THE PLANET picked up the tab for the man who had the winning entry in our First Annual Turkey of the Year Award.
Thanks, Joe. Keep up the good work.
SHE LIKEWISE HOLDS THAT IN HER MOST BENIGN LORD AND MASTER CAN BE FOUND THE KEY, THE FOCAL POINT, AND THE GOAL OF MANKIND … AS WELL AS ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.