PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY-TUESDAY, AUG. 18-19, 2014) — At the Aug. 12 city council  meeting, Craig Gaetani, dubbed the Water Wizard for his role in c0-designing and building Pittsfield’s Cleveland water plant in Hinsdale, appeared twice — in person at the open mic and through a petition on the agenda.

Gaetani’s petition, filed Aug. 6, had nothing to do with water, however. It calls for the city to establish the right of private citizens to request that any official dealings they have with the city be, at their request, recorded. With the presence of “smart” technology, practically everyone has access to recording capabilities that are inexpensive, of good quality, mobile, and archivable.

Council president Melissa Mazzeo buried Gaetani’s petition 33rd on a 33-item agenda, one behind the councilor-at-large Barry Clairmont‘s petition on “100gate.” When the council finally got to it, councilor-at-large Chris Connell made a motion (approved) to refer the petition to the city solicitor.  Gaetani’s petition, though, deserves a public airing. It does not deserve to languish in Kathy Degnan‘s office.

Gaetani’s Petition on Recording Police ‘Prophetic’

Given the explosive events in the St. Louis, Mo., suburb of Ferguson — where police shot and killed an unarmed black teenager — Gaetani’s petition proved to be prescient, almost prophetic.

The petition stems from an incident on July 29. He said he went to collect rent “from an errant tenant” in one of several condos he owns on Indian Street in Pittsfield. Gaetani said the tenant later called the police, who showed up at the residence of Dave Gaetani, Craig’s brother, “with a complaint that you guys were bothering him.”

Craig told THE PLANET, “My brother said to the cop, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ to which, according to Gaetani, the officer replied, “Tell you what. You say another word and we will arrest you, your brother, and your sister.”

Craig Gaetani, not hesitant about pressing his rights as a citizen, said he tried multiple times to call the police department to speak with chief Michael Wynn about the incident, only first to be treated rudely and then to be threatened with arrest. Police then referred him to, guess who, the city solicitor.

On Saturday (Aug. 16) Gaetani said he went to the police station to request a report of the incident. The police presented Gaetani with a public records request form, with a $5 fee payable to the city. He was told he would hear within 10 days. Previously, he said, when he requested records, he got them on the spot after paying the fee.

Payback by the Mayor?

Gaetani says Mayor Dan Bianchi is behind the refusal of the police to speak with him or give him the records on the incident, as well as behind the dumping of his petition with the city solicitor. He says the mayor is retaliating against him for speaking out against the threatening behavior he says Bianchi showed him in a visit earlier this year. That meeting was set up so Gaetani could discuss his ideas on cost efficiencies for the city’s water sewage treatment plant, which is in line for federally mandated upgrades. Gaetani, in partnership with Dr. Lawrence Wang, says the two can save the city tens of millions of dollars on the work.

THE PLANET concedes Gaetani’s behavior is direct, sometimes painfully so. And you know what?

That is beside the point.

There is only one salient fact: Can he and Dr. Wang indeed save the city that much money as they claim? The city says the upgrades will cost roughly $80 million dollars. Gaetani says he and Wang can do it for about $15 million. If there is the slightest chance of this being true, the city owes Gaetani and Wang a hearing. There’s nothing to lose and a chance to save millions.

And yet, from what Gaetani says, the mayor has bullied him in front of witnesses; DPU chief Bruce Collingwood has imposed discriminatory restrictions on Gaetani being able to enter the Cleveland plant to give tours; Gaetani’s petition on recording is being stonewalled; as is his attempt to get a routine police report. That’s quite a literal Craig’s list.

Not good. This is not how a civilized city treats its citizens.

Petition on Recording Should Be Taken Seriously

Gaetani petition was filed “on behalf of Pittsfield residents, especially taxpayers … and also for the protection of all city employees who work at city hall and city departments not at city hall.” The petition seeks to give these people the option of requesting “any city department” employee that phone conversations and live interactions be recorded.

“This policy should also include the police department,” the petition reads. Gaetani then mentions “several incidents between the police and a private citizen, whereby the police were very clearly wrong and the citizen was right. I personally requested to the [officer] that I be allowed to tape record conversation. … The policeman told me if I turn[ed] on [the] tape recorder he was going to arrest me.”

All of this brings of to Ferguson, Mo. We share this wire story, from Yahoo News:

“A suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, has been under a dramatic siege since Saturday, when a police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager named Michael Brown. In the wake of the killing, protests have engulfed the community — drawing a heavy-handed police crackdown with St. Louis County police officers armed with assault weapons and outfitted with military equipment. Many of the striking images have come from reporters on the front lines, but also from citizens and their smartphones.

Around 10 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday night, a St. Louis County police line demanded that a crowd of protesters turn off their cameras. Minutes earlier, the police had ordered what appeared to be a peaceful crowd to disperse, firing smoke grenades and rubber bullets. But none of them have to turn their cameras off.

Tweet from Nick Confessore

Photo and tweet from FOX2now

Here’s the deal: As a U.S. citizen, you have the right to record the police in the course of their public duties. The police don’t have a right to stop you as long as you’re not interfering with their work. They also don’t have a right to confiscate your phone or camera, or delete its contents, just because you were recording them.

Despite some state laws that make it illegal to record others without their consent, federal courts have held consistently that citizens have a First Amendment right to record the police as they perform their official duties in public. The Supreme Court also recently affirmed that the Fourth Amendment, protecting citizens from arbitrary searches and seizures, means that police need to “get a warrant” if they want to take your cellphone. (The ACLU has a concise guide to your rights, here.) And the U.S. Department of Justice under President Obama has affirmed the court’s stances by reminding police departments that they’re not allowed to harass citizens for recording them.

Sadly, these rights are not always respected by the police. Even journalists are being harassed in Ferguson in the course of their reporting. Earlier in the evening, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery and Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly were arrested in a McDonald’s and later released with no explanation. Washington Post executive editor Martin D. Baron said Lowery was “illegally instructed to stop taking video of officers” and “slammed against a soda machine and then handcuffed.”

——– 000 ——–
Citizens’ constitutional are under assault as never before. Pittsfield does not want to turn into Ferguson. Seems far-fetched, but under current mayor TES, nothing is beyong belief. Give Gaetani his hearing, Mr. Mayor. Call his bluff. There’s nothing to lose, except, if he turned out to be right, you would lose face — what’s left of it. In that event, — however remote the chances — you could take solace in the savings you provided for Pittsfield citizens of millions of dollars in future water and sewer rates.


“Send to the store, we’re gonna buy some more. We’re gonna have a party tonight.” — Various artists, with Elvis Presley doing the best version of “Let’s Have a Party,” (1957).




  1. dusty
    August 18, 2014 at 12:50 am #

    I agree with the man. Record everything. What is Bianchi so afraid of? He is the one being accused of being a tyrant so you would think it would help him prove otherwise. If that is indeed the case as he says. It is almost an admission that he is afraid of being caught behaving treating citizens unfairly.

  2. Ron Kitterman
    August 18, 2014 at 4:31 am #

    I was under the (mistaken) impression that citizens petitions would be handled first on the agenda not last or was that just when they rubber stamped appointments so they wouldn’t have to sit through the entire meeting ?

    • Gene
      August 18, 2014 at 7:33 am #

      Ron I think DV addresses this good point in the article. The mayor has marginalized Mr. Gaetani at every turn because he (Gaetani) dared to speak out against the mayor’s unprofessional conduct.

      I too thought citizens petitions came first. The mayor obviously got work to Ms. Mazzeo to put the petition last. The mayor has gone beyond a disappointment to dangerous. I would support a recall.

      • DowagerHat
        August 18, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

        Recall but how?

        • danvalenti
          August 18, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

          Here is the process, which we spelled out from PLANET post from 7/28:
          Here’s how the charter handles recall:

          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.

          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.

          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.

          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.

          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.

          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.

          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.
          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.

          • MaryKate
            August 18, 2014 at 6:35 pm #

            Should a recall successfully happen who then takes place of the mayor?

  3. Covert Measures
    August 18, 2014 at 6:39 am #


    There are apps on the app store and play store where you can record audio/video without it being obvious you are doing so.

    One works silently where you just hold the phone like you are on it talking to someone while the phone is recording from the rear camera silently. All you need to do is position yourself so the camera faces your subject. Subject is unaware they are being recorded.

    Another is a pen you just clip to your shirt pocket and it records from from a tiny hidden camera facing the front.

    All of this very inexpensive technology.

    The key is not to draw attention to yourself. Standing there holding a camera and filming, probably will get you arrested and your equipment broken and confiscated even though you have the legal right to do so.

    It would also be a good idea to install an inexpensive surveilence camera at your front door perhaps with a sign that says you are being recorded. As far as I know, there are no laws against you recording anyone who comes to your own door on your own property

    Here is an example of one app. Its even free.
    And the paid version with more features is only .99 cents:

  4. B Scofo
    August 18, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    Oh, jesus. Let’s not compare this account to the killing of an unarmed teenager, please.

    • Mad Trapper
      August 18, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

      Would that be the innocent in Missouri that just robbed a store? MSM seems to have lost this aspect of the “tragedy”.

      • Scott
        August 18, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

        I call BS you could have just killed your mother if you put your hands up and surrender the police have no right to open fire. It’s their job to out themselves in harms way and exhaust every effort before using deadly force. If a suspect surrenders try move in and put the cuffs on. Innocence and guilt is determined through a fair trial by a judge or jury of your peers. I hope you’re never wrongly accused of a crime. And if you are you deserve due process. It’s our birth right in this great nation. People better wake up and realize how great we have it and hold on tight to our freedom because it’s slowly eroding away into a totalitarian police state.

    • Scott
      August 18, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

      Scofo it IS comparable as police brutality is no longer n African American issue. The police are abiding people. One person is shot by police every hr in the US (not sure if that’s exact but I read something to that effect the other day.) not to mention other issues of abuse and misconduct by public servants. It’s getting close to civil unrest. It’s time to let them know we’re armed
      And we vote. Search the battle of Athens, Athens Tenn this isn’t new. African Americans have suffered great injustices at the hands of police. We should not tolerate this as a country governed by law. If the police are doing their job in accordance with law there should be no fear in having any exchange with the public recorded and documented.

      • Scott
        August 18, 2014 at 5:18 pm #


  5. hurdygurdy Man
    August 18, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    The point is the same. Gaetani’s petiion is much needed. If city employees are providing great service there is no reason to fear being tapes. As article sez citizens can tape police at any time as long as it doesn’t intertere with the official duties

  6. Times they are a changing
    August 18, 2014 at 9:14 am #


    Did you hear about the new army manual just published and released Friday August 15, 2014?

    “The new Army manual, known as ATP 3-39.33, provides discussion and techniques about civil disturbances and crowd control operations that occur in the continental United States (CONUS) and outside the continental United States (OCONUS).

    This document, just published this past Friday, August 15, 2014, promises to change the way the “authorities” deal with protesters, even peaceful ones. The consequences of ATP 39.33 could prove deadly for protesters. Further, the provisions of this Army manual could prove to be the end of the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble.”

    Here is more information:

    Here is the actual manual you download and print out for yourself:

    • danvalenti
      August 18, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

      THE PLANET is indebted to you for the links. We just read through them. This is chilling. Along with the loss of privacy, the prevalence of surveillance, and the leanings of government to embrace strong-arm rule, we can say The American Dream is over. Welcome Big Brother. THE PLANET hereby assigns the class to read Orwell’s “1984” and report back with your views. We dare say that although virtually everyone has heard of “1984” and makes use of its dystopian warnings, shockingly few have read it. THE PLANET keeps several documents on our “at least once a year” reading list: The U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights; the Declaration of Independence; the Gettysburg Address; and Orwell’s “1984.” We would recommend the same to all sentient, thinking people.

      • Scott
        August 18, 2014 at 5:20 pm #

        I have a copy. It’s in my list for this winter. After brave new world, the doors of perception and animal farm.

    • Mad Trapper
      August 18, 2014 at 3:38 pm #

      That would be unconstitutional, using federal troops against our own.

      But it’s been done many times before anyway.

      Since the current Im-Potus has no regard for laws, as does racist AG Holder, I’m sure these would be used at ant whim.

  7. DowagerHat
    August 18, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Let’s see what spin TES will be putting on this morning’s shooting on the corner of Tyler St. and First St.. Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

    • Scott
      August 18, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

      How much you wanna bet this latest shooting shares the same MO as most. Both are gang members and seeing the same woman and engaged in drug activity. Also you have to be 21 to obtain a pistol permit after completing a safety course and filling out an application at the police station proving you have no criminal record and are suitable. Thank god for tough mass gun laws keeping us safe!!!

  8. dusty
    August 18, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

    If the mayor starts using the police to intimidate people we will have taken another step in the wrong direction.

    Why is it that when people in other countries feel the urge to protest they get together and do it while in Pittsfield we just talk and talk and talk about how wrong things are. Pu leeese don’t tell me anything about voting people in or out of office. It does not work in Pittsfield. Obviously!

    • Shakes His Head
      August 19, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

      Why would TES need police when the First Lady of Pittsfield could be deployed?

  9. danvalenti
    August 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    Since you majored in medicine, we will allow this. Please, though, in the future, include a substantive, discussion-forwarding comment with your shot. Otherwise, our webmaster will delete on site. That’s the only way we can keep the “comments” section on THE PLANET out of a topix-type gutter. Thank you for your cooperation.

    • ed shepardson
      August 18, 2014 at 3:33 pm #

      Dan, allowing this comment from an anonymous poster is wrong. It isn’t topix type. It is topix. And you know better.

      • danvalenti
        August 18, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

        We do know better. On reflection, you are correct. The comment is deleted.

    • maxwell edison
      August 19, 2014 at 6:38 am #

      There is a well-established history on the Planet of coining nicknames for people who voluntarily put themselves in the public spotlight. The only rules should be that the nickname is apt and that it can be defended as opinion. The Planet has the final say on disposition of such submissions, of course, but they should not allow self-appointed blog police to stifle creativity.

  10. NATO
    August 18, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

    President Mazzeo said she had The Wizard’s back.

  11. Joe Blow
    August 18, 2014 at 3:43 pm #

    There was a article in the BB a few days ago about the jail installing solar panels. They are scraping boilers that are only 10 or so years old. Also in the article they mention a neighbor of the jail is a partner in this solar plant. They don’t mention who this neighbor is….I wonder why.

    Mazzeo and Sheriff Thomas Bowler said energy efficiency has been a priority since shortly after Bowler took office in 2011. He said the current project grew from a request from a property owner near the facility who asked about cooperating on a solar facility to produce electricity.

    When he contacted DCAMM officials about the idea, Bowler said, “They said, ‘We are willing to work with you on a new project at your facility.’ “

  12. Nota
    August 18, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    NATO..REally? get your own moniker!

  13. Susan
    August 18, 2014 at 4:01 pm #

    In addition to the parking nightmare on Harding St., is Taylor St. as there is not enough parking for Home Instead. Neighbors cant even back out of their driveways. When Home Instead was confronted on the issue, their reply – they’re not our vehicles. Not true.

  14. Craig Swinson
    August 18, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    Dear Planet readers…DO NOT record the police in secret in MA…your only defense of recording the police is to do so OPENLY in MA
    In MA you DO NOT have a right to record the police when said recording includes audio and it is covert.

    MGL 272 section 99

    Supported by caselaw heard by the SJC
    Commonwealth v. Jackson
    Commonwealth v. Hyde
    Glick was a case that was dismissed because he was obvious about his recording of the police.

    Effectively MA is a two party consent state.

    Also understand this MANY of the police, including the Pittsfield Police Department do not care to follow the law.
    I was shooting photos downtown and happened upon the police doing force on force training outside city hall by the “garage” next to the police department. I took some pictures and was immediately approached by a female officer. She asked me what I was doing and I told her taking pictures. She asked “for who”
    I said no one, just taking pictures.
    She said I could not…
    I said to her this is a public space, I can take pictures of anything here.
    She said “this is official police training and you can not take pictures of it.”
    I told her that if they wanted to hide “official police training” they should do it in a private space, not out in the street as the public can take pictures of anything in a public space, as it is part and parcel of the rights afforded under the First Amendment.
    At this point two of the other officers “crowded in” and one said, Well if you want to be the subject of this force training, keep talking or go on your way.”
    I said I will certainly go on my way and I will file a complaint.
    I walked over to the police station to the window, one of the officers followed and went into the door as I walked up to the window. I said I wanted to file a complaint and he said “I’ll take your name and number and have someone get back to you.” I said I wanted to speak to the shift Sargent and he said he was it and he would take my name and number and that was it.

    Seeing how this seemed to be a way of either making me give him information or or basically telling me to “f off” I declined.

    • Scott
      August 18, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

      That’s so messed up. I’m sorry you were treated that way. It’s just not right. What we’re allowing to happen in this country is disturbing.

    • 21st Century
      August 18, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

      You said it yourself “the police do not care to follow the law”.

      Open carry is Constitutionally permitted in every State in the Union. Just try walking around in Pittsfield with a sidearm. Watch what happens.

      Concealed, you will draw no attention to yourself.

      Same as if you were filming that day covertly. There would have been no incident with you had no one known what you were doing.

      Either its legal for you to film or its not. Covertly or open.
      Do you concent to being filmed every time you enter WalMart, a bank or convienience store? Did you know they film you on hidden cameras?

      I for one would never meet with this mayor without documentation of what transpired. Yes, it would be reorded.

  15. amandaWell
    August 18, 2014 at 5:03 pm #

    is Harding Street parking because of residents or something else?…just curious?

  16. Luke
    August 18, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    Why doesn’t Scott file a complaint for abuse of office with the Massachusetts State Police?

    • Scott
      August 19, 2014 at 3:07 am #

      Luke, please elaborate.

  17. Jonathan Melle
    August 18, 2014 at 8:00 pm #


    NEWS Article:

    “Teenager Shot in Pittsfield; Police Seeking Suspects”
    By Andy McKeever, August 18, 2014

    PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A 17-year-old man was shot at the intersection of First and Tyler Streets on Monday morning.

    One juvenile has been arrested and charged with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling.

    Police have not released the name of the suspects or the victim.

    Police say officers responded to the reports of shots being fired shortly before 9 a.m. A nearby ambulance was “flagged down” and a 17-year-old victim was taken to nearby Berkshire Medical Center, where he underwent surgery. ….

  18. Susan
    August 19, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

    The parking issue on Harding St. – that Dr. Michaels on South St. doesnt have enough parking spaces for his patients + employees.