PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, JULY 1, 2014) — THE PLANET today presents an exclusive on the first of two “secret” job situations. Each position is paid for by taxpayers. Each, the mayor has decided, should be decided without you knowing about it.

The first pays $57,331+25% for bennies. The second pays $86,000 to $94,000+bennies. The first is Pittsfield highway department superintendent. The second is executive director at Berkshire Works.

Both fall under “The Fix is In,” that nefarious Pittsfield game show hosted by Dan “Bob Barker” Bianchi (DB3, also known as TES, also know as Ma Barker). ” The rules are simple: Taxpayers provided the funds for these positions, but DB3 gets to make the final selection of winners hidden from either public view or oversight. As a consequence, there is no accountability for when things go wrong, as they usually do.

You’ll recall, for example, a short half-year ago, DB3 selected his fair-haired boy from Kentucky for the Berkshire Works job. We all know how that turned out. The public is still waiting for an explanation it will never receive. DB3, who loves hiding behind skirts, won’t man up to the disastrous mistake he made, calling it a “personnel matter.”

62 GOING ON 82: Has this picture been Photoshopped, or has the Pittsfield mayor been aging rapidly of late? (Photo WAMC)

DB3, showing a level of paranoia worthy of the C.H.A.O.S. (who gets the reference?), one week ago today instituted a hush-hush gag rule on his department heads. They are not to talk to the press. The media must now go through the mayor’s office for vetting. This is Ma Barker’s way of satisfying his fearful urge to control, control, control. Going back to our course in Abnormal Psychology those many collegiate years ago, THE PLANET would call this a person who’s insecure in his own skin.

We shall be dealing with the dissolute Berkshire Works executive search in due time (rest assured, we are in an investigative mode on that one). We also have a couple of probes under way, one involving the activities of a certain city department that shall raise the eyebrows of environmentalists and the appropriate regulating authorities. Today, though, THE PLANET presents some “inside baseball” on the Highway Department gig.

——– 000 ——–

The Highway Department — Water on the Brain?

This position as head of the Highway Department opened up following the retirement of ever-capable and sorely-missed Peter Bruneau. We all get the idea of promoting from within, and when it’s the right person, that strategy makes sense if nothing else than from a morale standpoint. Thus, one would think that TES would promote from among the capable people within that department — the highway maintenance craftsman, the working foreman (what, as opposed to the “non-working foreman?”), the chief street foreman, or the compliance inspector, for example.

But no. The Fixer (yeah, that’s another one of TES’ many nicknames) knows better. Sources say that after conducting the usual nationwide search, the mayor has selected Kevin Swail, of the Water Department. 

Is this true? If so, why pick a Water Department workers to head the Highway Department? THE PLANET has an inquiry into Public Works commissioner Bruce Collingwood and into the mayor. So far, neither has returned our request for comment.

After Bruneau retired, the job was posted. According to one of our sources, “Something now smells like sewage in the Highway Department. The head job was given to Kevin Swail, a Collingwood crony. He got the job over qualified individuals in the Highway Department. So now we have another absentee administrator ‘running’ a department he knows nothing about.”

If the “cronyism” is true, that would help explain why Swail got the job. If it’s not true, what are Swail’s qualifications? Swail’s resume is listed at Here is how it begins:

——– 000 ——–


To continue career in field of water systems maintenance. To leverage DEP License to create or improve an existing cross connection program per DEP regulations. [THE PLANET sees nothing about highway ambitions].

Work Experience

City of Pittsfield – Water and Sewer Systems (Pittsfield, MA) 2003-Present

Present position – Assistant Superintendent and Backflow Compliance Inspector

Testing and surveying; maintaining maintenance records; customer relations; perform Foreman duties as required

——– 000 ——–

The resume does not list any direct experience with road maintenance or a highway department. The closest we see to that type of experience is the position with David J. Swail Excavating Company in Hinsdale, where he operated heavy equipment. According to the resume, Swail has no managerial experience and ended his education with high school in 1986 — at Pulaski County High School in Somerset, Kentucky, same state where the mayor of Pittsfield found Berkshire Works’ most recent ex-director, again, after the usual exhaustive nationwide search! 

We don’t make these things up, ladies and gentlemen.

——– 000 ——–

Connection to the Mayor

There’s another interesting connection with The Empty Suit. For references, Swail includes David Santolin of Pittsfield. There is a “David Santolin” listed as the husband of Susan Santolin, who share the same Pittsfield address. Susan Santolin is also the name of the woman who serves as the mayor’s executive assistant.

 Does this connection further account for the promotion of a water guy to run highways?

Further investigation reveals that Swail testified along with David Santolin in a Civil Service Commission hearing against fellow Water Department employee Mark Fresia related to Fresia’s demotion from working foreman to water and sewer system maintenance man. Santolin is listed in official hearing documents as “Former City Superintendent of Water Department.” On June 27, 2007, the commission ruled (case D-04-359) in favor of the city, deciding that it had just cause in demoting Fresia from actions occurring in 2004.

One would like to give all parties the benefit of the doubt in a case like this, but that’s just the point. Pittsfield’s mayor has squandered a reasonable person’s leaning to that predilection by

* his failure, time after time, in similar circumstances,

* his secrecy

* his lack of transparency

* and the fact that he has betrayed the trust of Pittsfield citizens.

Old Chinese saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Or as The Magic Kingdom puts it in song, “It’s a small world, after all. It’s a small, small world.”

For a teetering city, this is not good enough, and it cannot be allowed to be “good enough.”


“I made a garland for her head, / And bracelets, too, and fragrant zone; / She looked at me as she did love, / And made sweet moan.”John Keats, “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” (1820).





  1. Mr. X
    July 1, 2014 at 3:03 am #

    Mr. Fresia, I believe, was also a union official who frequently rocked the boat on issues that management didn’t want rocked. He also was fired after that court ruling. Yes, David Santolin is the husband of Sue who works for the Mayor. David was the Superintendent of Water for the city of Pittsfield before leaving to go to Lanesboro Water Dept. And wasn’t Mr. Swail involved with the overtime pay stealing scam with the guy who suddenly ” left for a job out of town ” after they got caught?

    • C.J.
      July 1, 2014 at 5:09 am #

      Wasn’t Sue Santolin the mayor’s campaign manager after another was dismissed ? Didn’t she come to city hall when the mayor assumed office in an overt patronage pay back ?

    • billy
      July 1, 2014 at 3:53 pm #

      Why would Collingwood and the Mayor give a job to a person involved a pay stealing scam .? As well as having no knowledge of the job he is in? I truly think both Collingwood and the Mayor are riding their jobs to pension time instead of doing their jobs .I have never seen the city look as bad as it does now.,not even under Charlie Smith.The city needs a city manager cause we’ve seen what Tes and his band of trained monkeys have accomplished. Collingwood has spent a career here avoiding work instead of Being on top of it. They split his job in half and still the city looks like a slum. Oh I think he deserves the door not a raise

  2. Pat
    July 1, 2014 at 3:43 am #

    Great. More relatives of employees being put into good paying positions. Will the nepotism never end in this city? There is another place in Berkshire County that runs this way. That would be Williams College which is big on hiring relatives of employees. I applied for a job there once and was treated to the secretary telling me how many of her relatives worked there which was apparently the only way she was able to get her job.

  3. Spider
    July 1, 2014 at 6:24 am #

    While I am always enthusiastic about new eateries (we eat out often), I was amused by a letter to the editor in today’s BB about the new restaurant that replaced the old Mazzeo’s on Winter St. (7 Winter Grille)

    While we agreed that the décor was great and the food excellent, it left much to be desired.

    The drinks are expensive and everything is EXTRA (salad, sides, etc.) For example, mashed potatoes is $5.00.

    One can only wonder if the writer has a personal stake in this business. We won’t be going back.

    I would be interested in any other opinions.

  4. Bill Sturgeon
    July 1, 2014 at 6:52 am #

    What do you think of the article in today’s Eagle about the mayor’s new “media policy”?
    I guess if we (You, John Krol, and Me) ask nicely we will once again be able to have people from City Hall on our programs.

    • danvalenti
      July 1, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

      In a word, BILL: “Lame.” In two words, “Utterly lame.”

  5. Kentuckian with shoes
    July 1, 2014 at 7:07 am #


    No doubt you’ve seen this by now:

    “”Officials: New Pittsfield City Hall policy not meant to stifle information flow
    By Jim Therrien, Berkshire Eagle Staff,
    Posted: 07/01/2014 01:46:31 AM EDT6 Comments | Updated: about 8 hours ago

    Pittsfield City Hall
    Pittsfield City Hall (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff /

    PITTSFIELD — A new policy covering City Hall employee interactions with the news media is not an attempt to stifle the flow of information but to expand it, officials said Monday.

    Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi and Director of Administrative Services Julia Sabourin said the written policy was prompted by a number of inquiries from employees unsure how or when to answer reporters’ questions on a variety of topics.

    The two-page policy statement, dated June 24, was distributed to department heads last week.

    The memo was obtained last week by blogger and local cable TV show host Dan Valenti, who termed the policy an attack on free access by the press to city employees.

    “The reason this was written was because we were getting a lot of questions [from employees],” said Sabourin, who began in the post in May. Sabourin said she has been trying to streamline and enhance public relations efforts throughout city government.

    “In just one example, we would be called by Community Development Department staff members about ongoing events like the Howard Building project or medical marijuana. They would call and ask, ‘Can I talk to them [the media]?’ ” Sabourin said.

    In another instance, the Health Department was asked by a television news crew for an interview on the county mosquito control program.

    The Health Department “felt uncomfortable commenting,” Sabourin said.

    Employees in other departments called her as well, she said, adding, “We were fielding calls every day, with the same questions.”

    “And this [policy statement] came about after people at Community Development asked for a meeting,” she said. Sabourin said she also has since met with workers from other departments that frequently field calls from reporters.

    City Hall employees contacted Monday said it is their understanding that the policy statement was primarily prompted by questions from several workers contacted by reporters.

    Another reason for formalizing a policy, Sabourin said, is to foster better coordination of city press releases, which have at times come together too late to promote events or not at all.

    In the statement from Bianchi to department heads, he praises efforts of employees in “promoting their important work to the public,” adding, “I am hoping that by establishing a more formal press protocol within City Hall we can streamline our process and become more efficient about reaching our residents using the press and social media.”

    The mayor reiterated that comment when contacted Monday.

    Sabourin stressed that there were no injudicious comments from employees or leaks to the media that prompted the statement.

    Concerning calls and electronic media sound bites, the written statement asks employees who have spoken to a reporter on routine business topics to notify Sabourin afterward of the contact through an email or phone call.

    Concerning “a new or unresolved topic,” employees are asked to “please call or email [Sabourin] for guidance” or refer the reporter to her.

    The same is required for a television appearance or prior to an interview with the media. Employees also are advised to contact Sabourin if they “do not feel comfortable with a reporter” or would like her input on an issue or situation.

    The policy doesn’t differ from the unofficial policy followed at City Hall for years, Sabourin said, contending that political or controversial questions have traditionally been referred to the mayor’s office.

    She added that similar policies are in place in many cities and state government offices and in most large businesses.

    “Obviously, I was not pleased with the way this was taken,” Sabourin said of criticism of the statement. “It was to make it easier to get information out, but that turned into we were trying to make it harder.”

    Sabourin also acknowledged it would have been wiser to release the statement publicly at the same time it was distributed to department heads. “It was definitely a learning experience,” she said.””

    She told you she could not confirm such a policy existed. Now that you brought it out in the open “they” put the spin on it, trying to sanitize it. What a crock of horse hockey!

    What happens when a city employee talks to the media WITHOUT the suits approval?

    • Things that make you go: Hmmmmm
      July 1, 2014 at 9:42 am #

      Offering you the peace sign, let me make this perfectly clear.
      I did NOT get this comment preapproved by the mayor’s office.

      How is it that a policy that was not admitted to exist and if it did exist was a private internal memo, end up on the front page of the Beagle?

      Why when Dan Valenti called the mayor’s office was he told the new policy could not be confirmed but seems when Beagle reporter Jim Therrien inquired, the new made up story behind it was given full coverage?

      If the reason for the new dictatorship at city hall was truly “trying to streamline and enhance public relations efforts throughout city government”, then why did she not simply say that to Dan Valenti when he called? Answer: because that explanation did not exist when Dan called. It was made up to “save face” only after the fact and she was coached on what to say from now on.

      Why was Dan Valenti told that the mayor does not need to meet with you, yet seems ok for Jim Therrien to have open access to the mayor’s office?

      Seems like a double standard does it not? Blackball Planet Valenti but let the Beagle in; only give them the skewed version of a story.

      • levitan
        July 1, 2014 at 12:27 pm #

        Seems it wasn’t a ‘policy’ but a ‘strategy’ to avoid saying stupid things. A poor carpenter always blames her tools.

        • levitan
          July 1, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

          She’s a toy tool for a toy job in this case.

          Bianchi could have saved himself some grief by hiring a real director.

          • danvalenti
            July 1, 2014 at 3:23 pm #

            That characterization fits the situation perfectly.

      • danvalenti
        July 1, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

        The BB story was lame in the extreme, taking the “company line” in favor of The Suits 100%. It speaks for itself and reveals more than it realizes.

  6. levitan
    July 1, 2014 at 7:20 am #

    Just got back (5 am) from hunting carp in Lake Onota. Buggers floating around but utterly oblivious to my treats.

    Guess I was fishing in the wrong pond when there are so many bottom feeders to hook in City Hall these days.

    • Scott
      July 1, 2014 at 1:31 pm #

      Please tell me you used a bow then call me next time you’re going!

      • levitan
        July 1, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

        Scott, I would be more than willing to club them to death, and the thought of using a bow occurred to me. Don’t have a wired fletch nor heads that would stick to a fish. If I had, I’d come home with six big ones.

        • Scott
          July 2, 2014 at 3:43 am #

          Yes a bow equipped with a reel is on my list of must haves. Especially since they’re going to allow Sunday hunting!

          • levitan
            July 2, 2014 at 9:53 am #

            Man up, make your own.

            Drill hole in arrow. Install barbed head. wire it up to a spinning reel/rod separate from bow. I’d make the rings huge on the rod so you don’t have to chase the rod.

  7. D-man
    July 1, 2014 at 7:38 am #

    Hey Spider,
    The Seven Winter Grille is modeled after a typical “Chop House”, where you only pay for what you want, thus all of the add on’s priced a la carte. There are plenty of reasonable items on the menu and the food was really good, when I ate there with customers, back in May.

    The point of the Letter to the editor in today’s paper was only to get the word out, since The Eagle has not reviewed it or mentioned it (as far as I am aware). So, I suggest that you relax and try and be positive and supportive for someone to invest in Pittsfield and give a new restaurant option to us all. This dining spot might not be for you and yours, but what is the point of bashing it. Let people decide for themselves. I for one will return with my wife, when we want to spend the money for a great dinner out.


    • Spider
      July 1, 2014 at 8:17 am #

      D-Man: The letter writer gave his opinion which opened the door to others.

      So in return, I gave mine….the good points and the bad (in my opinion).

      Furthermore, I am always supportive of new businesses when they deserve it (again, in my opinion).

      • Scott
        July 2, 2014 at 5:51 am #

        I’m surprised you all went there that’s like ground zero I used to live on winter st but very briefly the class of people left something to be desired. Don’t get me wrong I don’t think I’m better than anyone I grew up in the morningside neighborhood but that’s an odd place for a restaurant. Why do people complain when sides are extra??? What was the most an least expensive meal? If I go to a place and spend $150 or under I’m happy. I never tip on the total amount including alcohol either anyone else share that opinion?

        • MrG1188
          July 2, 2014 at 6:20 am #

          No cheapskate…thankfully most people tip on their entire bill less tax. To do less is unfair to the poor slugs who are waiting on you…unless their service is bad.

          • Scott
            July 2, 2014 at 8:35 am #

            Yeah I guess it’s not their fault the mark up on booze is so high. I rarely eat out anyhow but someone told me you’re not supposed to so I just started doing it cause it made sense. Of course the difference is really only a couple bucks.

  8. Dan
    July 1, 2014 at 8:54 am #

    These crony appointments aren’t without injury to the taxpayers.. Remember “Brownie” the head of FEMA whose only experience was as head of the Arabian Horse Association or some such.. Katrina came along and people died .

    Berkshireworks was established to find jobs for the unemployed and ensure that employers find qualified people. What irony that they were lead by yet another mayoral appointment to a flameout. The consequences of the lack of leadership are very real.

    Hiring people whose only qualification is being a friend of a friend of a friend of the mayor’s ensures that “Brownie” lives on.

    Someone said, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for men of good will to do nothing.” When will the people of Pittsfield realize the price they are paying for this mayor’s blatant disregard for their needs?

    • danvalenti
      July 1, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

      Great question at the end, DAN.

  9. Linda
    July 1, 2014 at 9:22 am #

    The Highway Depart. hiring is all wet. Another ‘fix’ by Tes.

  10. Shakes His Head
    July 1, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    Maybe if they updated the City’s website occasionally it would make information access consistent. The website is half assed. It is unprofessional. It exemplifies this mayor’s attitude and administration.

    • danvalenti
      July 1, 2014 at 3:28 pm #

      SHH, you have identified one of the big “communication” problems the city has right now. Sadly, no one in authority seems to realize how dated, dysfunctional, and user-unfriendly the city website is. There’s no way to measure how much potential business this website has scared away. On his 2012 “accomplishments,” TES bragged about his role in the design of the site!

      • Silence Dogood
        July 1, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

        as bad as it is it’s still better than the berkshire beagle web site…now there’s a piece of junk…worthy of the health care website

  11. levitan
    July 1, 2014 at 10:02 am #


    Congratulations on the Media coup! Heh heh heh, they had nothing to hide until they tried hiding it. You put the most awkward imaginable statements from Sabourin on the first page of the Eagle – whoot!

    Obviously, I was not pleased with the way this was taken,” Sabourin said of criticism of the statement. “It was to make it easier to get information out, but that turned into we were trying to make it harder

    As your Minister of Propaganda and Finance, I will forbid the public use of the word, “obviously.” It’s defensive and conjures the Hegel’s spontataneous antimatter principle. She also is definitely annoyed at the press now and sounds a little like Hillary Clinton in a strange sort of way.

    I’m still itching to be the Minister of Finance and Propanganda as you promised me.

    • danvalenti
      July 1, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

      I, too, squirmed when I read her statements. Ouch! Painful to read. As for your appointment, I shall take it up with The Generalissimo.

      • levitan
        July 2, 2014 at 9:56 am #

        A true generalissimo does not wait on servants.

  12. BillyBob
    July 1, 2014 at 10:24 am #

    What difference does it make if you get the information or not?!

  13. jlo
    July 1, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    C.H.A.O.S. isn’t that the organization from “Get Smart” that they were always fighting against? While I liked Get Smart, “Man from U.N.C.L.E.” was a classic.

    • danvalenti
      July 1, 2014 at 7:13 pm #

      That takes the price, J-LO. I, too, preferred U.N.C.L.E. over Smart. Now, for a bonus point, do you remember U.N.C.L.E.’s nemesis organization? (No looking it up!)

  14. Evian
    July 1, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Another great job of covering another hidden, secret deal DV. Your the only game in town for press and media with balls.

    BB story on mayors press policy is straight company line “yowsa boss.” The bb again vending for the Suits. Thank you Planet for your presence.

    • danvalenti
      July 1, 2014 at 3:24 pm #

      Thank YOU, EV, and all our readers and (on TV) viewers.

  15. Ron Kitterman
    July 1, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    The Sturgeon General brings up a good point. Public employees are bombarded with questions from the media for months on how to handle questions on issues, such as the Howard Building, medical marijuana and mosquitoes so the mayor and his able assistant Julia Sabourin have to rewrite the rule book on how to respond to the media ? Meanwhile Bill Sturgeon, Dan Valenti, Councilor Krol or anyone that doesn’t agree with TES is denied access. This doesn’t exactly sound like transparency and open government to me.

    • A mid summer nights dream
      July 1, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

      The only transparency you are going to get with the empty suit administration is we the people looking right through him.

      A hollow man. An empty shell of a man.

      “I’m looking thru you, where did you go.
      … I thought I knew you, what did I know
      You don’t look different but you have changed…
      I’m looking thru you, you’re not the same”
      – Rubber Soul

      • danvalenti
        July 1, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

        Another proof of The Beatles’ genius, to have foreseen the TES disaster.

    • danvalenti
      July 1, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

      TES is about as transparent as the black crepe curtains at a funeral.

  16. Scott
    July 1, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    Sue Santolin reads the comments on social media, disqus and here. It’s one of her duties right sue?

  17. dusty
    July 1, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    Did the mayor really believe this girl could handle this job? Which head was he thinking with? They should do away with all mayoral appointments.

    • Tim bartini
      July 1, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

      Really classy Dusty. Some things never change. Are We now Topix?

      • Payroll Patriot
        July 1, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

        Tim, it is you, that is topics. Think about it, if you can.

  18. outfox
    July 1, 2014 at 6:41 pm #

    Listen, as long as the city doesn’t hire any Detroit water department employees we’re ahead of the game.

    • levitan
      July 2, 2014 at 9:57 am #

      Hmmm. Or any from Hatfield for that matter.

  19. Mr. T
    July 5, 2014 at 11:55 am #


    hey that must mean, when i worked at the waste water co. and tried to become ull-time and was beaten out for the parks dept job, by an 18 yr old who had just finished high school and me at the ripe age of 30 with years of history wasnt hired was to make way for the SON of this SANTOLIN, which then was headed by, collingwood! yup pttsfield is as dirty as boston w cronyism