Discrimination claim against Mayor Bianchi tabled until status of federal, state complaints learned


PITTSFIELD -- After 90 minutes of information-gathering on a discrimination complaint against Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, the city's Human Rights Commission abruptly tabled the matter after learning of a similar complaint to state and federal agencies.

Doreen Wade, of Medford, who alleges discrimination by the mayor and the city, described her allegations at length before the commission, which met for the second time Monday since being revived this spring by Bianchi.

However, when Wade mentioned that she had filed complaints with the state Attorney General's office and the federal Department of Justice, commissioners decided unanimously to table their investigation until they learn the status of the government complaints.

Wade agreed to provide the information.

Commissioner Susan O'Leary recommended seeking an update on those probes and then deciding as a board how to proceed at the next meeting. She added that, as a volunteer, she was "feeling overwhelmed" with the "information overload" of detail Wade had offered.

Pamela Malumphy, another commissioner, said that since one of the volunteer group's roles is to refer complainants to state or federal agencies if that seems the best course, they should allow the agencies with staff members to handle the investigation.

Wade, a Pittsfield native who seeks to establish an Internet-related business here, said she thought the commission was aware she had filed complaints with the agencies, saying she had informed the City Council when she initially raised the issue.

The council referred her to the rights commission, which was being revived after a decade of inactivity.

Bianchi and Wade, Will Singleton, president of the Berkshire chapter of the NAACP, and others were asked to attend to respond to questions from commissioners and/or to submit materials in writing.

Bianchi attended and sat through the session but did not have an opportunity to respond to the allegations. After commissioners voted to table the issue, he said he would answer their questions, but no one moved to reopen the topic, and the meeting was adjourned.

Reached by telephone afterward, Bianchi said, "I have been involved in civic and community activities all my life in the city of Pittsfield, and I find it hard to believe that anyone would believe I was as insensitive as Ms. Wade alleges."

He added that Wade's depiction of a meeting he had with her in his office in April 2013 contained "a lot of inaccurate statements that didn't represent the meeting she and I had at all. She suggested that I said things I did not say. I thought it was in fact a congenial meeting, and I asked if she might consider serving on a city board."

Wade alleges that the mayor made racially insensitive comments and said the city could not help her set up a business in Pittsfield. Bianchi told her in part that there were not enough African American residents to support the business she proposed, Wade said.

She also alleges discrimination in hiring, saying she has applied unsuccessfully for several city and school positions.

Wade previously said that she complained to the NAACP after the first meeting with Bianchi and a second session with Bianchi and chapter members was arranged.

Singleton, in answer to commissioner questions, said that at the second meeting, the mayor and Wade disagreed about details of the first meeting. The mayor said Wade misrepresented his words, and Wade said she "felt he was calling me a liar," Singleton said.

Asked if he heard any racially insensitive remarks from Bianchi, or had heard any at other times, Singleton said he hadn't. Singleton also said he didn't believe Bianchi shouted or stood up from his chair to stand over Wade and wave his finger at her, as she had alleged, but the mayor did wave his finger and "was obviously angry."

However, the tone of the meeting then toned down, Singleton said.

To reach Jim Therrien:
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