Inevitable departure

Thursday June 9, 2011

With the fuss having died down since last election season, Democratic state Representative Christopher Speranzo has been officially nominated for the clerk magistrate position at Central Berkshire District Court evidently held in reserve for him. This will produce a special election that, while potentially costly, will at least give voters in the 3rd Berkshire District the campaign they were deprived of last fall.

When it was revealed in The Eagle that he was seeking the magistrate job, Mr. Speranzo went underground, refusing to debate his only opponent, Green-Rainbow Party candidate Mark Miller. Mr. Speranzo won anyway, and it was just a matter of time before he was nominated for the clerk magistrate position by Governor Deval Patrick. The nomination must be vetted by the Governor’s Council.

The clerk-magistrate is not answerable to voters and earns a salary of $110,000 a year, about $48,000 more than a state representative. The magistrate position in the Central Berkshire District Court has been vacant since Leo Evans left it nearly two years ago, raising questions about its importance. Two veteran assistant clerks who have been presumably handling whatever duties the job entails -- David Kearns and Linda Barry -- are thought to have applied for the position but apparently suffered from a lack of political clout. If clerk magistrate was a private sector job it more than likely would already have been consolidated with other similar positions to save costs, but public sector positions are more likely to multiply than disappear.

A special election could cost cash-strapped Pittsfield about $40,000, but if the state allows it to coincide with this fall’s primary and general elections for mayor, City Council and other city positions that cost could be reduced if not eliminated. Mr. Miller is planning another run and a Democrat or Democrats will certainly contend for the now-open position. With no incumbent, a Republican challenger would appear likely, hopefully assuring the kind of vigorous campaign that didn’t take place last fall.

The election winner will join Paul Mark in the 1st Berkshire and Gailanne Cariddi in the 2nd Berkshire as Beacon Hill newcomers, with "Smitty" Pignatelli the only veteran among the Berkshires’ House delegation. The learning process will have to be quick for Pittsfield’s new rep.


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