PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY, FEB. 12, 2014) — While THE PLANET sorts out the feverish “intelligence” from last night’s city council meeting, let’s let the cipher machines cool off. We’ll try to get to 30,000 feet to present a coherent view of the strange doings involving our Right Honorable Good Friends. We had our spies in the room, we’ve put feelers out, and we can only note the unusual amount of “chatter.” Stay tuned.

While that takes place, we can tell you, folks, that the PTBs (Powers that Be) are still, after 20 months, guarding any shred of information that might leak about the $10,000 in prom money stolen out of a locked teacher’s desk back near school-year’s end in 2012.

The theft occurred at about the same time as “prank night,” when up to a couple hundred students and others were allowed by the administration to rampage the halls. This occurred with the administration’s blessings and under the watchful eye of the school police officer on duty that night.


The administration then consisted of Trevor Benson, principal, and Frank “Free House” Cote, vice principal. Benson has since moved on, a move that was never satisfactorily explained for our liking. For that matter, his hiring never made sense. Benson was in so far over his head his top hair barely touched the grass roots. As for Cote, the move to vice principal continued his baffling meteoric rise, set in gear the moment Jake III Eberwein plucked him from the culinary scrap heap and sent him on his way to the toppermost of the poppermost. In one of the most stellar career advancements ever recorded in PTBGOB annals, Free House left PHS that summer to become — voila! — assistant superintendent of schools, heading up the vocational segment for six figures, not including bennies. What a school system!

THE PLANET, however, has many sources, in every city department and under most of the rocks. This crack assortment of spies, gumshoes, secret agents, and Z-Operatives — collectively known as The Secret Squadron — has had feelers out about the PHS Prom Theft. The Squadron moves with a persistence of running water, which, given enough time and patience, has the power to carve out canyons from mountains of solid stone.

From various sources with connections to the Pittsfield School Department, THE PLANET has learned the following information. We point out that while none of this has been officially confirmed (officially, you could more easily get Harpo Marx to talk than school officials or Mayor Photo-Op), the information comes from sources that in the past have been completely reliable.

THE PLANET has learned that:

* The locked desk drawer belonged to a classroom used for English

* The teacher whose desk it is/was belonged to the English Department

* The teacher is an honest person who was mortified when he or she learned that the theft had happened.

* The teacher tried earlier in the day to follow protocol for the handling of cash. That’s a key piece of evidence, and it may contain within it vital clues to identifying the culprit(s). School policy calls for cash to be delivered to the principal or vice principal for safe keeping in the school safe. Every school principal has a safe for such purposes. The only problem is that both Benson and Cote left early on the day in question. We would only ask how wise was that move, leaving the school, essentially, with no one in charge?

* The person who broke into the desk drawer to steal the money used a crowbar.

* The break-in wasn’t random, The thief knew exactly where the money was hidden.

This makes one pause to ask:

— Why was the investigation shot down so quickly and a seal of silence imposed on the entire incident so tightly?

— Who knew about the cash being present in the desk drawer? It had to be a rather short list.

— What do these two questions suggest, especially when you triangulate them with (a) the thief knowing exactly where the money was and (b) both administrators being absent — conveniently or otherwise — so that the large sum couldn’t be deposited in the safe? What is the connection?

Where is the “Document” pertaining to this theft that then-school committee chairman Alf Barbalunga referred to in open session? What does that document contain? Why has it never been produced? Why has no member of the school committee asked about it, save former committeeman Terry Kinnas? How committed is the “new” superintendent to finding the answers?

— Where are the security tapes of “prank night?” Sources say Cote had access to them and possession of them after the incident occurred. Does he still have control of the tapes? Can they be produced? Have they been altered? What do the tapes show? Those tapes are by law considered “public documents.” Why hasn’t a member of the school board demanded copies of the tape? Why hasn’t the public been given access either to the “Document” or the security tapes?

— Is the new Jake, Jason “Jake” McCandless, aka, JIV, interested in getting to the truth and, more importantly, letting the truth be known to the public, which, after all, is only footing the bill for his $92 million department.

— Is there a ongoing coverup?

— If so, who is hiding what?

— Who is protecting whom, and why?

— Why hasn’t the  Boring Broadsheet, which claims it isn’t afraid to go after stories like this going after this story? Why hasn’t executive editor Kevin Moran assigned a reporter to this story, full time, with a assignment of bringing home the goods? The answers are there for someone willing to spend enough time digging. Apropos to nothing, everything, and all in between, we would also remind any interested and affected parties, if there be such, that any information — including documents, physical items, and security tapes — should be considered evidence in a possible criminal investigation. All evidence must be preserved. Destruction of evidence is a crime.

— Why so much weirdness, so much aversion of eyes, so much fear whenever one asks questions about the theft?

Add it all up, dear readers, and sleuth if for yourself. In the meantime, we shall keep Channel D open. There’s still a lot of “chatter.”


“Happy trails to you, until we meet again. Happy trails to you. Keep smiling, until then, happy trails to you, ’til we meet again.” — Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails,” (1955).




  1. amandaWell
    February 12, 2014 at 5:59 am #

    Looks like Care Barry is putting down the Mayor’s vision for Pittsfield and Mazzeo’s petition on the Krol show!

    • B. Clairmont
      February 12, 2014 at 7:06 am #


      I wasn’t putting down the Mayor’s vision. I said I was hoping to see his vision in the upcoming budget.

      As I said last night, I don’t think President Mazzeo’s petition is good government. The more through we are vetting issues, the better decisions we will make. Better decisions lead to better government.

      That’s all.


  2. Thomas More
    February 12, 2014 at 6:27 am #

    Since you brought up Benson it is the principal who hires and fires the school staff including the coaches. It was he and not Jim Abel who delivered the news to Bob Moynihan that he was not being reappointed as baseball coach. I believe that his name is Tracy, not Trevor though I could be wrong.

    • joetaxpayer
      February 12, 2014 at 11:00 am #

      Benson is long gone. Bishop is the principal.

      • Thomas More
        February 13, 2014 at 6:42 am #

        What’s your point?

      • joetaxpayer
        February 13, 2014 at 1:06 pm #

        I guess my point is that Matt Bishop delivered the news to Bob Moynihan, not Tracy Benson.

        • Dave
          February 13, 2014 at 2:01 pm #

          Thomas More has never let the facts get in the way… and Thomas, Ruberto is no longer mayor, Carmen is no longer sheriff and Benson has left the Dome!

          • Dave
            February 13, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

            or are you really Jim Abel? since we know now you cn’t be Christine Yon! hahahhhah

    • danvalenti
      February 13, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

      Thanks, TM. It is “Tracy.” I shall make the change.

  3. Scott
    February 12, 2014 at 6:35 am #

    Who cares the connected kids family most likely made him give the money back and made him apologize. Ain’t it great to know people? Plus I’m all for discelpline being handled in house and with the family you don’t need to involve the police all the time people make mistakes. Plus ten g’s is pennies compared to what the blood sucking politicians steal from all of us year after year. Whoever the kid is I’m sure he or she was reprimanded, learned their lesson and will be taught the right way to steal with a bright future in Pittsfield politics.

    I think the new super did a great job out in Lee Pittsfield actually has an opportunity to benefit from this Jake being in charge.

    This is the second time I disagreed with you this week I’m on a roll.

  4. amandaWell
    February 12, 2014 at 7:59 am #

    @ Esteemed Councilor Clairmont…thought you said you weren’t happy with the Mayor’s vision, if I’m wrong,I apologize.

    • Scott
      February 12, 2014 at 8:41 am #

      Are you happy with his “vision”?

      • B. Clairmont
        February 12, 2014 at 9:28 am #

        I haven’t seen a vision yet. Looking forward to one.

        If I missed it, someone please point it out for me. Then I’ll let you know if I’m happy with it or not.


        • Scott
          February 12, 2014 at 10:23 am #

          That question wasn’t pointed at you Barry. His vision is blah, blah, blah cater to the unions and raise tax again blah blah. Hope I helped.

          • B. Clairmont
            February 12, 2014 at 11:25 am #

            Sorry, Scott.

        • C.J.
          February 12, 2014 at 10:31 am #

          CHARTER OBJECTION !!!!!
          Tabled until such language as: Succinct, Brief, Short, replace Loquacious, Verbose, Rambling.
          There is a point where enough is enough, and narcissistic redundancy belittles all intentions,

        • Billy
          February 12, 2014 at 11:29 am #

          Barry what you said to John Krol was spot on. Storing money in accounts
          does nothing to help students,it’s money the city does not have. I would tell John to look at the shape of the streets and the buildings ect…

          I would also have him read the story in the story about the deficit in North Adams,throwing money at something does not make it better,quality over quantity, The people in Great Barrington have said enough is enough, no renovation no more endless increases make it work with what we can afford.i can’t believe we are so selfish and greedy to subject our children and probably their children to. fiscal enslavement for overly generous benefits with no drastic improvement in standards and increase in enrollment, The powers that be should be ashamed of themselves for living in Disneyworld. If we put them to the Pinnochio test They would take out a window at their school committee and budget meetings

          • Billy
            February 12, 2014 at 11:30 am #

            Meant Eagle

          • joetaxpayer
            February 12, 2014 at 8:19 pm #

            Billy. Unfortunately there are a group of people who think that spending money will solve all.They don’t want to work,only looking for the easy way

        • Sparkie
          February 12, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

          Vision what vision. O that’s right put, a Methadone Clinic in the middle of our downtown and give the company 100 grand, spend 100 grand on the floors in city hall and not complete the project, work at your other job 2 days a week, give 4-6% raises to the teachers union and call it 1%, cut ribbon’s at projects done by Jim Roberto and called them yours…..

          • danvalenti
            February 13, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

            SPARKLE et. al.
            The point about vision — “What ‘vision’?” — is a fair one. The mayor has not articulated one. He’s only presented moth-eaten strings of flabby cliches’. For example, what da heck does, “We shall continue to move forward” actually mean?

        • Scott
          February 12, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

          Barry no apologies needed don’t take my sarcasm personally I have no problem with you.

        • joetaxpayer
          February 12, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

          Barry, I really appreciate your input and insight on The Planet. Good luck with your new council. Now show me the savings! I know Mayor Dan loves to spend and has many pet projects, we need some cuts to pay for the fluff. There out there SOS.

  5. Spider
    February 12, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    Dan: You bet this is an ongoing coverup! And the culprit is obviously from a well connected family. And no one in authority has the guts to come forward. Disgusting….all the way around!
    And was the money every paid back? They haven’t acknowledge that fact either.

    The only doer in this city (with the exception of Terry Kinnas) seems to be Clairmont. I get more impressed with him every day.

    • dusty
      February 12, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

      Update me please. Did they get the money back or not?

      The sad part about this is that if the kid was a regular kid the Berkshire Eagle would have posted his or her name and picture on the front page and wrote six columns on everything the kid did wrong since the first grade. The fact that they didn’t pretty much tells you the perp was highly connected.

      But the mayor wonders where all the negativity comes from? Things like this mayor. The different sets of rules for the special and not so special people.

      • Spider
        February 12, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

        If they can’t divulge his name because of his age, they can at least tell us what the punishment was…suspended? kicked off a team? Paid back the money? Just tell us something!!!! This was a “robbery” …no different than if a bank or store was held up. The taxpayers and voters in this city deserve to be told the truth. The School Dept. and School Committee should be ashamed the way this situation has been handled.

        • Scott
          February 12, 2014 at 2:32 pm #

          Yes it’s all very shameful.

        • Mike Ward
          February 13, 2014 at 5:39 am #

          If the prom money was quietly returned, what becomes of the money that the class of 1985 raised? Do we get to choose a new beneficiary?

      • Scott
        February 12, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

        You bet they would if he/she were 18 that is.

        • danvalenti
          February 13, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

          As MIKE WARD says, the class of ’85 raised some substitute money. As far as I have been able to determine, though, not one cent of the stolen $10Gs has been restored. Someone got off scott free. As I wrote, lots of weirdness associated with this apparent “inside” job.

  6. Nota
    February 12, 2014 at 3:35 pm #

    Not seeing a Vision is the same as saying you don’t have one, which is, a put down, to me!

    • Dave
      February 12, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      I disagree Nota, I think it means it has not been articulated or shared with others. He may have a vision, but he has put blinders on all but a select few.

  7. Dave
    February 12, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    Just imagine if companies considering Pittsfield had a representative watching the city council meeting so they could report back to the CEO immediately in regards to the possible 2 million dollar incentive. I would hope they turned off the telly or left the room before the rest of that mess.

  8. joetaxpayer
    February 12, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    Hoped they watched the entire meeting, and decide to assemble the cars in Dalton. That would be a home run for Pittsfield, we would get jobs for our citizens without having to bend over the taxpayers. Sometimes less is more.

  9. joetaxpayer
    February 12, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    Also Dan, according to Mr. Krol (on GMP)Workshop Live was a success. So how could you list them as a $750,000 boondoggle.

    • danvalenti
      February 13, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

      “War is Peace. Love is Hate.” See Orwell’s “1984.”

  10. #nomorebianchi
    February 12, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

    Mayor Danny do nothing finally did snow removal from north street a week after the storm and it it’s only because you couldn’t tell if the cars parked on the side of the road were double parked or if they were actually parked. Maybe we can teach the plow drivers can get a little closer to the curb and not 8 feet away

    • Scott
      February 12, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

      If only every mayor and gov could take “snow emergencies” as seriously as Cuommo. Heck they’re even taking people’s guns. They’re safe and prepared.

      • joetaxpayer
        February 12, 2014 at 8:58 pm #

        Scott unfortunately the politicians Love disaster’s. Ask.the Mayor of New Orleans.

        • Scott
          February 13, 2014 at 6:12 am #

          In devistation there’s opportunity! I’ve been putting a lot of thought lately into an idea. Our founding fathers came here to escape the very things that are happening and put the constitution in place to protect us. Being American is about rising above against all odds to persue happiness and we do this by making sacrifices ( like working entry level jobs to build your resume) but all that is disappearing for future generations to a rich, royal, corporate/ political class that makes financial gain not from thier own sacrifices but from the sacrifices of others. That’s not right and that’s not America. My question is how are they using law that was designed to protect us to destroy us???

        • Joe Blow
          February 13, 2014 at 7:02 pm #

          It’s not former New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin (D) fault…….Pres. bush is to blame.

  11. We Love Pittsfield
    February 12, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    The missing prom money is disgraceful a blight on the school system. Mr McCandless tell us what happened! Wasn’t on your watch but until you clean it up or at least give some acknowledge of information (was $$ returned or not? do schools know who did it? etc etc etc) you will have little to no credibility.

    • dusty
      February 13, 2014 at 2:42 am #

      If the city fathers feel such an absolute need to provide air tight secrecy on such a seemly small crime such as money stolen from a school one can just imagine the lengths they might go to if the city itself was up to underhanded behavior. It is kind of scary to think that the mayors office might be overseeing the school budget.

      But that’s just me.

      • danvalenti
        February 13, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

        Great point, D. If they are going to crazy lengths to squash the investigation into the stolen prom money, how far would (will) they go to protect much bigger corruption?

  12. Jonathan Melle
    February 12, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

    If you want to know why taxes are so high in Taxachusetts, please read this news article:
    Poor Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski of Pittsfield!

    • Scott
      February 13, 2014 at 9:04 am #

      Thank you Jon this is the type of valuable contributions I know you’re capable of and would love to see a ton more of. I’ve been asking that question if my pay decreases (like it has) why should theirs increase? This is what I mean they want us to all sacrifice while they rake in the doe.

  13. Spider
    February 13, 2014 at 7:52 am #

    M. Ward: Please explain….the class of 1985 replaced the prom money stolen at PHS? First I heard of that!

  14. Spider
    February 13, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    Thank you Mike for that info. I guess I missed it. What a great response from that former class, but how sad to think that it could have, and should have, been used for a more worthy cause, than replacing stolen money. Is any one else as outraged as I am?

    Again, if this was resolved “within house” what happened to the stolen money? Is this really too much to ask of the School Dept., School Committee and Mayor’s office. Come on, guys, come clean!

  15. Williams
    February 13, 2014 at 3:46 pm #

    I have to applaud this web site for keeping the issue alive. There are those in the school system now who know EXACTLY what happened to the $10 thousand. Its circle the wagons.

    I have fait in Mr. McCandless that he will come forward with info on the theft. There is so much on the line here including a “vote” on whether he will be any different than the corruption that went before him.

  16. Ron Kitterman
    February 13, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    LOL 1985 thought it was a when I read it, little beyond the statue of limitations isn’t it, my bet is 10 1 odds that last years was covered up the same way 1985’s class was. The intellectual scholars made it reappear when no one was looking and that’s good enough for them. But through the magic of computers and missing videos maybe not.

  17. dusty
    February 13, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    Surely people in the school system know who took the money. And surely people in the police dept know. And surely the mayor knows.

    And none of them feel that the public has a right to know. The more they try to hide it the more curious I get. This perp has got to be related to a very high official.

    quite often when they don’t want to discuss this type of thing they say “Its a personnel matter so it is private.” Maybe it is.

    • Scott
      February 13, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

      I don’t know man don’t most top officials praise our school system to justify the money while sending thier own kids out of the district?

      • dusty
        February 13, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

        maybe it was not a kid.