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BERKSHIRE WORKS SOURCES: AFTER LESS THAN THREE MONTHS ON THE JOB, WILLIAM MONTEROSSO IS ON ‘PAID LEAVE.’ WHY, AND IS BIANCHI TRYING TO KEEP THIS HUSH-HUSH?

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By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY,  APRIL 15, 2014) — What’s going on at Berkshire Works? Sources there and elsewhere say the “new” executive director, on the job for less than three months, is already on leave — with pay, of course. The charges? Multiple allegations of sexual harassment.

Is it so? THE PLANET has poked this story from near and afar, and we find reason to believe it’s true. The sources we got it from, and they are multiple, don’t lie. This looks like another story the local daily (its name escapes us here at THE FORTRESS) either doesn’t know about or doesn’t want you to know about.

Put another plucked feather of failure in the fedora of Mayor Dan Bianchi, who, from what we hear, desperately tried to keep this story from seeing daylight. He’s like daybreak trying to sneak the sun past a rooster. It’s the second embarrassment for Bianchi in the past week, the first being when Our Right Honorable Good Friends on the city council refused to go along with his school bus scheme and the unnecessary millions for which the taxpayers would be on the hook.

Bianchi has already strung up taxpayers on more hooks than you’d find at a pirate’s convention, but on the bus business, he found himself foiled. Ditto on his attempt to coverup a story that, if true, puts into serious question his executive ability, his judgment, and his trustworthiness.

THE PLANET again gave Bianchi every opportunity to comment on Berkshire Works. That included the chance to say, “PLANET, there’s nothing to it. The charges are baseless.” He didn’t do that. Neither did any other official source we contacted (later we name them). Instead, rather than show a particle of leadership, the mayor hid behind the skirts, an apt analogy in this case.

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You’ll recall, back in January, Bianchi — who couldn’t dump John Barrett fast enough after der Wunderbarrett‘s two-year contract expired — named William Monterosso, a Pittsfield native, to the post of Berkshire Works executive director. Bianchi took one whole day after his inauguration to name Monterosso, who began the job on Jan. 21. ALong with the move came the whispering campaign against Barrett by Bianchi supporters.

Bianchi touted Monterosso’s “experience in workforce development, including positions in Kentucky and West Virginia,” as if somehow moving on from two hick states is a badge of honor. Actually, come to think of it, with the third-world state of Pittsfield under Bianchi, it may be an “honor,” at least as the mayor seems to reckon these things. Think of it as a Red Badge of Courage from an alternate and opposite universe, der Wunderbarrett replaced by a southern wunderkind!

THE PLANET makes no accusations, mind you. We are merely raising questions based on what reliable sources are telling us. Sources close to and within Berkshire Works allege that “a dozen people have filed sexual harassment complaints against [Monterosso].” The complaints, they say, were made to both the mayor’s office and to the city head of personnel, John DeAngelo. Sources say Bianchi called Monterosso into the corner office and “told him to go home” — not show up for work for while, apparently while the situation cooled off. They add, however, that Monterosso defied the mayor, “went back to work, and started to accuse the people who had accused him.” Reminds us of the old story of the rapist blaming his actions on the victim’s tight clothes and tarted-up looks.

Yesterday, on the basis of our “teaser” comments on the Berkshire Works situation, “Matt” sent us this comment: “You’re right on target with Berkshire Works situation. The Exective Director was placed on administrative leave following an outburst at a staff person suspected of being one of the staff who filed sexual harassment complaints against him.”

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At the time of Monterosso’s hiring, Bianchi said, “Berkshire County will be well served by an experienced workforce development expert of Mr. Monterosso’s caliber.” Bianchi gushed that he was “looking for someone who lives and breathes workforce development.” We wonder: Did the mayor get exactly that?

How does the mayor feel about the appointment now? Does he regret it, or does he stand behind his man? Is there substance to the story, or is it mere scuttlebutt?

At the time of his announcement on Monterosso, Bianchi emphasized the strength of his search committee that scoured the globe for this beacon of integrity. It included North Adams Mayor Dick Alcombright and Richmond Town Manager (and former Pittsfield at-large councilor) Matt Kerwood. THE PLANET’s question for this trio is a simple one: “What kind of due diligence did you do on Monterosso?”

Alcombright got back to us first, telling THE PLANET, “I have no knowledge of this and will speak to [Mayor Bianchi] on Monday.” He hasn’t commented further. Kerwood said, “Mayor Alcombright and I only participated in the interviewing of the three finalists for the position.  While I can not speak for Mayor Alcombright, I would say that he and I were operating under the premise that the candidates
were properly vetted by the Mayor and his team prior to being asked to interview.  Of the three candidates interviewed, we all felt that Mr. Monterosso was the best candidate based on the interview. I can not speak to anything that has transpired since his hiring by the Mayor.” Neither Bianchi nor DeAngelo has responded to our inquiries.

Here’s a key question: Did the city run a background check on Monterosso? If so, how what did they discover? Is he legitimate, or is he just another of those “carnival barker” types who blow into Pittsfield (e.g., Caveny, Armitage) periodically to feast on the political sickness that has paralyzed the city?

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The manner in which Bianchi sacked Barrett reveals much about how the former likes his politics.

Barrett’s last day on the job was Friday, Jan. 17. Barrett said Bianchi never called him or any member of Barrett’s staff to inform him he was out of a job. Barrett had been working under an extension of his two-year contract granted by former Mayor Jimmy Ruberto, who asked Barrett to stay on after the state began issuing unemployment benefits online.

“I’ve never seen it done like that before,” Barrett said of his anonymous dismissal. Bianchi told The Boring Broadhseet of Barrett’s notice: “I just assumed that he had received it. Mr. Barrett was aware that we were in the process.”

“I just assumed.”

Lame, Mr. Bianchi. Utterly lame. It reminds us of the scene in The Godfather where Don Corleone bitch-slaps a whining Johnny Fontaine, saying, “C’mon, Johnny. Be a man.”

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Channel 3 WAVE: A Sketchy Record in Kentucky

As best as we can put together Monterosso’s prior experience before taking the Berkshire Works job, he last worked as executive director of WVARF, a West Virginia trade association. Before that,  Monterosso was executive director of the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, an operation “plagued” with “confusion and frustration,” according to an investigative report by Eric Flack of WAVE, Channel 3 news in Louisville.

WAVE reporter Eric Flack took an undercover camera to Monterosso’s office. He found and filmed an office where the line stretched out behind the office building. People had to wait in subfreezing weather for hours. Security guards under Monterosso’s direction harassed one person in line.

Flack went to Monterosso and showed him his video report. Did Monterosso take ownership of the problems or show leadership? Not according to the reporter. The executive director rationalized them away. From Flack’s report:

“‘Well it’s not surprising,’ Monterosso said of what he saw. ‘But the bottom line is you can do a montage of saying how horrible and ridiculous things are or I could have done a montage on the other aspect of people actually getting through efficiently.’ Later, Monterosso told Flack, ‘We’re human, and sometimes, I think unfortunately, staff are getting a little overwhelmed.’

Glad to know that Pittsfield hired a “human.”

Flack then reported: “But we didn’t see things running very efficiently at the unemployment office on Preston Highway. We got there at 7:30AM, right as the office was about to open, and found people had been lined up in below freezing temperatures for hours to try and avoid the back up.”

A year ago, on April 26, 2013, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Kevin Shurn to the Kentucky Office for the Blind to replace Monterosso, who resigned with two months remaining on his term. The governor’s communications office gave no reason for the resignation, which appeared to be sudden.

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Berkshire Works is another of those dreaded “quasi-public” agencies. It derives its charter from the Berkshire Regional Employment Board (BREB). This couldn’t be another example of bureaucratic duplication and duplicity, could it? And the executive director of Berkshire Works isn’t another of those well-paid political patronage job, is it?

Meanwhile, THE PLANET received this message from one of our media colleagues:

Your “starter” article is ALL TRUE! Still following up on this, but it appears that there was never a background investigation conducted or a checking of references [on Monterosso]. The spin from the Mayor’s office is that the [Berkshire Works] staff are making these charges because they want Barrett back. The [corner office is] hoping that will throw out a smokescreen.

Long live der Wunderbarrett!

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“There is nothing ever gained by a wet thing called a tear.”Shane McGowen, The Pogues, “Streams of Whiskey.”

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

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Jonathan Melle
Jonathan Melle
8 years ago

Whatever happened to due process of law? A man is accused of sexual harassment. Let him have his day in court! He is innocent until proved guilty in a court of law.
As for Johnny B and Jimmy Ruberto, they are Good Old Boys who ran Pittsfield and North Adams into the ground.

Scott
Scott
Reply to  Jonathan Melle
8 years ago

Barrett actually did a lot of good for the NA economy. At least the appearance is better. I’m not sure if it’s lasting but his heart was in the right place.

ed shepardson
ed shepardson
Reply to  Scott
8 years ago

Scott, North Adams just lost its newspaper and its hospital. He sold the MOCA kool aid.

Scott
Scott
Reply to  ed shepardson
8 years ago

Yeah but that’s all obamas fault…

dusty
dusty
8 years ago

Did any of the “dozen” find the harassment serious enough to go to the police?

Shakes His Head
Shakes His Head
Reply to  dusty
8 years ago

Harassment is not sexual assault.

Ron Kitterman
Ron Kitterman
8 years ago

What another nationwide search gone bad ? Maybe Scott Muir is available ..

ed shepardson
ed shepardson
Reply to  Ron Kitterman
8 years ago

Ron, you mean the same Scott Muir who was found not guilty? That Scott Muir?

Mark
Mark
8 years ago

I believe Don Vito said “you can act like a man!” as Tom Hagan chuckled in the background.

ed shepardson
ed shepardson
Reply to  Mark
8 years ago
Nota
Nota
8 years ago

All the while Fredo is doing cocktail waitress three at a time.

Rafael
Rafael
8 years ago

The big question is why is Berkshire Works even in existence? Seems like just another gov’t department that does nothing but suck salaries out of the taxpayers. All these do-nothing gov’t entities are all too prevalent in Pittsfield.
We need a REAL mayor, not the big fake Bianchi has turned out to be.

C. J.
C. J.
8 years ago

Dan; Your investigative reporting is appreciated and is a necessary cog in civic awareness and accountability, albeit futile in consideration of the city’s de facto personnel policy of external recruitment and hiring.
John DeAngelo, Pittsfield’s Personnel Director was undoubtedly preoccupied with his daily two hour commute from Sheffield to be concerned with background trivia. Wonder who did his as the Kolburne School closing could be interesting.
Pittsfield’s municipal management and work force is replete with those that daily leave the city in their rear view mirror and will not have to deal with the lasting ramifications of their questionable tenure as they live in another state or community. Why should they care ?
There is much more to espouse on this issue, but it again falls into the apathy bin.
Six downtown businesses have closed in the last six months. The Downtown Inc. director lives in Albany, NY. Didn’t The Planet do an investigative report about her background and some Albany parking tickets ? But again; Who Cares ?

dusty
dusty
8 years ago

A dozen people have filed complaints? Men or woman or both? Do they all work at Berkshire Works? Are there really that many patronage jobs there?

Did they all file at once ? And if they have been trickling in over time why did it take so long for it to leak out?

I thought Barrett was also only there as a result of his friendship with Ruberto and did not exactly set the world on fire finding jobs for people.

Thomas More
Thomas More
8 years ago

answers
Rafael – Berkshire Works in another name for the unemployment office and since there may be some people in the county who are unemployed the job of director is necessary,
Dusty – you bet.
Planet – You nailed it – if nobody backs off we’re in for a real treat

ed shepardson
ed shepardson
Reply to  Thomas More
8 years ago

I don’t believe BW is another name for the unemployment office.

BerkshireWorks is a partnership between Berkshire Training & Employment Program and the Massachusetts Division of Career Services, chartered by the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, Inc. Together, we provide access to a comprehensive system of employment-focused programs and services for businesses, job seekers, workers, and employers. We serve all 32 cities and towns in Berkshire County.

The BerkshireWorks Mission

Whether you’re looking for your first job, a new job, career advancement, or quality employees, BerkshireWorks is here to assist you. We are committed to providing quality programs and services to employers, job seekers, and our community partners.

Rafael
Rafael
Reply to  ed shepardson
8 years ago

Basically, BerkshireWorks is the result of the far left thinking that us helpless folks need not 1, but 3 Gov’t entities to find a job.
Any excuse to create more gov’t to suck up taxpayer revenue.

Dave
Dave
8 years ago

Pittsfield Gazette online today- Megan Whilden stepping down. Surprised she stuck it out this long. As much as it was painful to listen to her laugh, especially on the Sturge show, she did do a good job. I am not a big cultural arts fan, but she brought an obvious passion to her job which is something I admire. Good luck in your next (non-private sector) endeavor.

Downtown Dweller
Downtown Dweller
Reply to  Dave
8 years ago

Berkshire Eagle online also has a captioned picture about her leaving. I agree with you about bring passion to her job. Hopefully she’ll keep that going at BCC.

Dave
Dave
Reply to  danvalenti
8 years ago

Next time you send an inquiry to Mayor Bianchi or the personnel director, ask if C.J.’s claim is true that DPI’s head is living in Albany. That would or should matter to the residents of Pittsfield for funding this unnecessary entity, and even more the downtown businesses that actually think that this is still in existence to help them.

Rafael
Rafael
8 years ago

I just checked the BerkshireWorks website. BerkshireWorks is NOT the unemployment office. However, I can see where some would believe it is as the Unemployment tab has links and phone numbers for the real unemployment office. Basically, I just see a redundancy of services readily available elsewhere.
Typical gov’t waste at its best. Sucks taxpayer dollars and presents very little real benefit.

MrG1188
MrG1188
Reply to  Rafael
8 years ago

Still…I believe to sign up for unemployment benefits BW is where one has to go.

Dave Nash
Dave Nash
8 years ago

The real unemployment office? Really? There are a number of ways to apply for UI. Online or by phone. Those numbers listed on the website are the phone in lines. In the event you can’t get through on the phone or online, feel free to come to BerkshireWorks where someone will be of assistance. A redunancy of services, available elsewhere? Feel free to try them and see if they dont send you back to Berkshireworks. Very little benefit? Surprised at that since there are large numbers of people who feel like they have gotten a great deal of assistance from BerkshireWorks. Anti-government theorists and conspiracy theorists unite. Just dont feel bad for yourselfs when are proven wrong.

ed shepardson
ed shepardson
Reply to  Dave Nash
8 years ago

DUA and Berkshireworks are in the same building. Their missions are different.

Welcome to the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA)

DUA administers the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program which provides temporary income assistance to Massachusetts workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and who are able to work, available for work and looking for a job.

The BerkshireWorks Mission

Whether you’re looking for your first job, a new job, career advancement, or quality employees, BerkshireWorks is here to assist you. We are committed to providing quality programs and services to employers, job seekers, and our community partners.

Levitan
Levitan
Reply to  Dave Nash
8 years ago

Sorry, Dave, but I have now been wrangling with UE for several months. No help, but that’s ok. That’s what the Government does best.

Scott
Scott
8 years ago

I would hope that there is an internal investigation going on and that the charges are being taken seriously. What’s with paid leave? How about you’re on leave pending an investigation and if it turns out you’re innocent you get your job and back pay.

Levitan
Levitan
Reply to  Scott
8 years ago

Lawsuit Insurance Policy, Scott.

Matt
Matt
8 years ago

Last week after a staff person reported staff fears to state officials the locks on the office doors were changed to prevent an unauthorized return by Mr. Monterosso.

Staff reports have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with people trying to do their jobs helping others in a hostile work environment. To think that staff would collude to make sexual harassment allegations to foster the return of John Barrett is ludicrous..

No one should have to go to work frightened of the people in power over them and unprotected by the organization which hired them.

The silence of the Berkshire Eagle is remarkable in its failure to report the placement of a city official on paid leave under investigation.

Scott
Scott
Reply to  danvalenti
8 years ago

Isn’t that what I said… 😉

Mark
Mark
8 years ago

I think Fredo was doing cocktail waitresses only 2 at a time..”.players at the tables couldn’t get a drink…so I had to straighten him out…” claimed a clearly pissed off Mo Green.

amandaWell
amandaWell
8 years ago

As the Planets chief traffic correspondent, be careful on the roadways the next couple of days. Use caution while driving,icy conditions could be a major concern.

amandaWell
amandaWell
8 years ago

Seven in favor, you need eight, says clerk Tyer. WHY THE NEED TO BREAK?

Nota
Nota
8 years ago

iNotaI think a good fit for Wilden would be Becky Tefft. plus she’s not from here, a perfect fit.

Matthew
Matthew
8 years ago

The Berkshire Eagle reported online this evening that Mr. Monterosso is on paid leave form his job at Berkshireworks.

No information is forthcoming from the appointing authorities or the investigators but it is good to see that the 4th estate is asserting the public’s right to know –

All thanks to the encouragement received from Planet Valenti. Keep up the good work, Dan.