Our Opinion: BerkshireWorks dilemma
That Pittsfield’s new executive director of the BerkshireWorks Career Center has been placed on paid leave after just three months on the job suggests that something went considerably awry. Nobody in City Hall or the state, which funds the program, is offering any explanations for the troubling situation.
A Pittsfield native, Executive Director William Monterosso once headed Kentucky’s Office of Employment and Training. Pittsfield Mayor Daniel Bianchi, Personnel Director John D’Angelo and City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan won’t comment for the record, and in-house personnel matters are always delicate. However, this is not the private sector -- Mr. Monterosso is being paid not to work by taxpayers, who as such have a vested interest in what is going on and its outcome.
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 leadership of interim director John Barrett III, the former mayor of North Adams. Mr. Barrett attracted the ire last June of then-Labor Secretary Joanne Goldstein for daring to warn, on the pages of The Eagle, that the Department of Unemployment Assistance’s new website would not be ready for its July 1 launching. That Mr. Barrett was proven correct about the glitch-plagued website surely compounded his crime in the eyes of state officials.
Mr. Barrett told The Eagle last January that he was chastised by Alice Sweeney, the director of the state Department of Career Services, for talking to the press about the troubled website. Although he wanted to continue as BerkshireWorks director, Mr. Barrett, who was appointed to the job by former Mayor James Ruberto, was not considered for the permanent position by Mayor Bianchi. In a Feb. 5 letter to the editor in response to a Jan. 28 Eagle editorial, the mayor denied what he interpreted as implications that he acted politically in not reappointing Mr. Barrett, and went on to explain that because of the importance of the BerkshireWorks center to the county’s economic development, "I was looking for someone who was compassionate about helping the unemployed and who had the professional experience to be effective."
"This position is critical to the entire county," added Mr. Bianchi. "After a couple of search attempts, we found someone who fit the bill." The position of executive director is indeed critical, as is the career center, whose employees need a stable environment to do their important duties. If Mr. Monterosso still fits the bill, the current situation must be resolved quickly. If he does not, Pittsfield needs to begin searching for a new executive director, and sooner rather than later.
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