!PLANET EXCLUSIVE! CITY VETs’ AGENT FRIERI SUSPENDED; MAYOR’S ACTION COMES ONE DAY AFTER PLANET’s STORY … CITY OFFICIALS FAIL TO RETURN REQUESTS FOR COMMENT
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, WEDNESDAY-THURSDAY, AUG. 6-7, 2014) — Yesterday, THE
PLANET reported on information from a well-placed source about city of Pittsfield veteran’s agent Rosanne Frieri.
According to our source, Frieri — who on July 18 appeared on John Krol‘s Good Morning, Pittsfield radio/TV show — had been warned by the mayor through Julia Sabourin not to do the show or her job would be in jeopardy.
Sabourin is director of administrative services, the third woman to fill that position for Mayor Dan Bianchi in little more than a year (Donna Mattoon, Mary McGinness). This morning, THE PLANET confirmed that threat to Frieri.
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It’s not often that one gets the apparent confirmation of a story in so hasty, so timely, and so emphatic a fashion. The day after our story, Bianchi dumps his veterans’ agent. It didn’t take The Empty Suit long, did it?
Sources Say Suspension is Without Pay
Sources tell THE PLANET that on the same day our story ran (Tuesday), Bianchi suspended Frieri without pay.
According to sources, Pittsfield personnel director John DeAngelo entered Frieri’s office sometime in the afternoon asking her to accompany him to the mayor’s office. Frieri said she would do so only with accompanied by a neutral third party or legal representation, citing previous meetings with Bianchi that left her feeling bullied and harassed. Sound familiar?
A long line of folks have come forward, some on the record, to make similar claims of intimidation, browbeating, harassment, and strong-arming at the hands of the “altar-boy” mayor.
Sources say DeAngelo told Frieri that if she did not report, she could finish out the day and then consider herself suspended without pay. How different the treatment was for Bianchi’s fair-haired boy from the South, who was relived of his position at Berkshire Works after complaints about his actions while on the job. William Monterosso was suspended with pay.
THE PLANET finds it fitting that Bianchi didn’t have the guts to handle this personnel matter himself. In stead, he sent DeAngelo, “The Sheffield Shuffler,” to the task. The Shuffler, who either enjoys playing fetch or who has few professional qualms, obliged his master. We wonder, though, if later events that may unfold legally will cause DeAngelo to regret the action, especially suspending a department head verbally, with nothing apparently in writing. DeAngelo did not reply to our request for comment.
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THE PLANET caught up with Frieri this morning. She confirmed the suspension without pay. She said she wasn’t given a formal reason, nor was she told how long the suspension would run, adding that she was denied due process. That the suspension was verbal, with nothing in writing, THE PLANET finds highly problematic. We think the lawyers will as well, perhaps finding in this appalling lack of due process the meaty grounds for a fat lawsuit.
“I came back from vacation on Monday,” Frieri told THE PLANET. Yesterday, the personnel director came to my office and said ‘The mayor would like to see you.’” She said she told DeAngelo she wouldn’t report to the mayor because she was tired of being bullied by the mayor. The suspension followed. Frieri said the trouble began when she flew out to Chicago for a veteran’s conference and didn’t ask permission. The city made her eat her own expenses. She also agreed that appearing on Good Morning, Pittsfield was a major factor.
Frieri confirmed our original story, stating that she received an e-mail from Sabourin asking her not to appear on the show. Frieri countered with a valid point: She’s not just the veteran’s agent for Pittsfield. She also serves Dalton, Richmond, Lanesboro, Lenox, Peru, and Cheshire. Such media appearances are vital to the free flow of information, especially in the crucial area of veterans’ services. Nonetheless, after that appearance, as it turned out, Bianchi dumped her.
Frieri said she plans to meet with an attorney this week to discuss her next move. She says she intends to file charges.
“[Bianchi] doesn’t intimidate me,” Frieri said. “I’m not a doormat,” she said, adding that she refused to be treated like one.
Opinions may vary on Frieri’s effectiveness as a veterans’ agent, but there’s no wavering on a swift condemnation of the manner in which this suspension was enacted. No one deserves to be treated in such a shoddy manner. The mayor’s pattern in this regard is disturbing.
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Neither Bianchi nor DeAngelo (as we told you) returned our requests for comment. Neither did city council president Melissa Mazzeo, who is a friend of Frieri’s. This is an administration, remember, that campaigned on and promised transparency. As for Mazzeo, she always returns our requests, promptly — but not this time.
We shall resist the temptation to speculate on the odd timing of our story yesterday and the suspension. It is, at minimum, coincidental in the extreme.
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Fearful, Insecure Restricting of Information Threatens Civic Health
A boss must be allowed vast leeway in setting communication policy for underlings — in the Dreaded Private Sector. In the public sector, the leeway narrows considerably. Beyond a person’s First Amendment rights to free speech, a department head or manager ultimately works for We the People, not the mayor, a point that Bianchi fails to grasp.
Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski have a right to two-way communication with their employees in public service. Department heads and managers, who have responsibility over their respective areas, must be allowed to speak freely with the press. We remind the mayor that the press, not His Lordship, serves as the most important safeguard of good government.
It’s a pity THE PLANET is the only media outlet willing to impress this vital lesson in civics upon the clueless, arrogant mayor. We shall be the first to pronounce his once-honorable political career expired. The pity is that in destroying his own future through his present ineptness, Bianchi has managed to soil his past career in public life.
The largest question we save for last: What effect will this have on veteran’s services in Pittsfield? It can’t be a good one.
“Believe half of what you see, son, and none of what you hear.” — Marvin Gaye, “I Heard It through the Grapevine.”
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.