To the editor of THE EAGLE:
Over the past several weeks the mayor of Pittsfield Daniel Bianchi and the Veterans Services officer of Pittsfield, Rosanne Frieri, have been in the papers quite a lot. The ongoing dispute is affecting not only the vacant Veterans Services office, it has left Ms. Frieri suspended without pay. [She has not been dismissed.] My information comes from public statements in the press, yet my observations come from talking with fellow citizens, representatives and personnel experience leading a 1,000-person organization.
First, this is a personnel issue between an employer and an employee but each employee is protected by established personnel policies. I am not an expert on all the personnel policies of the city but as a member of the Pittsfield Affirmative Action Committee, I can attest that the Affirmative Action plan states there will be formal and informal methods to resolve complaints in the work place. I therefore believe that an employee who has an impeccable personnel file should not have been suspended without pay for not meeting with the mayor without a requested third party present.
Dispute resolution entails engaging the personnel director in direct consultation whenever an employee expresses concern over the work place environment. Ms. Frieri expressed such concern with the personnel office when directed to meet the mayor in his office. She requested a third party be involved.
Over the past few weeks the mayor’s release of two-year-old letters from several veterans organizations not having confidence in the veterans service officer is suspect for several reasons. First, if it was relevant it should have been addressed in a timely fashion during an annual employee review. Second, the "unanimous" decision of the organizations does not mean every card-carrying member. I have been a member of several of these organizations and it generally means those who were at the meeting, which is far less than "unanimous."
In this time frame Ms. Frieri had an additional duty, not part of her job description, but one she executed brilliantly for the city. She was responsible for organizing and serving as the master of ceremony for the Veterans Day Memorial rededication. Several local organizations took exception to her performing that role -- coincidence?
The Veterans Service office provides a knowledgeable veteran who assists other veterans in filling out federal, state and local assistance forms. It is not trained or staffed to handle PTSD veterans. They have referral numbers of people who can help those in this urgent situation. The young infantry man from Lenox needed help from the Veterans Administration (letter, Aug. 20.) The VA is the expert in this field and I am glad he is being helped through their specialty programs. I do not know what took place between Ms. Frieri and this soldier but I have known Rosanne for nearly 20 years. She would never disrespect the uniform or the person who proudly served our country in one. She treats every veteran with the respect they deserve, all 4 foot 10 inches and 95 pounds of her; she is hardly the bullying type.
Ms. Frieri has done a tremendous job increasing the visibility of the Veterans Services office, assisted a growing number of veterans and expanded the budget many times over. She has an unblemished personnel file and until this unresolved dispute has served this city with distinction.
I urge the mayor to review the circumstances involved in this misunderstanding. Could it have been handled differently? Would walking upstairs with the personnel director or a trained mediator been an insurmountable task? I think not. I know from personal experience that as the leader of an organization, walking into a subordinate’s office and asking for a moment of their time resolves almost every misunderstanding. It’s time to get Rosanne back to work, Mr. Mayor. You can do this, please do.
The retired as a retired colonel, United states Air Force.