Our Opinion: Decorum at the HRC
Pittsfield's reactivated Human Rights Commission will certainly face difficult challenges, but the challenges it faced in only its third meeting Tuesday night were unnecessary and counterproductive.
The commission heard from Doreen Wade, of Medford, who has alleged that she was discriminated against by Mayor Daniel Bianchi. That discussion was joined by Craig Gaetani, of Pittsfield, who told the commission that he was now a party to her complaint against the mayor (Eagle, July 23). Mr. Gaetani accused the commission of "violating her rights," described the group as a "disgrace" and initially declined requests by Chairman Josh Cutler to yield the floor. Commission member Pam Malumphy, evidently frustrated that Mr. Gaetani continued his criticism while she was making a point, motioned for adjournment and the meeting quickly ended.
Mr. Gaetani could have made his points about how the commission has handled or mishandled Ms. Wade's case in a less confrontational way. He didn't help Ms. Wade's case nor his own in a related dispute with City Hall over his access to the city's water treatment plant (Letter, July 18). If the Bianchi administration is treating him as a trouble-maker rather than an experienced expert in his field who has made contributions to the city and could make more, as Mr. Gaetani alleges, he provided City Hall with ammunition at Tuesday night's meeting.
On a motion from Ms. Malumphy, a request will be made to the office of the attorney general to provide clarification of the role of the city solicitor in its handling of Ms. Wade's complaint. City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan advises the mayor and is available to advise city boards as well, but the mayor's presence at the center of Ms. Wade's complaint complicates matters. Ms. Wade has also brought her complaint to the state attorney general and the federal Department of Justice, and it is at those levels that this case may ultimately be decided regardless.
Whatever anyone thinks of the Human Rights Commission, the group is comprised of volunteers who are reviving a board that was dormant for more than a decade. The commission and its members deserve a chance to learn the ropes and fulfill their duties.