Allegations fly over leak

Friday August 27, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- Second Berkshire District state representative candidate Tom Szczepaniak and his daughter claim his ex-wife supplied his Democratic opponent with documents highlighting his criminal record.

The Dalton selectman responded to a letter in Wednesday's Eagle by Steve Hoeschele, the manager of the Paul Mark campaign, denying Mark's involvement in the leak.

"[My mother] said she was sending a package to Mr. Mark," said Szczepaniak's daughter, Krystal Conrado, 24, of Pittsfield. "That letter to the editor is a total lie. My mother sent that package to Mr. Mark, who sent it out to the media."

Conrado's mother, Lisa-Jo Bolognia of Lanesborough, said she had no involvement with any documents being sent, and said she told her daughter that.

"I think this is a huge embarassment," Bolognia said. "He should have come out and told everyone about the skeletons in his closet."

Szczepaniak and Bolognia are divorced, and both have since re-married.

Szczepaniak and Mark, both Democrats, will face off in the Sept. 14 primary election. The winner will face off against the Republican winner and an independent candidate in the Nov. 2 general election.

The Mark campaign did not return phone messages seeking comment for this story.

The packages in question, sent anonymously to The Eagle and other news outlets last week, contained news clippings highlighting the 44-year-old Szczepaniak's arrests in the 1980s and early ‘90s, ranging from drug possession to assault and battery. The package contained other legal documents pertaining to his business.

Szczepaniak's brushes with the law ended in 1993 when he served an 18-month jail sentence for drunken driving and related offenses. Szczepaniak was first elected to Dalton's Select Board in 2001 and is currently its chairman. He owns Variety Trucking of Pittsfield.

Szczepaniak has accused Mark and Hoeschele of distributing the packages and "bad-mouthing" him at a recent public dinner in Shelburne Falls.

In his letter to the editor, Hoeschele wrote, "You can't canvas door-to-door in the Berkshires without a voter volunteering new information about Szczepaniak's misdeeds. You hear about it from personal and business associates, and even family members."

Szczepaniak and Conrado described the letter as "a low blow."

"When you start getting into my family and stuff, that's a very different ballgame," Szczepaniak said. "I don't like the mud-slinging, and I don't like my family getting dragged into that."

Conrado said she felt compelled to speak to The Eagle after reading Hoeschele's letter. She said her mother told her that she would be sending the clippings about her father to the Mark campaign after hearing her daughter would be attending Szczepaniak's spring kickoff event.

Bolognia had accused Szczepaniak of sexual assault in 1987, but the case was dismissed the following year after Bolognia refused to testify against him.

"She promised a long time ago [that] she'd never be happy until she ruined my life," said Szczepaniak, who said he has not spoken with his ex-wife in years.

Szczepaniak said he was upset that no one has owned up to what he described as an attempt to "tar and feather him." But he said he is eager to discuss policy as the campaign moves ahead.

"I'm pushing reform because I've reformed my whole life," Szczepaniak said. "I just can't take someone who hasn't been straight-up. ... You don't man up to something? I've manned up my whole life."


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