To the editor of THE EAGLE:
I'm responding to The Berkshire Eagle's editorial regarding the issues at BerkshireWorks and its executive director ("BerkshireWorks dilemma," April 18). Perhaps there may be a "dilemma," or an issue. Issues regarding personnel are not to be taken lightly and often take time to investigate and appropriately resolve. Employees have rights and when the law and procedures are not followed there are consequences that can result in damages that would cost the very taxpayers who the Eagle editor seems so concerned about.
Personnel issues should not be discussed even in the public sector until it is appropriate to do so. The Eagle disagrees because the taxpayers fund BerkshireWorks. It is true this is a public sector, taxpayer funded agency, however, it doesn't exempt it from the law. It shouldn't exempt it from good business practices. Given the editor's logic relative to taxpayer-funded entities, a personnel issue at the Crane Company, General Dynamics or Berkshire Health Systems should all be open to public discussion because of their funding from the U.S. Treasury, Department of Defense and Health and Human Services respectively. The Eagle's logic doesn't hold up.
The Eagle states regarding BerkshireWorks, "Whatever the problem is, it didn't have to happen. BerkshireWorks had been by all accounts effectively serving the needs of county residents under the interim director John Barrett." "By all accounts"; which accounts are those? What evidence does The Eagle offer of the agency's effectiveness? Who at The Eagle is capable of evaluating the effectiveness of that agency? Is The Eagle suggesting that it couldn't be improved by more qualified leadership?
Here is my dilemma. As mayor of Pittsfield I'm the "appointing authority" for the executive director of the BerkshireWorks, but beyond that I have little or no authority over the staff, their conduct or their operation. The arrangement is a governmentally contrived authority and the system of the agency's operation makes very little sense. Established by state statute, I have the authority to appoint the BerkshireWorks director because, according to statute, the mayor of Pittsfield is designated the "lead elected official" in the county. It is anybody's guess what that means. I could disregard qualifications and literally appoint anyone I want without a legitimate search as has been the case in the past. In this particular case, a broad search was conducted, twice, and many résumés received. A screening occurred. The current executive director was interviewed by seven professionals, including a manager of BerkshireWorks. His references were thoroughly checked.
I have an obligation to the taxpayers and more importantly to the unemployed workers of Berkshire County who need the services of this agency. Even given my limited authority relating to BerkshireWorks, I take my obligation seriously. I am not going to be bullied or intimidated by an ill-informed, opinionated Berkshire Eagle editor. It is critical that we are fair, thorough and that we follow the law and good management practices. That is just what I intend to do.
DANIEL L. BIANCHI
The writer is mayor of Pittsfield.