PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE. TUESDAY, JAN. 22, 2013) — In case you missed it, you will want to feast your eyes on this story by the Boring Broadsheet‘s best scribe, Andrew Amelinckx. In it, we learn that the Bianchi Administration is suing former city solicitor Rich Dohoney for malpractice.

File it under “W”, for : “What’s good for the goose …”

Only in Pittsfield

This is a news piece, and my good friend AA cannot include what the wise guys on the street are saying about this. As you might guess, THE PLANET has that part of the story. We found out of this on Friday, through a private e-mail. We don’t publish on Saturday, and in any event, we wanted our good friend Andrew to have first crack.

Traipse through this “Only in Pittsfield” story:

‘Pittsfield alleges malpractice in suit against former city solicitor Richard Dohoney’By Andrew Amelinckx, Berkshire Eagle Staff Saturday January 19, 2013PITTSFIELD — The city of Pittsfield, after losing a lawsuit over the demolition of an apartment complex, has turned around and sued a former city solicitor for malpractice, blaming him for the go-ahead to tear down the building and asking the court to make him pay whatever damages are assessed in the case.According to court documents filed in Berkshire Superior Court, the city alleges that attorney Richard M. Dohoney, the city solicitor under Mayor James Ruberto’s administration, informed the Pittsfield Board of Health in January 2010 that the demolition of a building located at 11-15 Melville St. was legal.The building was torn down in April 2010. Two years later, in May 2012, the building’s owner, Pesu Inc., filed an amended complaint in Berkshire Superior Court stating that the demolition was illegal because there had been no required condemnation order in place before the building was demolished. Dohoney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

In a summary judgment by Judge John A. Agostini from November, Pesu won the case. The company is asking for $175,000 in damages; a hearing on the damages could happen as early as next month.

In his decision, Agostini wrote that because “the [Board of Health] did not issue a condemnation order, they did not provide sufficient notice and thus were without authority to demolish Pesu’s building.”

The Secretary of State’s Corporations Division lists Madeline C. Culpo of Pittsfield as president of Pesu Inc.

According to court papers, four apartments in the complex were cited six separate times between 2000 to 2004 for various sanitary code violations, including a non-functioning toilet and insufficient heat. In 2006, the Board of Health declared the property “unfit for human habitation” and issued a condemnation order, but rescinded the order three days later. It was unclear in court documents why the order was rescinded.

The next year, another apartment in the complex was cited for violations, and in October 2007 the city ordered the property demolished.

In August 2008, the Board of Health told Pesu that if it could find a buyer and present a purchase and sale agreement as well as a plan to repair the property by the next month, the board would rescind the order. No sale materialized and after a final inspection in January 2010 determined that the original violations hadn’t been corrected, the complex was demolished.

The city alleges that it went ahead with the demolition based on Dohoney’s advice. The court file doesn’t yet contain Dohoney’s response to the accusations, which isn’t due until May.

The case is scheduled to be in Superior Court in July.

Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi was on his way to Washington, D.C., on Friday and was unavailable for comment. A call to current city solicitor Kathleen E. Degnan was not returned by press time.

According to one more-than-interested spectator, one with city hall experience, “this is the sound of the other shoe dropping” from the legal circus that revolved around Spectrum-gate (yeah, another “gate.” There are so many “gates” in Pittsfield that one doesn’t know which ones lead in and which ones lead out … ). If our source is correct, this action by the city is the “That’ll Show You to Pick on Kathy Degnan” part of the show. Since nothing of this magnitude happens without mayoral approval, it would be fair comment to call this Dan Bianchi‘s lawsuit.

Since the no-confidence city council meeting, it has been a given that there would be a response. This appears to be it.

Two Points Jump Out

If you read the legal documents on the Melville Street building, two points jump out:

1. Apartments in the building were dumps, at least according to evaluation by the city’s Department of Health, which ended up declaring the units not fit for human life. This could have been the fault of the tenants, the landlord, or both.

2. Eight years later (2000 to 2008) and after numerous attempts by the city to get landlord to remedy the situation, the Depart of Health found the building in the same deplorable condition that resulted in a condemnation order being given (2006).

On the face of it, but only that, it would appear Dohoney gave the city good advice. The rescinded condemnation order notwithstanding, it could be reasonable and an application of common sense to consider the building still unfit for human life after the January 2010 inspection. The July trial will decide that, but one has to wonder if any of this would have been brought up if the city council hadn’t entertained the motion of no-confidence in Bianchi’s city attorney, Ms. Degnan.

Remember that Bianchi’s predecessor, Jimmy Ruberto, got rid of Degnan and brought in Dohoney because Ruberto judged Degnan to be incompetent. A Bianchi administration source told THE PLANET after the no-confidence circus (resulting in a tabled motion) that it “wouldn’t be the end of the matter.” We took that to mean “retaliation.”

Under Dohoney, Three Wins Against Spectrum; Under Degnan, a Controversial Settlement

The background is that under Dohoney, the city had prevailed three times in court against Spectrum over locating a methadone clinic in Pittsfield. After Degnan took over the case from Dohoney in March 2012, the city began negotiating with Spectrum. It settled the case, agreed to put Spectrum back in its original proposed location on Summer Street, and threw in a bunch of cash.

Opponents to that move, including councilors John Krol, Barry Clairmont, Jonathan Lothrop, Christine Yon, and president Kevin Sherman, claimed that the city shouldn’t have settled and should have continued fighting the case in court, where it has a decent chance of ultimately winning. They also disputed the cash part of the settlement, questioning why it was necessary.

The bad mojo has hovered in, over, around, and through city hall since. It’s all part of the Bianchi-Ruberto civil war, which itself dates back to the Civic Authority battle of 2000, fought half in proxy in 2011 when it was Bianchi-Marchetti. In a sense, the city has never recovered from the Civic Authority debacle.

It will be interesting to see what develops in council races and, of course, mayorally, in 2013.








  1. Still wondering
    January 23, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    If only the stadium had been built.

    • danvalenti
      January 23, 2013 at 8:57 am #

      Yes, the panacea, once and future.

  2. FPR
    January 23, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    Wow Dan, never seems to end there eh.

    What’s another $175,000.00? The taxpayers can easily afford it. Just take it out of “free cash”. When the coffers are empty, just fill em up again.

    $100,000 here, $100,000 there and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.

    What about the city seizing the Kaminski farm and filling all that pristine wetland? All that water forced onto other people’s land, shouldn’t they be suing the city too?

    I know an elderly man who has a old dying tree there in Pittsfield on city property overhanging his property. The branches of which keep falling and doing damage to his car and his house. The city had it tagged to be cut down. When he called the city a few years back about when they would remove the tree you know what they did? They came down and removed the tag and told him to just sue the city for damages.

    His lawyer told him to document every phone call and correspondence to get a case together.

    So that’s the flavor of the day. Sue the city. Hey at least it keeps the lawyers employed.

    • danvalenti
      January 23, 2013 at 8:56 am #

      You offer prime examples of the city’s political idiocy. Thank you for this input.

      • FPR
        January 23, 2013 at 10:12 am #

        Thanks Dan,

        What is interesting about this case. Usually when someone sues the city and wins its really no skin off anyone’s teeth. They just allocate the money in the coffers to cover it, raise taxes and fees to meet a budget and “move on”.

        Any bad decisions the council makes or the Mayor, does not affect their own bottom line. The council members still get paid just the same as does the Mayor – cashes his paycheck for being mayor. They don’t personally lose one dime.

        However, in this case the lawsuit is against attorney Rich Dohoney personally. If this is the case, should not citizens be able to sue the mayor or the city council personally for the bad decisions they make?

        If the Bianchi Administration is taking the lead in suing individuals then should not the people follow his lead and sue individual members of the city also?

        • Rick
          January 23, 2013 at 10:25 am #

          Good point!

  3. billy
    January 23, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    your two points were spot on.I have never seen in all my years living here.A mayor that lives in the past and spends his days trying to dismantle or discredit the accomplishments of his predecessor or those who supported what he put forth during his terms in the corner office.Spectrum was even questioned by the District Attorney as well as the elected councilors who voiced similar reservations.I saw this as our branches of government using the checks and balances that were put there to for just such purposes. Cases rise and fall on their merits and the information within their documents. The former solicitor acted upon the information provided by the Health Dept. which in my opinion cited the property multiple times and deemed it uninhabitable. I cant see any merit to the owners receiving any windfall for a paper snafu of the Health departments making. Pittsfield goes to bed every night with the belief that its legal well being is being well taken care of by a independent ethical legal thinker who lets the law do her thinking instead of the powers that be. This administration doesn’t allow for disagreement . it assembles mobs or extracts retribution for the truth..If we were hoping for the Quality of Perry Mason we will live with the results of Night court instead. Bravo Dan for Picking up the smell of a skunk.

  4. Tony
    January 23, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    Loosing another lawsuit, this one for $175,000, makes one wondered about the competence of Solicitor Degnan. A question arises of why Solicitor Degnan did not appeal the ruling handed down on a dwelling that had multiple health violations over years? This would seem the only logical course to take. Instead she chose to discredit a fellow attorney and implicate the city’s Board of Health and Health Department. Her salary is paid by the citizens of Pittsfield and her job as solicitor is to take all due diligence to help the city’s departments and elected officials with the power her office holds. This embarks me on another journey of déjà vu remembering how she misrepresented Yon in the Spectrum case costing the tax payers $100,000. I understand the legal profession, you don’t win them all, but our batting average is about 250. I would advise Attorney Degnan to read her job description and carry it around on an index card for easy reference. Another question basic to a skilled attorney, why didn’t she subpoena the parties involved? Once again she misrepresented the city! I wait with bated breath for the mayor to assemble his cohorts again with their pitch forks and torches in the council chambers for another festive mob scene if our elected officials bring to light any reservations they may have regarding Ms Degnan. It is disappointing that accountability is not the corner stone of the Bianchi administration?

  5. Jonathan Melle
    January 23, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    Former Mayor Jimmy Ruberto left current Mayor Dan Bianchi a big mess!

    • billy
      January 23, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

      Mr melle the mayor has nt accepted responsibility for anything im sure he will soon blame climate change on Mayor Ruberto .

  6. billy
    January 23, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    i hope you will not let this go and investigate why we came to yet another legal blunder.

    • danvalenti
      January 24, 2013 at 6:55 am #

      We shall keep our eyes and ears open. They are picking up MUCH these days.

  7. Pompey
    January 23, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

    To blame the former mayor on the current mayor’s inactions, screwups, and incompetencies is nonsense. As billy says mr .Bianchi knew the job, wanted the job, but doesn’t accept responsibility for much. Every mayor takes on the work of his/her predecessor.

  8. Pompey
    January 23, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

    Also meant to say I hope DV keeps on this, it was another great job on a day where the BB had nothing but fluff.

    • GMHeller
      January 24, 2013 at 4:52 am #

      Whad’ya mean, “the BB had nothing but fluff”?
      How do you call ‘fluff’ a gushy news article about the politically-connected Liberal Democrat CEO of tax-exempt, not-for-profit Berkshire Health Systems (which pays its CEO more than $560K annually and uses its tax-exempt status and Liberal Democrat political connections to wipe out its for-profit tax-paying competition) staging a glitzy event at the local opera house to self-congratulate and to self-promote, and proceeding to surround himself on-stage with fellow politically-connected Liberal Democrats to trumpet his and his organization’s success in screwing not only those for-profit tax-paying business competitors but also every resident in Berkshire County who now has fewer choices in medical services and every taxpayer in the Commonwealth who subsidizes this charade?
      But hey, it’s Massachusetts.

    • GMHeller
      January 24, 2013 at 4:54 am #

      ‘Berkshire Health Systems CEO lauded at annual meeting’

    • danvalenti
      January 24, 2013 at 6:55 am #

      Thanks, P.

    • dusty
      January 24, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

      Not fluff today. The Eagle online has a video of a baby being thrown out of a car in an accident. The video was from Russia. Those boys are on top of all the locally important issues as well as the flying babies from around the world. Did Andy Mick find this one himself? Can we give them some kind of Planet award?

  9. joetaxpayer
    January 24, 2013 at 4:17 am #

    Blame it on Bush, it works for Obama.