Article

CHARTER PROVIDES RECALL PROCESS … MECHANISM ALLOWS FOR DIRECT CITIZEN ACTION TO REMOVE BAD OFFICIALS … HERE’S THE BIG Q: IS IT TIME TO ACTIVATE THE MECHANISM?

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEEKEND EDITION, FRIDAY, FEB. 21, 2014) — THE PLANET had an inquiry recently about the recall procedures under the “new” Pittsfield city charter. The move by Hinsdale voters to approve a recall petition inspired the question.

THE PLANET went to city’s official website. We couldn’t find a direct link. Conducting a hunt using the search engine produced language of an April 23, 2013 draft of the charter. Further hunting, however, produced the actual, approved language. It’s interesting that the city makes finding such key information so laborious and multi-stepped, and we wonder how that plays in the box seats and the cheapies. For example, if you were looking to relocate a home or business here, what impression would you take away from your interaction with the city’s online presence?

We thought so.

Here is the language that describes the process, the mechanism, for removing an office holder:

——- 000 ——-

RECALL MECHANISM

Application – Any holder of an elected office in the city, with more than six months remaining in the term of office for which the officer was elected, may be recalled therefrom by the voters of the city in the manner provided in this section. No recall petition shall be filed against an officer within six months after taking office.
 
(b) 

Recall Petition – A recall petition may be initiated by the filing of an affidavit containing the name of the officer sought to be recalled and a statement of the grounds for recall, provided that the affidavit is signed by at least 500 voters for the office of mayor or councilor-at-large and at least 300 voters for any other elected officials; provided, however, that the signatures for a recall petition for the office of ward city councilor shall be from certified voters in the ward for which the councilor was elected. The city clerk shall thereupon deliver to those voters making the affidavit copies of petition blanks demanding such recall, copies of which printed forms the city clerk shall keep available. The blanks shall be issued by the city clerk, with signature and official seal attached thereto. The blanks shall be dated, shall be addressed to the city council and shall contain the names of all the persons to whom the blanks are issued, the number of blanks so issued, the name of the person whose recall is sought, the office from which removal is sought and the grounds of recall as stated in the affidavit. A copy of the petition shall be entered in a record book to be kept in the office of the city clerk. Said recall petition shall be returned and filed with the city clerk within 28 days after the filing of the affidavit, and shall have been signed by at least 20% of the voters of the city for any officer elected at large and signed by at least 20% of the voters of the ward for an officer elected by ward. The city clerk shall submit the petition to the registrars of voters and the registrars shall, within five days, certify thereon the number of signatures which are names of voters.
 
(c) 

Recall Election – If the petition shall be found and certified by the city clerk to be sufficient, the city clerk shall submit the same with such certificate to the city council within five days, and the city council shall give written notice of the receipt of the certificate to the officer sought to be recalled and shall, if the officer does not resign within five days thereafter, order an election to be held on a date fixed by the city council not less than 64 days and not more than 90 days after the date of the city clerk’s certificate that a sufficient petition has been filed; provided, however, that if any other city election is to occur within 120 days after the date of the certificate, the city council shall postpone the holding of the recall election to the date of such other election. If a vacancy occurs in said office after a recall election has been ordered, the election shall not proceed as provided in this section.
 
(d) 

Office Holder – The incumbent shall continue to perform the duties of the office until the recall election. If said incumbent is not recalled, the incumbent shall continue in office for the remainder of the unexpired term subject to recall as before. If recalled, the officer shall be deemed removed and the office vacant. The vacancy created thereby shall be filled under articles 2, 3, 4 and 5 of this charter for filling vacancies in such office. A person chosen to fill the vacancy caused by a recall shall hold office until the next regular city election. Should the person be a candidate in the subsequent election, that person will not be allowed to have “candidate for reelection” appear on the ballot at such election.
 
(e) 

Ballot Proposition – The form of the question to be voted upon shall be substantially as follows:
“Shall [here insert the name and title of the elective officer whose recall is sought] be recalled?”
Yes No
If a majority of the votes cast upon the question of recall is in the affirmative, such elected officer shall be recalled.
 
(f) 

Repeat of Recall – In the case of an officer subjected to a recall election and not recalled thereby, no recall petition shall be filed against such officer until at least 270 days after the election at which the officer’s recall was submitted to the voters of the city.
 
(g) 

Office Holder Recalled – No person who has been recalled from an office or who has resigned from office while recall proceedings were pending against such person shall be appointed to any city office within two years after such recall or such resignation.

SECTION 9-5REQUIRED VOTER PARTICIPATION.

For any measure to be effective under initiative procedure and for any measure to be declared null and void under a referendum procedure and for any recall election, at least 20% of the voters as of the most recent regular city election must vote at an election that includes on the ballot submission to the voters of one or more initiative or referendum or recall questions.
——- 000 ——-

Now that you, the citizens, are armed with this weapon of self-defense, the big question is: Is it time to use it? Think hard on this. Ask yourself if there is any currently sitting official “with more than six months remaining in [his or her] term of office” deserving of recall? For example, in your view, does the mayor qualify?

The followup questions is this: Assuming that there is such a currently sitting official, are the numbers out there for a recall petition to succeed? Are there at least 500 citizens who would sign an affidavit? Are there almost 3,000 people willing to sign the succeeding petition?

THE PLANET invites your thoughts on this interesting, important, and — perhaps — urgent issue.

————————————————————————

“I got a brand new pair of roller skates. You’ve got a brand new key. I think that we should get together.”Melanie, “The Roller Skate Song.”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

57 Responses to “CHARTER PROVIDES RECALL PROCESS … MECHANISM ALLOWS FOR DIRECT CITIZEN ACTION TO REMOVE BAD OFFICIALS … HERE’S THE BIG Q: IS IT TIME TO ACTIVATE THE MECHANISM?”

  1. B
    February 21, 2014 at 10:27 am #

    Sounds like the mayor belongs on that list I’ll sign it.

  2. Scott
    February 21, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Dan do five hundred people even vote in Pitts? Good luck and to answer your question seeing how DB has not held up to any of his campaign promises including quitting his other job is a big fat YES!

    • joetaxpayer
      February 21, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

      Almost 7,000 voted last election. Not very impressive since there are over 25,000 registered voters.

  3. Bill Sturgeon
    February 21, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    Dan:
    Good article. I am waitng to see if Mayor Dan is going to fill the positions that are now held by: Acting, Holdovers, Leftovers and just vacant positions. One has to ask what is the new “Personnel Director” doing?

    We have a great many qualified people of all colors, nationalites, and disabilities who I believe could fill these positions. I mean by now all the political favors should be complete!

    • Sparkie
      February 21, 2014 at 11:11 am #

      The rumor around city hall has it Mayor Danny Do-Little and his puppets are trying to work around the charter by creating an old job description for Bruce ” Deadwood” Collingwood so they can avoid putting him before the city council for approval.

      • Billy
        February 21, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

        Right on Sparkie

        Dan do little has spent his whole career being a constant critic of others complaining that they were not following rules put in place,or that they were not serving the public but serving themselves.
        This administration ran under the solemn oath it was gong to be effective and transparent. I ask anyone on this blog to watch the statements from the mayor and the magnificent seven.Since the mayor and the city council have gotten in they have

        1). Stop debate by killing the ability to send it to sub committee and rush on voting taking the vetting process out of important issues
        2)putting critics voices that have far more experience in committee assignments that they excel at and by breaking them up not having any true debate on critical issues effecting the city. A true rubber stamp not a democracy where all opinions are heard.Ruberto let maz talk on and on and on even repeating the same thing over and over and over. Mazzeo and the mayor don’t want to have to debate they don’t want to answer tough questions or stances they take.I believe both of them believe they know what’s best for the city a and don’t feel any need for accountability or criticism .

        Example – trying to rush the million dollars with no strings attached .thank god for Barry Clairmont and common sense over the rubber stamp

        3) The council president needs to direct the meeting and be a separate branch of government not a loyal appendage of the corner office.

        • Billy
          February 21, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

          Meant not putting them on committees where they excel

    • danvalenti
      February 21, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

      Bill raises a good point about all the “actings, holdovers, leftovers, and vacancies.” What will the mayor do … or not do?

    • C.J.
      February 22, 2014 at 8:10 am #

      Bill, Pittsfield’s “Personnel Director” is busy commuting from Sheffield, since he managed to oversee the demise of the Kolburne School. Ironically, he lists his profession as a”mental health prfessional” on Linkedin. Apropos !

      • danvalenti
        February 24, 2014 at 8:46 am #

        CJ
        Good one. You can’t make this stuff up.

  4. Ron Kitterman
    February 21, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    What I’d like to see is Dan Bianchi challenge TFB in the 3’rd and have TFB run for Mayor in 2015, I don’t see the votes for a recall myself, but I don’t think he would be able to win re-election in 2015 to a 4 years term from what I’ve been hearing. If that is what you premise even is with the recall ?

  5. Spider
    February 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    I’ve been told that DB doesn’t need another term to qualify for a pension. Is this correct?

    • danvalenti
      February 21, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

      Correct.

      • B
        February 22, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

        If we have a recall on the mayor and he has to resign does that mean he doesn’t get his pension?

        • Joe Pinhead
          February 23, 2014 at 11:51 am #

          Ed, if in fact that’s your real name ( sorry old SNL skit you brought to mind) there are as many reasons as people here who use either a handle or a name. For you it might be the only point of a post that is relevant for others not so much. Since names are so important to you I wonder are you putting together an enemies list? If so why would we want to make it easy on you? This is a blog not a legal document I think people would sign a recall petition but I defer to your vast knowledge on the subject . Just wondering the recalls you spearheaded where they successful ? Is your only reasoning that one would not be successful the fact that handles are used on a blog? A bit thin I would say but hey you might be right

          Just sayin

        • danvalenti
          February 24, 2014 at 8:45 am #

          Not sure, B, but my guess is that he would still keep the years he has already accumulated.

  6. Jonathan Melle
    February 21, 2014 at 1:14 pm #

    Recall all of Pittsfield politics. The political system in Pittsfield is corrupt. Every social and economic indicator stinks! Teen pregnancies double the statewide average in Pittsfield. There are more people on welfare than ever in Pittsfield. Thousands of people left Pittsfield over the past decade. Many jobs have been lost and are not coming back in Pittsfield. The Good Old Boys network rules Pittsfield politics with an iron fist. Pittsfield needs to change for the better and fast. Pittsfield politics needs all new politicians in 2015.

  7. dusty
    February 21, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

    Perhaps we can modify that Big Red pothole machine and turn it into a Big Red Time machine. Then we could go back in time and recall Doyle before he signed the consent decree. Any tinkerers out there?

    Grasping I know.

    • danvalenti
      February 21, 2014 at 4:05 pm #

      Good one, D. It can be a version of Sherman and Peabody’s Wayback Machine.

    • Donald
      February 21, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

      Rusty, I get your deal as the Monday morning QB. Very easy to do but I haven’t heard a convincing argument as to why we’d be better off without the Consent Decree. The EPA still makes the rules and precedents have been set (see the recent article in the BERKSHIRE EAGLE )…we just got an extra 10M and an expedited cleanup to “EPA standards” (same as a Superfund site). If you’re unhappy, perhaps you should grow a pair of testicles and run for office or get more involved and be an advocate for change.

      • Mad Trapper
        February 21, 2014 at 6:47 pm #

        You are delusional.

        Put YOUR testicles, if you have any, in Silver Lake.

        Maybe have a taste of the water there? For YOURSELF AND CHILDREN/GRANDCHIDREN. It was a spring fed kettle pond, that held EATABLE brook trout.

        Look at the river. SMELL the river .

        It STILL STINKS OF PYRANOL!!!!, GE’s mixture of toxic spoor it dumped when the river ran high.

        How do I know? Hunted, fished, and trapped the whole housatonic valley since the 1960s.

        High river events coincided with oil discharges.

        Venal pools were left covered in an oily mess that smelled. Well it SMELLED LIKE PYRANOL!!!! All aquatic life, HUNDREDS of yards from the river, WAS DEAD.

        GE BRINGS DEATH TO LIFE!!!

        Thank you, Doyle, Divillar and Welch.

        • Gene
          February 21, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

          I’m with you Mad Trapper, Donald is sadly mistaken..he has downed the koolaid.

          • Mad Trapper
            February 21, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

            THANK YOU GENE!!!!

            keep up keeping up!!!!

            We love you!!!!

        • Scott
          February 21, 2014 at 8:17 pm #

          That’s a shame about the brook trout the most beautiful fish! I’ve been putting my waders on and hitting the housatonic it is smelly down there and lots of trash another shame these used to be pristine waters now I just go deeper into the mountains searching for brookies in cold water streams.

          Let me ask you a question should we be concerned about deer turkey and other wild game meets that live off and around the housatonic river?

        • DAVE G
          February 22, 2014 at 5:45 am #

          10 mil in lieu of taxes, guess who has to make up the difference.

      • Mad Trapper
        February 21, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

        Have you “crunchies:” whom have MOVED here got a CLUE?

        • Scott
          February 22, 2014 at 5:22 am #

          “Crunchies” that moved here don’t have a clue???

          I’ve asked other people about the deer and they don’t seem concerned I know pcb’s attach to the fatty tissues like eyes, brain etc so the lean meat should be ok but I have mixed feelings about it. It just sucks cause I have direct access to the river and state land but I mostly go farther away to hunt and fish for that reason so am I being paranoid or is it safe to avoid wild game that’s habitat is near or on the river. Obviously the fish I would never eat outta there but there are people who do. Ever fish behind city tire? Huge trout in there but the damn stinks real bad of chemicals.

      • dusty
        February 22, 2014 at 9:09 am #

        Just which part of having a chemical dump next to a grammar school excites you the most Don? Feel free to use as many adjectives as you like?

  8. ed shepardson
    February 21, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

    A recall won’t work here. People would actually have to sign using their real names. We don’t do that in Pittsfield. We hide behind “handles.”

    • danvalenti
      February 21, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

      Pretty much true, Ed. You are not one of them, to your credit. That being said, I do understand why people are afraid to use their real names, especially if they are in a public-service job or work for a politically connected employer.

      • Thomas More
        February 22, 2014 at 6:13 am #

        “It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.” Voltaire

        • danvalenti
          February 24, 2014 at 8:46 am #

          V is one of my all-time favs!

  9. amandaWell
    February 21, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    On the Petition from Council President Mazzeo, which will be vetted at the next Council Meeting concerning stopping Debate, my solution would be to stop debate, only if the Councilors agree to stop it. So, make the motion to stop debate and if it’s voted up or down, then the Council can send it to Sub Committee or continue debate.

    • Billy
      February 22, 2014 at 5:35 am #

      It sounds simple but when you want to really iron out issues, you can’t do it during a council meeting,it would go on for ever,You don’t frost the cake before ya bake it,They want to ram through items the mayor wants when he wants. The magnificent seven don’t work for the mayor or Maz. They work for the majority of citizens who didn’t. Vote for them,and that was far more than the 4000. Thousand who did

    • Billy
      February 22, 2014 at 5:48 am #

      Dan
      You have to read the BB front page story the mayor thinks the solicitor can handle the ordinance review ,He blew off Linda Tyer and Barry recommendations cause he wants to control how and who makes the sausage in the city. I think for a man who spoke about inclusion and government that serves all,has broke new ground in doing neither, we are in uncharted territory and business is watching and not likeing what they are seeing .

      • Scott
        February 22, 2014 at 8:15 am #

        Billy I read that and laughed how the mayor can have such confidence in The city solicitor is inconceivable to me.

        Thomas More that is a good quote and very true.

  10. Dave
    February 21, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    What is funnier? The fact that Mayor Bianchi contacted the BB to ask the citizens of Pittsfield to shovel their sidewalks by Monday to keep the kids safe because school will be back in session(when the city is the worst offender) or the fact that the BB did run the request- on B6 in the corner, almost like they were trying to hide it. I have lived here long enough to know-we will have unshoveled sidewalks, badly plowed sidestreets, and potholes everywhere. It is the Berkshires! It’s almost like the people who live in tornado alley or where hurricanes are frequent being surprised when their house gets destroyed. I will take a pothole every day!

  11. Giacometti
    February 21, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    TFB or as the Aging Greek God called her ” China Doll ” should go back to China…She is a proud member of WEN. Or is it now called WAS..?

  12. Ron Kitterman
    February 22, 2014 at 3:47 am #

    Talk about the height of hypocrisy on the front page of the Pittsfield Gazette : Committee begins Charter Review Consistency Review 2/20/14 The mayor with the assistance of the city council took office Jan. 2012, in the interim appoint an 11 member committee to review the old city charter. This is guided through the process by Stephen McGodrich , as a paid consultant. The committee irons out a new charter sends it off to the Legislature for approval to send to the voters. The voters approve the charter during the with one of the lowest turnout elections in history . The mayor now sets up another committee charged with reconciling the new city charter with the old city code. Appointed to the committee for this task is former city clerk Jody Phillips who just happens to be in a relationship with the Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski and the current city clerk Linda Tyer. The recommendation is consultant from the General Code to sit down and help Pittsfield rewrite city code, which Kathleen Degnan the city solicitor volunteered to assist in the process without a consultant. Inconsistency and bigger government is the constant in this equation.

  13. Billy
    February 22, 2014 at 6:04 am #

    Degnan could not win a winning case,and the big cases in the city are being done by outside lawyers . She has proven she’s over her head,
    Ron the points you make about Jody and the Fire Chief show you how t disconnected the mayor is from
    a healthy political process.
    Nobody can’t tell me that having someone sitting on a committee that will effect a person In a top city position your in a relationship with is good government in action,
    Linda Tyler. has more knowledge and a stellar reputation. The mayor needs a voice that is independent not one more yes man

    • Billy
      February 22, 2014 at 6:05 am #

      Ex. Dunkin. Donuts

    • Dave
      February 22, 2014 at 8:54 am #

      Billy. the members were selected by councilors Mazzeo and Connell, and Linda Tyer is on the committee.

    • Billy
      February 22, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

      I was talking about a consultant,the mayor wants to control. Not only debate but the process very unhealthy government, the city needs other voices that don’t sound like the mayors. The mayor seems to discount intelligent individuals just because they are not political supporters of his or his allies very discouraging.

      • Billy
        February 22, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

        Both Linda and Barry make sense, we seem to be penny wise and pound foolish.

  14. Robin
    February 22, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    I am in favor of the mayor’s plan not to hire a consultant. Keep it in house. Save $14,000.

  15. Billy
    February 22, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    We will worry about fourteen thousand for something that will be the foundation of our city and a one time expense .Then when the school dept comes up and asks for millions,we don’t even slightly check into to see if money is being wasted. This country has learned nothing from the crisis we just went through.the next next generation is screwed and will being in debt up to their eyeballs

  16. amandaWell
    February 22, 2014 at 8:04 pm #

    Is the city going to put picnic tables up at Lake Varnish?

  17. dusty
    February 23, 2014 at 3:52 am #

    It looks like some political hacks are running scared since the Hinsdale recall vote. Someone wrote up a piece in today’s paper trying to make the recall process look like an evil thing. They want to get out in front of this thing before the citizenry realizes that they do indeed have a tool to fight corruption and ineptitude.

    I am doubting the signer of this piece is the one who wrote it. More likely some panic stricken politician afraid of losing his or her gravy train but did not want his or her name on it. The local paper is and has been a tool of the machine and they are walking and talking like a duck right now.

  18. Evian
    February 23, 2014 at 10:29 pm #

    The column today in the bb was bought and paid for by the GOB. Shame on the “author’ of that piece of propaganda.

    • danvalenti
      February 24, 2014 at 8:41 am #

      The author, for the record, was Clarence Fanto. I read his view on the recall motion and disagree with it.

  19. Evian
    February 24, 2014 at 9:08 am #

    Fanto yes. actually he’s one of the better bb columnists.

  20. Scott
    February 24, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    The only thing using your real name on a blog or other comment opinion outlet is is gives cowards who would never use their real name the ability to slander and harass you. It’s sickening. I think Ed is a harmless guy but I’ll admit when he sent me a “free the press, free Valenti” bumper sticker in the mail I had to take a step back for a second find his address and confirm it to let him know I knew where he lived too. There’s a lot of sickos out there using your real name on the internet could be dangerous. With that said id sign my name to a petition to out any public employee if needed. It’s like the gun debate the world would be better if no one had a gun and everyone was honest and put their name behind everything they say but that’s not the case with either scenario.

    • danvalenti
      February 24, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

      ED is an involved citizen. That makes him a “good citizen.” He’s for real, as far as my experiences with him.

      • Scott
        February 25, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

        I agree Ed is not a threat but there are potential threats out there. Something people married with children need to take into account.

  21. GeoSims
    February 25, 2014 at 4:36 am #

    As a business person in this city I can tell you it is not wise to make your political choices public. At least with this administration.