Article

!PLANET EXCLUSIVE! TWO STORIES OF THEFT AT AND ABOUT CITY HALL … CASES POINT BACK TO LACK OF MAYORAL LEADERSHIP AS THIEIR ULTIMATE CAUSE

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

KEEP READING. THE STORY IS POSTED BELOW THE ADVISORY.

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, DEC. 20, 2013) — Got to keep this quick. THE PLANET even now is at work on a story that will reveal (a) anew (and startling) case of theft inside the most important office at city hall and (b) More information on the already-reported (and under-reported) theft at the DPW yard.

Miles to go yet, but we shall be back, later this afternoon, with the goods. Make sure you check back. We hope to have the story soon — no later than 5 p.m., in any case. We got it first and best.

See you all later.

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ADD 1 DEC. 20, 2013

Here’s the story:

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, DEC. 20, 2013) —  Inside jobs at city hall and in allegedly in city departments illustrate the true cost exacted upon taxpayers by the lack of leadership stemming from the corner office.

SPEAKING OF THEFT INSIDE CITY HALL …

You’ve heard about the alleged theft of diesel fuel at the city yard on West Housatonic street. THE PLANET has more details on that, but first, one you haven’t heard about, this one affecting the city clerk’s office. This is a breaking story.

At the end of August, the city clerk’s office noticed a $10 discrepancy at the end of the day while going through the office’s daily internal accounting procedures. Assuming it was an honest mistake, city clerk Linda Tyer and staff checked and re-checked, but the numbers still came up $10 short. The next day, the same thing happened.

Sources say Tyer went to the police. Police chief Mike Wynn made a decision was made not to inform the mayor or anyone else outside the clerk’s office of the thefts in order to keep the investigation strictly confidential involving as few people as possible. The mayor was informed after the arrest was made.

Police installed a hidden camera in the clerk’s office. Sources say the camera caught the accused going into the city clerk’s safe at night. Somehow, apparently, he obtained the combination to the locked safe. According to sources, the thief raided the safe “about five or six times” making off with a total of $305 before the police intervened with an arrest.

Police charged Mike Hubby Jr., the evening janitor working the 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. shift, with larceny. Hubby was arraigned in District Court. According to court documents obtained by THE PLANET, police slapped Hubby with five charges from alleged actions that took place on Aug. 21, 29, and 30 of this year. The charges are two counts of larceny from a building and three counts of breaking into a depository (safe). The documents indicate that Hubby waived his right to a jury trial and pleaded guilty to the charges.

On Nov. 22 before Judge Vrabel, to the first charge of larceny, Hubby agreed to pay the restitution in full, $305. Court records indicated that as a final disposition, the charge was dismissed on recommendation of the Probation Department. On the second charge of larceny, the judge found sufficient facts and continued the case without a finding. On the three charges of breaking into a safe, the court found sufficient facts but continued the case without a finding.  Court documents indicate there were dispositions of the other four charges on Nov. 22 but they do not specify what they were.

That the court documents indicate multiple counts of larceny and breaking into more than one safe suggest that Hubby may have also stolen from another department in addition to the clerk’s office. We believe this to be the case, and we shall continue to look into it.

THE PLANET hasn’t been able to determine if Hubby is still employed by the city.

The prosecution is being handled by the office of District Attorney David Capeless. Mayor Dan Bianchi was informed of the matter. He would have more than casual interest, since sources tell THE PLANET that Hubby’s father and grandfather are former city workers, and that one or both of them were “big Bianchi supporters” in the latter’s 2011 narrow win over Peter Marchetti.

One source says nepotism led to Hubby Jr.’s hiring, calling him unsuited for the position: ”They finally caught the guy, and he admitted the theft. The kid who was caught was completely unqualified [for the job], which he got only through his family connections [to Bianchi].”

The biggest question is Hubby got the combination, but the larger aspect of this case is its deft handling by the city clerk’s office, which is the best managed in the city. Upon taking over as clerk, Tyer installed sophisticated accounting procedures to handle the sizable amount of cash that runs through the office each day. The thefts would have gone on much longer if those audit procedures were not in place.

There’s no doubt that the city clerk’s system in place is fine tuned enough to have detected a missing saw buck. THE PLANET wonders how much money was taken, if any, prior to Tyer’s term? We can also say with confidence that the circumspection and attentiveness shown by Tyer and her staff in this case saved taxpayers a lot of missing money.

Mayor Bianchi and director of administrative services Mary McGinnis did not return THE PLANET’s inquiries. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

PLANET UNEARTHS MORE INFO ON DPW THEFTS

THE PLANET has also uncovered new information on the previously reported alleged theft at the DPW yards.

Three employees of the city’s highway department — Todd Wallace Sr., 51, of New Lebanon, NY; Richard Bator, 53, of Cheshire; and Kevin Liebenow, 53, of Pittsfield — have been charged with theft by Pittsfield police. Diesel fuel, batteries, office supplies, and auto parts were allegedly stolen, sources tell THE PLANET. Our sources tell us the total value of missing fuel and parts could reach six figures, far more than the $500 being reported by the Berkshire Eagle. Police presented the charges to the three men on Dec. 11.

Police charged Wallace with two counts of felony larceny from a building. Liebenow faces three counts of  larceny. Baitor faces one count of larceny from a building. Theywill be arraigned on Jan.3 in District Court.

City hall sources tell THE PLANET that when Mayor Bianchi was first informed of the alleged theft, “He didn’t want it to be public [and tried to keep it from the press]. He didn’t do anything, but he was forced into it” by Peter Bruneau, superintendent of the city yard on West Housatonic Street, sources say. The city doesn’t have a DPW commissioner per se. Sources say Bruce Collingwood, listed on the city website as “acting” commissioner, was told about the alleged thefts but ignored it. The Berkshire Eagle reports that Collingwood approached the police in October.

A piece of information that may prove relevant to the case is that Wallace’s son, Tod Wallace Jr., recently opened an automotive repair business at the old Mobil gas station site on Elm Street in Pittsfield, next to the former Friendly’s. THE PLANET stopped there this week. Tod Wallace Sr., who was working there, said the business, Modern Automotive Repair Service (MARS), opened in September. Police say they learned of the alleged thefts from the city yard in October. Police contend that  Wallace delivered stolen materials to his son’s garage. Tod Wallace Jr. also works at the city maintenance garage but is on a leave of absence, sources say. Police have not yet charged the younger Wallace with a crime.  Police say the DPW investigation is continuing and further charges may be forthcoming.

As of press time, neither Bruneau, Bianchi, McGinnis, or Chief Wynn had returned THE PLANET’s calls.

If there’s a hero in this unfolding mess, it’s Bruneau, an overworked, underpaid public servant who, at the moment, is twisting in the mayor’s wind. Bruneau is the guy who takes care of anyone who calls him. If he’s told about a pothole, the next day he’s there, fixing it. Indeed, to a person, city councilors have nothing but good things to say about Bruneau. And he’s the type of good, honest hard worker that gets the short end of the stick when a leadership void ends in an “every man for himself” mentality, which appears to be the case now at city hall under Bianchi.

“This [scandal] is a direct result of no one in charge,” one city hall source says. “There’s no leadership. It’s a mess.”

THE PLANET reminds all that until convicted in and by a court of law, anyone charged with a crime must be considered not guilty. The charges are allegations at this point, waiting to be proven or disproven in court.

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There are several troubling aspects to these cases.

* First, they have the common element of nepotism.

* Second, they seem to suggest a pattern. Concurrent thefts, if they can be proven, hitting two city departments (perhaps more) reflect more than aberration.

* Third, there is a belief inside city hall of a leadership failure stemming from Bianchi’s non-presence.

* Fourth, these two cases are the ones we have managed to uncover, only after considerable investigation. Are there or have there been more cases of internal theft at city hall or in other city departments that have not seen the light of day? It’s a reasonable question.

* Fifth, workers inside city hall say the mayor frequently takes frequent time off, comes in late, leaves early, and doesn’t want to be involved in actually running the city. Ask those in city hall, and you’ll hear variations on this theme, over and over: lots of mayoral hooky. We’ve tried to ask Bianchi about this, but he’s not talking.

* Sixth, there’s a widespread belief that Bianchi still works at his “previous” job at Global Montello Group, an energy company. At our last checking, Bianchi still maintains an office on the third floor at 100 North Street, about a two-minute walk from his office at city hall. While mayor, he has often been seen walking from city hall into the “First Aggie” building. If you go to Global’s website and go to the “contacts” link, you will Bianchi still listed as “Account Manager” with a hot link to his e-mail address, dbianchi@globalp.com.

How many hours, if any, does the mayor work at or for Global? Is the mayor double-dipping on the sly? We know that McGinnis double dips. She runs a downtown bakery. It would not be illegal, of course, since the city charter doesn’t define the mayor’s job. He can come in the office for one minute a week, and technically he’s fine. Morally, however, is another story.  THE PLANET recalls how, shortly after taking the oath in 2012, Bianchi pledged he would be a full-time mayor and would not be working for Global. In a visit to his office at 100 North Street shortly after his victory in 2011, Bianchi told us as much. Has the mayor gone back on his word?

Again, we tried several times to contact the mayor, but he continues to duck and cover instead of being a leader and standing out in front of the story of the alleged thefts in and among city departments. He should have freely reported these actions to citizens, who have a right to know if the public servants hired on their behalf — elected, appointed, or hired — are being accused of wrongdoing.

On the DPW case, Bianchi told the Eagle the case is “in the hands of the court system.” Eagle scribe Andrew Amelinckx reports Bianchi told him that “a review of our records suggested something was going on.” Yeah, right. The mayor said he will not adopt new procedures based on the alleged stealing. “Our system is fairly well developed now.”

Yeah, right again, Mr. Mayor. “Fairly well developed” means that two and perhaps three city departments have been the victims of alleged internal theft, with who knows how many more. One of the cases has been admitted to. Your procedures are working great.

—– 00 —–

Bianchi needs to call a press conference, outlining what steps he will take to prevent such actions from happening in the future. Instead, he fails to take ownership. The result has been the establishment of an atmosphere of fear and a culture of foreboding inside city hall. There are far too many good, solid workers there to have to put up with that. We’ve been in that building countless times, during the tenures of many mayors, and we’ve never seen morale this bad.

It’s a natural human tendency to want to cover up unpleasant or embarrassing news and incidents; THE PLANET understands that. However, it’s also a great separator of character. A person of strong character who purports to be a leader faces unpleasantness head-on. Instead of pretending that everything’s perfect on his watch, the mayor should momentarily ditch the ribbon cutting, party going, and certificate awarding and spend more time proactively addressing the deep and growing problems that are eating away at the city from within and without.

The Good Ship Bianchi continues to take on water, and the ensuing sinking may take the city down with it. Meanwhile, we publicly call upon the mayor to step up to the plate and face the live pitching. He’s got our number, and we’re open for business any time he calls.

Or will THE PLANET will have to pull a Mike Wallace on the mayor?

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“Elephantus non capit murem.” — from the Latin, meaning, “An elephant does not capture a mouse.”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

31 Responses to “!PLANET EXCLUSIVE! TWO STORIES OF THEFT AT AND ABOUT CITY HALL … CASES POINT BACK TO LACK OF MAYORAL LEADERSHIP AS THIEIR ULTIMATE CAUSE”

  1. Joe Blow
    December 20, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    Looking forward hearing what you’ve uncovered.

  2. lakeside
    December 20, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    sound familiar, around 2000-2001 after the county commissioners office closed and they were nice enough to leave the city of Pittsfield cash, weed harvesting machines, trucks,boat and motor, tools, oil, radio equipment. Except for the cash, all the tools, oil, machines etc.. were brought to the dpw yard, and shortly after the tools, boat motor, oil, radios were stolen. there was supposed to be an investigation by the mayor and police department , I am still wondering what became of that investigation, did they even have one?

    • dusty
      December 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

      and uh, who might the mayor have been back then?

      • eddiep
        December 20, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

        Who else but Gerry Doyle, 1998 – 2002. Does this answer anyones questions?

        • Mad Trapper
          December 22, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

          Mt Doyle, 10% PCBs right behind your kids school, thanks Gerry!!!

    • joetaxpayer
      December 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

      Unfortunately this type of thing’s have been going on for ever. Although now it is happening with more frequency. Two police officers in Northampton were caught red handed, being more than creative with there hours. Never even had to go to court. State workers in N.Y putting in for hours at 2 different positions, at the same time.I wish I could be at 2 places at the same time. Not just the public sector, bank tellers are skimming, secretaries are embezzling and employee’s stealing. I think people feel entitled, and there going to get there’s one way or another.

      • danvalenti
        December 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

        Granted, it’s been going on forever. That is NEVER an excuse for it happening, and when it does happen, it needs to be ferreted out instead of covered up.

        • joetaxpayer
          December 20, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

          Agree 100%. Sad thing is when they are caught there punishment is minuscule. It’s like they know people who know people.

  3. Mr. X
    December 20, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    Per the letter to the editor about the 83 year old man arrested and jailed for a minor traffic infraction, now the cop is out hurt from a minor motor vehicle accident. I think she is really out because of a severely bruised ego. Many of her fellow officers are “disgusted” with the action she took on that poor senior citizen, and have let her know that.

    • danvalenti
      December 20, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

      Most interesting, Mr. X. Who is the officer?

      • Gene
        December 20, 2013 at 5:26 pm #

        Officer is Jennifer Brookman, former Jennifer Jayco. Almost ot a man the rest of the force isn’t happy with her actions in the case.

        • Edconnect
          December 20, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

          Why am I not surprised it was Jen Jayko.

  4. NJP
    December 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

    The Berkshire Eagle is running an article regarding the DPW diesel fuel theft including names..

    http://www.berkshireeagle.com/news/ci_24768751/pittsfield-highway-workers-charged-stealing-city-fuel

    • Joe Blow
      December 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

      They posted it after soon after Dan posted his story…seems the have been sitting on it.

  5. Silence Dogood
    December 20, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    “Fifth, workers inside city hall say the mayor frequently takes frequent time off, comes in late, leaves early, and doesn’t want to be involved in actually running the city”

    Sounds like the President….let’s call him Barack Bianchi.

    • Mad Trapper
      December 21, 2013 at 3:52 am #

      Barry Bianchi

  6. Evian
    December 20, 2013 at 9:24 pm #

    Great work Planet. You got the story on city clerks that would have stayed buried,…you forced the bb hand on DPW story. You are the best journalist in the state.Im disgusted at current administration.

  7. Thomas More
    December 21, 2013 at 7:10 am #

    Mary McGinnis is not a personal friend. I have known her on and off for twenty years. DV is the first person who I have ever heard speak ill of her.

    • rivetor
      December 21, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

      I think Mr. Moore if you read DV more carefully and without your obvious prejudice (jealousy?) of him you will see he has said no one unkind word about Mary. He oput in inquiries but she has been ordered by Bianchi not to talk.

      I have known Mary as long as you, but not on and off…all on. She is unhappy in themayor’s office and wants out. Will happen soon.

      • Thomas More
        December 22, 2013 at 7:04 am #

        I did read him carefully and he called her a double-dipper and that’s a shot. Perhaps she should close her bakery. She serves at the pleasure of the mayor and her loyalty should be to him. It’s not her job to explain to the press what the mayor should be explaining but isn’t.

        Mary’s Union Street offerings are delicious and I do hope that’s the job she decides to keep.

        In the meantime I’ll try not to pass judgement on you.

  8. dusty
    December 21, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    Looks like there was some mega scrambling between city hall and the Clock Tower yesterday afternoon.

    gotta love it

    wonder if that plus size paper shredder over heated as well

  9. C.J.
    December 21, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    Just an observation, and pet peeve : 3 suspects in a DPW incident, one lives in NY state and one out of the city. 2 out of three ain’t bad. No qualified Pittsfield residents that need work can be found for these positions ? It is staggering the number of Pittsfield city employees, including most major dept. heads that don’t reside in Pittsfield, and accordingly don’t fully pay Pittsfield taxes, yet they receive all Pittsfield perks, courtesy of the Pittsfield taxpayers. Of course when questioned about this, the Pittsfield Director of City Personnel, who commutes fron Sheffield, smuggly responds, that no qualified candidates ever live in Pittsfield.
    Are the Pittsfield City Council and the Mayor qualified then ? They live in Pittsfield ?

  10. joetaxpayer
    December 21, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    C.J Couldn’t agree with you more. What makes it worst is to hear the hypocrites tell everyone to buy local. Not only can Pittsfield not hire local employees, they sub out there many study’s to out of state businesses. So much for home grown.

    • dusty
      December 21, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

      Excellent point. How many of these people got their jobs over more qualified applicants that could actually do a better job for the taxpayers?

      Great job Barney!

  11. rivetor
    December 21, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    Lost in the important point of the thefts and mayor’s culpability is how he is afraid to sit down with DV or even answer calls.

  12. Scott
    December 22, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    Lies and deceit is all govt is. How anyone can envision an unarmed population under the control and at the mercy of the collective and criminals I just can’t wrap my head around it. Not that any type of armed resistance will do much good at this point I think it’s def time to use our rights as citizens be involved and vote for the people who really want accountability and transparency in govt you won’t find many on either side of the repub/dem party. I had an interesting thought out deep in the woods the other day. I had stopped at the bank and just happened to have cash in my pocket and as I looked around I thought how worthless the paper in my pocket was. I guess it would help get a fire going.

  13. Joe Blow
    December 22, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    In a recent interview with The Eagle, Bianchi, a former city councilor, outlined his priorities going into his two-year term.

    He said he’ll focus on bringing more jobs to the city by attracting more companies. He acknowledged that it’s a task easier said than done, especially given the current economic climate. But he said his approach will be more proactive than that of the Ruberto administration.

    How? Bianchi pointed at the phone on the desk in his office in the First Agricultural Building on North Street, where he is leaving his job as a manager at an energy services company.

  14. Pittsfield Patriot
    December 22, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    DV This is one note I never thought I’d write. I have to admit I was never a fan, though I also admit reading you and listening to you on the air just to see what you would write or say to reinforce my views that you were unduly tough on the previous mayor and only interested in readers and ratings, more entertainer than journalist. One more admission: and that is that you are providing the only honest coverage city government right now, especially the failure of the present mayor.

    The mayor’s double sip at Global is a dirty little secret. People assume the mayor is working full time at city hall. It’s not even close. He’s almost never there. The Eagle was not going to do expose this. You deserve credit for being the only writer and reporter in town with the ability to expose this stuff and the toughness to “go with it.”

    A new fan.

  15. Giacometti
    December 22, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    The Aging Greek God used to tell the story about how it once happened that back in the day…the 1970′s…a municipal worker in the public buildings dept. was known to have taken home an entire riding lawn mower piece by piece over a long period of time and the act would never have discovered had the thief not tried to get the mower serviced when it broke down. He it needed to get a tune-up on the mower and it turns out there was only one repair shop in town that did the work…the place where the City had originally purchased it….boy sometimes even the best thief gets caught..

  16. Scott
    December 23, 2013 at 5:32 am #

    Isn’t that a Johnny cash song? “One piece at a time.”

  17. outfox
    December 26, 2013 at 3:58 pm #

    Nonetheless, the cops could have arrested the janitor well before the amount of his theft reached a felony number. If they had arrested him for anything under $250 they could have solved the problem without ruining this guy’s life. Typical PIttsfield.