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LOTHROP FILES OPEN MEETING LAW COMPLAINT OVER SECRECY IN HEALTH-INSURANCE SWITCHEROO … THINK TWICE BEFORE APPLYING FOR THE R.S.V.P. JOB … plus … A CLARIFICATION FROM COUNCILOR MORANDI

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By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, OCT. 28, 2014) — In breaking news, THE PLANET reports that Ward 5 city councilor Jonathan Lothrop has filed an Open Meeting Law complaint with the office of City Clerk Linda Tyer. Lothrop filed the action Friday in connection with the action by the Pittsfield Employment Commission‘s reversal of an earlier vote in approving a switch from the GIC, the state’s insurance pool, to the private and more expensive Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The complaint targets the chair and vice-chair of the Pittsfield Public Employee Committee (PEC), Brendan Sheran and Gerald Miller, respectively.

THE PLANET presents you this exclusive look at the documents:

OML Complaint – PEC

It Ain’t Heavy, Father; It’s the Way ‘Democracy’ Works in Pittsfield 

The PEC consists of one member from each of the city’s 15 municipal unions. In executive matters, PEC members cast weighted votes. The weights are accorded in this way:

* United Educators of Pittsfield, 35.23% of PEC votes.

* Local 1315, paraprofessionals, 13.84%

* Local 1315, secretaries/clerks, 3.14%

* Local 1315, cafeteria, 4.15%

* Local 1315, bus drivers, 3.44%

* Local 1315, custodians, 3.26%

*Pittsfield Educators Administrators Association, 2.73%

* Local 2647, fire fighters, 5.33%

* Local 447, police, 5.15%

* Local 4475, superior officers, .96%

* Local 861, AFSCME, 4.97%

* Pittsfield supervisors and professional employees, 4.21%

* Emergency telecommunications dispatchers, .72%

* Pittsfield municipal engineers associations, .01%

* Pittsfield traffic supervisors association, .03%

* Athenaeum employees, 2.68%

* Retirees, 10.15%

Representative Process Corrupted by Weighed Vote, Secret Promises

This tilted apportionment set the stage for a corruption of the democratic process, opening the way for the mayor to press with odd diligence this switch. Dan Bianchi‘s fervor in pushing this move begs the questions: For whom did he carry the water? and What’s in it for him?

You will recall that sometime in late summer, the mayor secretly contacted the PEC regarding the switch. On Sept. 2, the PEC met an in a unanimous 15-0 vote, rejecting the proposal and delivering a slap in the face to the mayor’s end-around on the cost-saving GIC arrangement. With several years in the books, the data shows that the GIC has saved taxpayers a considerable amount of money on the 85-15 health insurance split.

A little more than a week later, the PEC reported back to the membership notifying it of its decision (Sept. 11). Union members thought that was the end of the matter. How wrong they were. More clandestine talks followed, these between the mayor and Sheran, head of the United Educators of Pittsfield (UEP) — who alone controlled 35.23% of the PEC votes. Were those talks documented? Were minutes kept? Was specifically was discussed?

Actually, sources tell THE PLANET Sheran also had the 10.15% of the retirees’ share in PEC. Retiree rep Miller’s wife had recently died. Miller, according to sources, “gave” his vote to Sheran, giving him nearly 46% of the vote. It should be noted that none of the retirees, many on fixed incomes, were apprised of what was going on.

According to sources, promises were exchanged, the nature of which have not been revealed.  One of the “sweeteners” apparently was the “mitigation fund” the mayor set up, effectively promising that taxpayers, not city employees, would pay for any hike in premiums that resulted from the move. That’s a sure sign that the mayor and others expect the switch to cost prohibitively more.

Again, one has to ask: What’s in it for the mayor? THE PLANET shall keep open that aspect of the investigation. Keep in mind that this website — not The Berkshire Eagle, not iBerkshires, not any other newspaper, TV, or radio station — broke this story, which, like so many others, the mayor wanted to keep quiet.

Where else Can a 26-4 Vote ‘Against’ Count as a Win ‘For’?

Back to the timeline. A second, hasty union vote was arranged, with barely legal notice — if that. On Sept. 25, union reps voted 11-4 to reject the move. However, because Sheran controlled 45.38%, he only needed the support of one or two other members. At it turned out, he received two votes and their percentages put them over the 51% they needed. In the two votes, the tally by the union representatives was 26 against the move, 4 in favor. This being Pittsfield, the move passed.

——– 000 ——–

With Move Comes Loss of Millions in Insurance Savings

THE PLANET applauds councilor Lothrop’s action. The secrecy and haste of the two union votes begged for an investigation to see if the law was followed. Lothrop has more than a casual interest in the matter, since he helped mightily to engineer the switch to the GIC during the Ruberto Administration. The move saved taxpayers a lot of money. You can kiss all that goodbye.

THE PLANET has requested comment from Lothrop and the mayor’s office.

————————————————————————————

RSVP Position Advertised, but It Leaves Out the Most Important Requirement

THE PLANET has lost count of the number of people who have either complained publicly or filed charges against the mayor for threatening, discriminatory, harassment, and/or bullying behavior. The long list includes Rosanne Frieri, Craig Gaetani, Deborah Sadowy, Doreen Wade, Barry Clairmont, Rosaura Romano, Jonathan Lothrop, and Mary McGinness. How many lawsuits and actions will result? How much money in damages will this cost taxpayers?

Sadowy was set-up to fail only a few months after taking over the helm of Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). The dismissal had the mayor’s greasy fingerprints all over it. The latest we heard was that Sadowy was consulting with her attorney. She did not leave the city’s employ with a $150,000 severance package, which happened with Bianchi buddy William Monterosso after alleged scandal drove him from the directorship of Berkshire Works.

FYI, here is the city’s posting for the position:

RSVP Director

The application doesn’t mention the most important required: a strong stomach to swallow all the political guff and a weak backbone to yield before the dictates of board director Carolyn Valli, who takes her orders directly from the corner office.

THE PLANET advises anyone interested in applying for this position: Don’t — unless you enjoy being disrespected and abused.

——————————————————————–

Morandi Wants Council to Have a Say

Finally, THE PLANET passes along this message from Ward 2 city councilor Kevin Morandi in connection with yesterday’s column on council reaction to the mayoral meltdown testified to by councilors Barry Clairmont and Jonathan Lothrop.

Since I have already responded to you with my comments reguarding your questions about the phone conversation between Councilor Clairmont and the Mayor, I don’t have anything further to add on that subject. However, to the questions about our role as a “co-governor” with the issues of 100gate and the health insurance switch, I feel we need to be involved as a council whether council approval is needed or not. Communication is key when serving as an elected official. We need to be informed about decisions made, so that we can pass this information on to our constituents when their inquiring about an issue that needs addressing. Thank You.  —   Councilor Morandi

——————————————————————————————

“Clink, clink, another drink. Plenty in the cellar when it’s gone. Drink, drink, the glasses clink making tinkly music till dawn is breaking.”Spike Jones, “Clink, Clink Another Drink,” (1942).

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

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dusty
dusty
6 years ago

Interesting about the open meeting law violation complaint. Kudos to Lothrop. This is the kind of representation I would expect from a city council member. Did the possibility of illegal meetings ever occur to the other councilors and if so were they just to shy to bring it up? Or were they perhaps trying to avoid the mayors B list?

Sometimes I wonder if some of these folks realize that they are a part of the city government that is separate from the mayor. SEPARATE And the reason i wonder is because some so often seem to be in collusion with the mayor, who himself seems to be in collusion with forces not friendly to the taxpayers. Some of them seem to stand out like sore thumbs and they might want to look in the mirror.

joetaxpayer
joetaxpayer
6 years ago

BREAKING news! Recall of baby wipes. We know I a much bigger a** wipe that should be recalled.

Ron Kitterman
Ron Kitterman
6 years ago

Can’t wait for the response from “His Obstinacy” on the OML violation.

Spider
Spider
6 years ago

Will this action by Lothrop be supported by the rest of the council? Or is he out there (like Claremont) all by himself?

How sad that only a few members have spines!!!!

dusty
dusty
Reply to  Spider
6 years ago

It is kind of weird. I can’t even tell if Clairmont and Lothrop like each other.

Scott
Scott
Reply to  dusty
6 years ago

You know Melissa emailed me back one time with a reply implying I don’t “like” the mayor. A man I voted for the first time around due to campaign promises and a man I never met personally. I replied back that I’m sure the mayor is a wonderful person, father and husband but in fact it’s his policy that I do not like. The point is these peoe need to put thier hads together stop acting all high school this isn’t a popularity contest and do what’s best for te city as a whole. We all have to work with people we may or may not like.

poorboy
poorboy
6 years ago

This whole “lockdown” of information from the corner was a trainwreck policy right from the start.

Keeping the public in the dark, open meeting violations, dirty backroom deals, charging public officials for documents, etc, is only headed for a total disaster.

How much of this crap the people are going to take remains to be seen. Honestly, I never liked Lothrup but I applaud him for stepping up and doing something aginst this oppression of this very sick administration.

The day Bianchi is removed from office either by recall or by getting voted out will be a great day for the city of Pittsfield. It will call for dancing in the streets. “All we need is music, sweet sweet music…..”

Hopefully Clairmont and Lothrup’s courage will inspire more to do something and stand up to this tyrant. Lawsuits are not good for the city but in this case its a neccesary evil.

$87,000.00 per year. He’s been doing his damage now for 3 years. Thats $261,000.00 that the people have paid this man. Over 1/4 of a million dollars for what? It would be pure insanity to give him this raise he wants. His final year he walks away with $348,000.00 of taxpayer money. And thats on the books.

tony
tony
6 years ago

I wonder if council president MM will support JLo filing his OML complaint, seeing she filed an open meeting law complaint involving 5 of her colleagues. Or was that then and this is now?

Albert Prince
Albert Prince
Reply to  tony
6 years ago

Thats a good point Tony, a fair one. Melissa tell us what you think.

poorboy
poorboy
6 years ago

Monterosso walks away with $150.000.00 of your money.
Even after only being on the job for 3 months.
Even after allegedly sexually harrassing female employees.

The methadone clinic puts an extra $100,000.00 in their pockets of your money.

Scarafoni Realty gets huge windfall of over half a million dollars of your money. Without the city council’s approval.

Millions more of your money set to go to Blue Cross Blue Sheild in coming years.

The new high school will cost the taxpayer millions. Your money.

Raises to all city department heads = your money right out of your pockets.

You have to pay for all the new shiny yellow school buses that you didn’t need Plus the balance owed on the older ones.

Raises to teachers last year came out of “free cash” – money you were overtaxed. That money is gone now. However the salary increase remain. Your money.

Just wait until the mayor unveils what it will cost you for water. The new treatment plant upgrades will cost you dearly.

New police station? Get out your wallets, get your vaseline ready and bend over.

Had enough yet?

Ed
Ed
Reply to  poorboy
6 years ago

And; How much of your (Pittsfield) tax money support the Pittsfield city employees that don’t pay Pittsfield taxes, but pay their property and other taxes to their respective municipalities ? You know them well: “The Out of Towners’. The Pittsfield paid group that not only doesn’t contribute tax revenues to Pittsfield, but have no vested interest in the community based ramifications of their job performance as they live “out of town” and what happens through their job actions stays in Pittsfield when they commute happily to their homes. No vested committment to the City of Pittsfield except to do just enough to continue to get a paycheck, perks, and pension.
Hypothetically, a Pittsfield police officer, will generally state that they are on duty 24/7 and carry a weapon when technically off duty. If an officer lives “out of town”, doesn’t another municipality get the benefit of their off duty time or 2/3rds of his vigilance and protection ?
The various places (including states) where Pittsfield city employees pay their taxes and reside is a lockdown secret and kept from the Pittsfield taxpayers who foot their bills. Does anyone know how many Massachusetts municipalities do indeed have a residency requirement for their city or town employees ? It will be researched and posted.

Shakes His Head
Shakes His Head
Reply to  Ed
6 years ago

residency requirements are generally unenforceable. And If I had a decent job, why would I want to live in this horrible dump? and no, I dont want you knowing where I live. Creep.

Ed
Ed
Reply to  Shakes His Head
6 years ago

Thank you, for your uneducated,lowlife,yellow cowardly opinion. Go to topix and we’ll meet chicken cheeks .

Shakes His Head
Shakes His Head
Reply to  danvalenti
6 years ago

I apologize for the perceived insult, however, say I were a shareholder of a publicly owned corporation, I would not be entitled to demand personal information about the employees of that corporation.

I am insulted by the insinuation that if I do not pay specific taxes to the community I work for that I am somehow less dedicated or professional.

That more ‘cerebral’ insult is more acceptable than suggesting that something misguided should be made of obsessing about being provided personal information about public employees.

Fubar
Fubar
6 years ago

It should be of no surprise to anyone that Bianchi works not for the people of Pittsfield, but for the teacher’s union firstly, and the other unions after that.

truth is a virtue
truth is a virtue
6 years ago

DAN,

The information that you have published about the GIC is mostly correct. The voting did go mostly how you describe, numbers wise, however I don’t believe Gerry “gave” his vote to Brendan. Gerry did in fact vote himself, but it was no secret how that vote was being cast. With the percentage just shy of 50, they needed another union head to tip the scale. Enter Patty Mayhew, who actually voted no in the first round(14-1 and her reason was laughable and you should ask her about it). With her vote they had enough to make the change. I implore you to ask her membership if they ever voted within their union. She cast her vote without contacting her membership and should be voted out of her position for it.

Now, as far as JLO’s complaint. If he is looking to reverse this whole ordeal, he is going about it the wrong way. The PEC is NOT subject to open meeting laws. The PEC(although in the name) is NOT a public committee. The PEC is however a group of union head or their representatives that are negotiating a memorandum of agreement with the city. Negotiations between unions and the city ARE NOT PUBLIC MEETINGS! Therefore although JLO may think so, he is wrong. And for the record he is also wrong about needing a council vote to exit the GIC.

With all that said, I firmly agree that this change was done in secret and will be waiting to see what Brendan’s “reward” is for orchestrating a resounding NO vote into a “YES”. By the way, the “savings” is on paper and the mitigation fund will be a figment of the imagination. Double digit increases in premium will also come in FY17/18, mark my words!!

Guess what
Guess what
Reply to  truth is a virtue
6 years ago

Guess what I was told that these were the results, UEP – yes, Administrators-no, Retirees – yes, Library – yes, Firefighters – no, Teamsters – no, Patrol Officers –no, Superior Officers – no, Local 1315 (secretaries, Para’s, cafeterias workers, bus, custodians) – no, Dispatchers – no, Supervisory & Professional – yes. If you measure the percentage you can see that 55% vote to change. The Supervisory & Professional Union made the difference. You asked that membership how that happened and this is what you hear. The S & P membership received a last minute notice advising them of the vote. A membership of about 90+ only about 20 showed up to vote. Too much power for one person I say because without the yes vote from S & P, we would not be having this discussion.

follow up
follow up
6 years ago

Still no response from Cotton?

Also who won the Taconic slave labor program THIS year?
Not last year Whitney fix.
Does anyone know?
Its been said that this information is public and is not on lockdown yet no one seems to know who got it.

Also whatever happened in Peter Moore’s case against Cliff Nilan?
Seems coverage of this has dropped off the face of the earth.

Also, is it public information and is it available how many lawsuits against the city of Pittsield are pending or have been settled within the last 3 years? Or is this information also on lockdown so the public is left in the dark?

dusty
dusty
Reply to  follow up
6 years ago

Only the mayor knows for sure. And he has himself on lock down.

All the money in the world can’t buy happiness though.

Magic
Magic
Reply to  follow up
6 years ago

Mr. Kinnas can answer your question regarding Taconic project It is public record and he did find out for me

Nota
Nota
6 years ago

This Mayor and Council have dropped the Ball since Day One! Pay raises…New Bus fleet.. Old contract still valid! Tax Increases..New School do we even need one? Pay raises for lackluster performance for the most part. SC getting a stipend? Council President turns in Council on Quorum and threatened to go to A G if continues. Mayor double dips! 100 North, no accountability? Krol, Lothrop and Clairmont no Chairmanships. Monterosso Gate. There are at least twenty more quandaries. THIs Mayor and Council is neither respectful or Collegiate towards each other, it would be best to vote them all out next election, good luck with that? Thank you Planet for this forum.

amandaWell
amandaWell
6 years ago

They are all full of shit!

joetaxpayer
joetaxpayer
6 years ago

Shrinking tax base and population including students. Yet we keep growing city jobs and school jobs. This makes no sense. Will someone come up with a consolidation plan and cuts to this bloated budget.

amandaWell
amandaWell
6 years ago

LO….have the courage to give us a raise? Krol…give the Chairman 4999 so not to give medical threshold a chance for benefits. LO…give the S C M a stipend to attract a better quality candidate and don’t give the Mayor any School stipends, but he’ll, we’ll raise the salary for Mayor by 40 g.

Nota
Nota
6 years ago

They’re whole Council meeting is about pay increases, now that’s getting things accomplished!