By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, MARCH 18, 2014) — When the bartender calls the cops in to break up a riot at one of the many dives in town, THE PLANET excuses the yawns that follow. It’s like seeing a Level III sex offender walking free in the downtown, as we did yesterday afternoon on North Street. Ho hum, it’s not news.
There’s also no newsworthiness in how “bottomed out” the bottom-of-the-barrell has gotten in Pittsfield. The city might just as well add some mustard and mayo to its new crime database and eat it as a snack for all the good it will do.
As we’ve seen in our recent explorations of non-profits and the wave of riff-raff immigration into the town (“Give us your druggies, your welfare cheats, and your sex offenders” — words carved into the base of the Pittsfield Statue of Constraint) — and as anyone can see who ventures into the city’s downtown or driven its roads — decency has given way to depravity, responsibility has lost to receivership, hard work has been knocked out by heroin, and hard work has been kayoed by handouts.
Even in the best of times, say Pittsfield in 1958, when the social good finds itself in order and the streets luxuriate in their respectability, good government is hard to come by. However, the cancer that has eaten away dignity and good form in, for, and of the city of Pittsfield makes good government nearly impossible.
A Question: Are Members of the City Council Being Threatened?
Now add to that an additional complicating factor. What if, in addition to all the pressures and difficulties our lawmakers face just day-to-day, they had to put up with threats and intimidation? If so, you could take the word “nearly” out of the previous sentence.
Is that happening now in Pittsfield? It’s unbelievable that we even have to ask this question.
Has the spouse of a city councilor threatened another councilor?
THE PLANET doesn’t allege so. The allegation has been made by Ward 6 councilor John Krol. He says it has happened to him. In fairness to Krol, he did not contact THE PLANET with the charge. We heard about it from councilor-at-large Barry Clairmont, who says that after the Feb. 25 council meeting, Tony Mazzeo — husband of councilor-at-large and city council president Melissa Mazzeo — issued a loud, ominous threat to Krol to “lay off my wife or else.” Ward 5 councilor Jonathan Lothrop and Krol himself confirmed to THE PLANET Clairmont’s account. Krol says Tony made the threat immediately following the meeting, in a corridor leading to back door of city hall.
THE PLANET contacted Tony Mazzeo through his wife to get his reaction to the claim. As of press time, he had not responded. Melissa Mazzeo told us, “I find this whole conversation disturbing.”
Here’s what Clairmont told THE PLANET, on the record, on March 12:
——- 000 ——-
CLAIRMONT: The first time Tony Mazzeo threatened councilors was at Mayor Bianchi’s first victory party [ED. NOTE: THAT WAS IN NOVEMBER 2011]. I arrived before the other three councilors that were accosted. I went inside and went upstairs to the Mayor’s party. Councilor Mazzeo was having her victory party downstairs at Mazzeo’s. I sought out the Mayor, congratulated him, and told him I was looking forward to working with him.
The next thing I know, a friend of mine came inside quickly and told me I had to get out of there as Tony Mazzeo was outside accosting councilors Krol and Lothrop. Before I could even react to what he was telling me, Tony was right behind him [the friend] saying, “No need to warn him. I’m right here.”
Tony got in my face and told me I had better respect his wife. He said, “You can disagree with her all you want. Hell, I do all the time, but you better respect her or else.” He had his finger in my face and chest bumped me twice. He was yelling very loudly and kept repeating himself. Don Davis and Pam Malumphy stood next to us and watched. I think Don wanted to make sure no one threw a punch. Pam asked us to take it outside. Tony said, “I’ll do what I want in my restaurant.” The Mayor and Sheriff Bowler watched from a distance. I made eye contact with both during the exchange. This went on for several minutes.
After Tony’s rant, I noticed councilor’s Krol and Lothrop in the room. They told me a similar exchange had just happened to them outside in the parking lot. A few days later I learned from President Sherman that Tony came running after him as he was leaving. President Sherman told me that he could tell Tony was angry and turned to Tony and said, “Tony, have you met my wife?” That apparently stopped Tony from doing the same to President Sherman. However, the following day Tony called President Sherman to relay the same message to him. President Sherman decided to meet Tony at his restaurant, where Tony read him the riot act as well.
All this prior to a single council meeting where I was on the council.
I was expecting an apology from at least Tony and hopefully from Councilor Mazzeo for her husband’s behavior. None ever came.
After that, Tony started showing up at all the council meetings (which is his right, but he hadn’t done that in the past) and would sit in the back and stare at the four of us with threatening looks. Eventually (about a year and a half later) he stopped coming regularly.
However, Tony was present at the February 25th meeting. After the meeting, I noticed him running out the side door in a hurry. He usually waits for President Mazzeo. About five minutes later, Councilor Krol left me a voice message telling me that Tony ran after him and told him he better watch it. John apparently asked Tony what he did he do. Tony’s reply was that he “better stop talking about my wife.” John didn’t know what Tony was talking about and asked him to explain. Tony said, “You know that computer stuff. Stop saying that stuff on the computer.” The only thing John did was to answer your questions that you posed to him, Councilor Lothrop, and myself.
I’m not sure the electorate would appreciate the council president’s husband going around threating city councilors when they disagree with her.
I had hoped that the first incident was going to be the last. Apparently I was wrong. The real question now is: How many more threats will be coming our way?
——- 000 ——-
When we asked Lothrop about the incident, he said, “It’s true. Krol called me immediately after it happened to warn me about it and inform me of it. I had lingered in the council chambers longer than he did, so by the time I left, both Tony and Krol were both gone. I do have a contemporaneous voicemail from John, who left it within a few minutes of the incident.”
When we asked Krol about the alleged incident, he confirmed that it took place. He told THE PLANET that Tony Mazzeo’s manner was loud and menacing, with finger pointing and aggressive body language. THE PLANET issued multiple requests to Tony through Melissa for comment prior to publication. As of press time, we hadn’t heard from him. Of course, we will remain open to the Mazzeos as well as anyone else with information or a point of view, should we do a follow-up story.
THE PLANET would argue that an allegation of intimidation of a councilor that is confirmed by two other councilors is a serious issue, one that needs to be raised, explored, exposed, and confronted. For anyone who cares about the possibility of goodness in politics — as we said earlier, always difficult even under the best of conditions — we don’t have to say why.
Bullying Cannot Be Tolerated if It is Occurring
There are many things that aren’t good enough about the way politics is handled in Pittsfield. There are too many secret alliances and turf wars, too much protectionism for the favored few. Certainly, the low standards by which Podunk plays its little political games has sickened the vast majority of the electorate to the extent that it doesn’t bother to participate (three out of every four voters didn’t vote in most recent election). Along the way to such a corrupt, closed, “It’s who you know not what you know” system, We The People are forced to stomach a lot. Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski draw the line at bullying, however. If that’s happening, it needs to stop.
“It’s such a happy day. I’m glad I spent it with you. Such a happy day. You just keep me hanging on.” — Lou Reed, from his “Berlin” album, 1973.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.