Article

BUFFIS BUFFETED BY BOARD … CAPPY CRAPPY IN COURT … plus … PHS GYM FLOOR FIASCO HIGHLIGHTS CITY’S LACK OF DUE PROCESS ON CAPITAL EXPENDITURES … BLAME TRACES BACK TO CORNER OFFICE

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY AND THROUGH THE WEEKEND, AUG., 23-26, 2013) — THE PLANET has been Out West, young man, scratching out a living in Hollywood, Palm Springs, and Needles, via Syracuse, living and working fixing holes in scripts and the roof.  It stops our mind from wondering, where it will go.

Hollywood is the only place in the world where you can get paid for NOT writing. Needles, by the way, where we have our cabin hideaway, was the hot spot in the nation yesterday, clocking in at 109 degrees F. Back in the Berkshires at 84 and humid, it felt like a cold wave! What a country! Also, you want crowded? Try being in Salt City at the same time SU is revving up for the new school year, the NY State Fair has just opened, and the President of the United States visits a local high school.

Be that as it may, catching up on a few quickies:

PHONING IT IN: As THE PLANET first reported (another story broken), the Lee Select Board got rid of former chief Joe Buffis, but not for the federal charges. They dropped him for allegedly using town phones for personal use. Talking to a member of Lee Town Government, it appears that Buffis has been digging his own hole for quite a while. The feds have yet to have their say on Buffis. It would appear that there is much more to come.

CAPPY CRAPPY — Say it ain’t so, Cappy. There’s not much to add at this stage to the sad saga of Ward 3 city councilor Paul Capitanio. Cappy entered a plea of not guilty to charges of conspiracy to violate drug laws and being an accessory after the fact. Not a great situation. Law enforcement officials are accusing Cappy of tipping off dealers to drug busts. Hmmm. Capitanio has not responded to THE PLANET’s request for comment. Yeah, as one of the wise guys remarked:  ”A bar owner … who knows drug dealers … who has relatives employed by the PPd … in Pittsfield” — We’re shocked. Shocked.” Actual comment:  ”Hold on – a bar owner who knows drug dealers? And in Pittsfield? How is this possible? And then he chose a lawyer who failed to become the DA? This is really happening? And they let this guy on the City Counil? Wow, it’s no wonder people are leaving pittsfield and BC in droves . . . . The good news is he certainly qualified for the Governor’s Council.”  Kevin Sherman, council president, told THE PLANET: “I am heartsick about the news … and like everyone am still digesting the information.” This is an embarrassment on Pittsfield as a city and the city’s government.

THE PLANET wonders: When will the corruption end?

The wires are burning up with more information on both of these cases, and we shall be here for you.

—– 00 —–

FLOORING IT: PHS GYM FLOOR EXEMPLIFIES A CORRUPT CAPITAL OUTLAYS PROCESS IN PITTSFIELD

Not long ago, THE PLANET presented the details of Mayor Dan Bianchi‘s capital budgets, the millions of dollars he set forth for projects in addition to the regular spending on the city budget, which came to more than $137 million.

We have long questioned capital outlays of various mayors and not just Bianchi. These projects routinely add millions of dollars in expenses through borrowing and the interest attached. Of course, in the maintenance, upkeep, and upgrading of a city and its infrastructure, capital projects are inevitable. Two issues cloud the capital outlay process as it’s practiced in Pittsfield, however:

1.) Some projects seem to be done simply to spend money. Often, these dollars find their way to “connected” vendors, contractors, and such.

2.) The process by which the projects reach “approved” status remains murky, confused, and confusing. Is this by design or chance? What do you think?

One blatant example of (1) and (2) can be found in The Strange Case of The PHS Basketball Floor. For one thing, the composite floor on the PHS gym should never have reached the deteriorated state in the first place. A well-placed source informs THE PLANET that had the regular weekly treatment of the floor with a specific chemical wash, the floor would have held up for years.

Whoever is in charge of maintenance apparently did not provide the needed upkeep. Routine maintenance would have kept the floor in good shape, much like a deck needs to be treated and varnished periodically. Sources say the floor received almost no regular care. Is this so? Didn’t the school department tell the school committee that the floor did receive regular maintenance? Who’s telling the truth, and how much of this slipped through Dan Bianchi’s attention — both as a school committee member and as mayor?

Okay, that’s gone flooring that can’t be sanded or poured into shape. Fact is, it appears as if the floor was allowed to deteriorate, and it needed to be replaced for the integrity of the gym and the safety of the children who use the facility in physical education classes and sporting events.

Bianchi included the PHS gym floor in his capital projects budget. He called for a capital expenditure of $150,000. The council approved this figure. THE PLANET points out that it’s not the city council’s job to vet the process leading up to the approval or disapproval of a capital expense. The council receives the proposal having to trust that at each stage, the proposed capital expense has been justified by the appropriate city department or departments and that proper procedures have been followed.

Now it turns out that the new floor will cost $60,000 more than the council approved. Taxpayers will take the hit.

That’s a last-second cost increase of 40%, unexplained by the city.

At the Aug. 13 council meeting, at large councilor Barry Clairmont questioned the last-minute request, first submitted by Mayor Bianchi as a late communication after the council agenda had been set the Thursday prior. The late communication is the first red flag. If Bianchi’s team had done its homework, how could the cost be off by so much? And how is it that so many capital projects, approved at one price point, later come in at costs well above the “advertised” price — conveniently after the council has given the go ahead? This is the city of Pittsfield’s version of bait and switch. Clairmont listed three such projects: the fire alarm system at Reid Middle School, painting of the PHS dome, and replacing the floor at city hall. Who’s profiting from these “last-minute” deals? Does anyone dare to look?

At the council meeting, Clairmont said he learned that the initial quote for the cost of replacing the gym floor came not from a qualified city department head but  ”from a volunteer.” It points to a lack of process. As Clairmont pointed out, the city has no standardized procedures for obtaining “reliable quotes”  or if it does, the process isn’t followed. Under this lack of process, all sorts of shenanigans rear their ugly head as possibilities, including the possibility of “favorite son” contracts and kickbacks.

THE PLANET looked into the history of how the PHS floor project came to be, and it exemplifies the lack of professionalism in the city’s capital projects “process.” As mayor, the responsibility for this lack of procedure ultimately falls on Bianchi. At the costs associated, it’s far too expensive to run the city like Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour.

We shall continue our investigation. Next week, we reveal the results. Five — count ‘em — five city departments had a chance to review the PHS gym floor contract, not counting the mayor’s office. Not one of them found anything wrong with the initial bid process.

A former Pittsfield mayor gets called out for excessive spending.

A sitting Pittsfield city councilor gets busted on drug charges.

A highly questionable capital expense process leads to cost overruns and many unanswered questions.

Welcome to Pittsfield, investors. Welcome to Pittsfield, you companies looking to expand. Welcome to Pittsfield, you businesses looking for a start-up location.

Welcome to Pittsfield, whose name is corruption, graft, and special privileges for the elite.

Welcome to Pittsfield, where The Little Guy has no chance.

Except here on THE PLANET. Except for Dan Valenti. We will fight for you.

The best is yet to come!

——————————————————————————-

 ”To others we may seem a blur at breakneck speed, / But orbits are weightless, and velocity is light. / To bring it down to the menu level, we take what we need: / A hummingbird tasted, a flying swallow, in delight.”Dan Valenti, final verse, “Stillness at the Speed of Light.”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

 

29 Responses to “BUFFIS BUFFETED BY BOARD … CAPPY CRAPPY IN COURT … plus … PHS GYM FLOOR FIASCO HIGHLIGHTS CITY’S LACK OF DUE PROCESS ON CAPITAL EXPENDITURES … BLAME TRACES BACK TO CORNER OFFICE”

  1. Gene
    August 22, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    PLANET thank you for your coverage of news that we would otherise not get. You have shown the extent of corrpution in “officlal” Pittsifeld. People take note!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I Care About Pittsfield
    August 22, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

    OK Planet you have addresses the problems and corruption of Pittsifled. If you are serious about “writein” status I will vote for you.

  3. The Truth
    August 23, 2013 at 12:43 am #

    The last time PHS had a wood floor in the gym was 1975.

    After the renovation in 1976, it was rubber, and has been ever since.

    Please at least get the facts right! It also has a name, the Moynihan Fieldhouse.

  4. tito
    August 23, 2013 at 6:04 am #

    ,,,,,,,why in the hell would charges be brought against the Councilor if they wouldn’t stick? And why the hell would his attorney vehemtly say he never did anything,,,,,,,,,,period?,,,,,,,,somethings gotta give,Planet,,,,,,Hollywood.

    • CarlosDanger
      August 23, 2013 at 9:19 am #

      Why,,,,, is Tito using so many commas?

      • Russell Moody
        August 24, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

        I do not think Tito knows what “,” means.

  5. Pat
    August 23, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    I will definitely be voting for you Dan as a write in candidate. My husband too. We need people who tell it like it is, who don’t mince words when it comes to what is happening here in Pittsfield. Dan Bianchi has proven that he simply isn’t tough enough to lead this city. He isn’t take charge enough. He doesn’t think for himself, but allows others to direct him. This is not the type of leader this city needs. We need just the opposite. Someone who sees the big picture, but who also knows that the devil is in the details. In short, we need a person who doesn’t tell us everything is wonderful when we know that it isn’t.

  6. JUST SAYING
    August 23, 2013 at 6:48 am #

    Crooked cops.

    Crooked politicians.

    Tax payers getting screwed by government fools.

    Some things just never change………

  7. Magic
    August 23, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    At one time the custodians for the school dept., were managed by “Servicemaster” and the floors including the gym floors were beautifully maintained. Does anyone know who manages the custodians now?

  8. Jonathan Melle
    August 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    What will happen first?
    Hell freezing over?
    Pittsfield politics changing for the better?

  9. Giacometti
    August 23, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    If you think that the PHS Gym floor which is inside a building and had literally no upkeep is bad….just look at the condition of the Pittsfield Police Dept. Mural…or the Columbus Avenue Firefighters Mural or the Inter-model Transportation Centers Mural… all major works of public art that are all outside and only required a yearly coat of sealant to stay in good condition.
    .
    If this city is unwilling to preserve its major works of public art
    ( when it professes to be art friendly ) how could it ever be expected to be interested in preserving gym floors in its educational institutions……..Com’on Pittsfield don’t you know.
    You gotta walk the walk and talk the talk Pittsfield if you are going to be taken seriously.

  10. I Care About Pittsfield
    August 23, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Now that Ive had time to read this more carefully it’s amazing to me how lax the purchasing process looks to be. It’s also telling that DV finds so many stories of this type while the Berk Eagle loads up with fluff, candy, and celebrity news.

  11. Joe Blow
    August 23, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    It seems there’s a little sunshine starting to peep through the clouds here in the Berkshires. Let’s hope the FBI and the State Police continue parting the clouds! For years and years the GOB have been running amok in these parts. Lets hope Cappy and Buffis are just the beginning of taking down the corrupt system that is in place here. No plea bargains for people who betray the public trust.

  12. dusty
    August 24, 2013 at 1:16 am #

    I seem to recall that the city budget was around 100 million dollars when Ruberto took over 10 years ago. If that is correct and the budget is now 137 million then it went up 37 million in ten years.

    Ironically enough Ruberto campaigned on lowering taxes but instead they have increased almost 37%.

    I hope Barry Clairmont keeps stirring the pot. But even if the taxes in Pittsfield never go up another dime the citizens who pay their share are screwed. Only an idiot or someone connected to the GOB would move here. Horrible place to raise a family unless you have lots of extra cash.

    • Sally
      August 24, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

      Barry served as Ruberto’s treasurer. The only stirring he’s doing is the propaganda punch for us to drink.

      • Dave
        August 24, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

        It is funny how the spin rotates depending on the philosophy that you support! But to his credit, Barry is speaking out now, sort of like Joe Nichols did last term. Hopefully if Joe Nichols gets elected this time he will still be objective and not subjective like a certain other councilor who has seemed to forget the “for the people” and switch to an all familiar “anything the administration wants”. Can you say “free construction”? That is where voter apathy is cultivated or born for a new voter. We (well 25.1%) voted for change, but it only changed the beneficiaries! I will vote for Barry, not because I agree with his stances on most issues, but because he has proven to be a watchdog. Yes, I voted for Mayor Bianchi and yes I am one of the ones that are somewhat disappointed. I have not given up, but until the Mayor of Pittsfield makes living wage jobs the number 1 priority, not just lip service, we will continue to tread water until we can’t stay afloat.

        • dusty
          August 25, 2013 at 3:23 am #

          I think you speak for a large number of the taxpayers. One problem is that when you go into the voting booth you can’t tell the good guys from the bad. Bianchi trotted himself out as a man of the people just like Ruberto did. And he really seemed genuine to me. Much to my dismay he turned out to be just another character actor and taking care of the taxpayers who elected him seems to be the farthest thing from his mind. And by the way, Dan Bianchi is exhibit number one why people should vote against the new city charter. Once you get a bad guy in you are stuck with him and his policies and tax raises for at least four years. Please remember that.

          So if the voters can’t tell the wolf from the sheep when they go to the polls what are they supposed to do?

          • danvalenti
            August 25, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

            DUSTY
            In this election, they can write in the name of “Dan Valenti.” He is not of any political klan, much less the two machines that have ruled Pittsfield and driven it into the dumps since the early 1990s.

  13. tito
    August 24, 2013 at 3:19 pm #

    Didn’t Nichols vote for the budget last time? ,,

  14. Joe Blow
    August 24, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

    This is a news video about the Cappy situation. Not much new info but some interesting stuff.

    http://wnyt.com/article/stories/S3134575.shtml?cat=12415

  15. Tom Verizer
    August 24, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    Dan Valenti has my vote for mayor..no one is better at bringing issues to the front especially the issues that otherwise would be swept under the rug.

    • danvalenti
      August 25, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

      Spread the word. “Dan Valenti” will be the “none of the above” option.

  16. Jonathan Melle
    August 24, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    The biggest problem in Pittsfield politics is that the Good Old Boy network runs the show. Dan Bianchi is a figurehead. It is sort of like how Barack Obama is beholden to Wall Street and the military industrial complex. The Good Old Boy network in Pittsfield politics is beholden to the Massachusetts Democratic Party, which is beholden to bigger players. Dan Valenti picks on Dan Bianchi for not changing Pittsfield in less than 2 years as Mayor, but the problems Pittsfield faces run deeper than the surface.

    • danvalenti
      August 25, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

      JONATHAN
      I do not “pick on” Dan Bianchi or anyone else in politics. I analyze and explain their actions.

      • Jonathan Melle
        August 25, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

        Good job, Dan Valenti! I enjoy reading your blog everyday.

  17. tito
    August 25, 2013 at 5:10 am #

    Then WHY be the mayor if you’re not going to do great things?,,, And that’s what make you,’a good ol boy’,,,,,,,,

    • danvalenti
      August 25, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

      Yes, T. A mayor should be an inventor, a visionary, and not be afraid to uncover new possibilities in both government and politics. Bianchi is clearly not that fellow.

  18. tito
    August 25, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    A former councilor, now deceased,told me he just doesn’t have the Chutzpah. that was several years ago.,