Pittsfield officials: Craig Gaetani's suit against high school has no merit
PITTSFIELD — Former Pittsfield mayoral candidate Craig Gaetani seeks to have the work on the new Taconic High School halted until the matter can be put to a citywide vote, claiming a breach of contract.
The problem is, according to the city, there is no contract to breach and Gaetani has no legal grounds for such a demand.
The matter came before Judge Daniel Ford in Berkshire Superior Court Wednesday for a hearing on the city's motion to have the case dismissed.
Gaetani has been a vocal opponent of the $115.7 million construction project, which the City Council approved last year.
Construction began in May.
Gaetani claims a breach of contract, "for denying me and other taxpayers a vote," on the project.
Pittsfield City Attorney Richard M. Dohoney drew a distinction between city and town governments when it comes to individual votes on appropriations and incurring debt.
Cities, he said, elect a representative council, tasked with approving measures brought before it, such as the high school project.
A Town Meeting style of government, however, does allow individual residents to cast votes for expenditures, but that does not apply in Pittsfield's case.
Dohoney said, the suit was brought by Gaetani alone and no one has demonstrated any flaw in the process used to bring the project to fruition.
Gaetani simply disagrees with the council's decision, Dohoney said.
Dohoney said just saying there's been a breach of contract isn't enough to support that claim.
Gaetani referred to Dohoney's arguments as "legal mumbo-jumbo."
Ford asked Gaetani to what contract he was referring in his complaint.
Gaetani said he was referring to an implied contract between city officials and those who elected them, "to do what is right."
"I feel they didn't do what was right," he said.
Gaetani suggested a ballot question be put forward in the upcoming Sept. 8 state primary election.
Unfortunately for Gaetani, the opportunity to do so has long since passed.
According to the city charter, Gaetani had 21 days after the City Council voted to build the school to present a petition signed by at least 15 percent of the total number of voters in order to have the project temporarily suspended, but failed to do so.
Gaetani claims people he spoke to during his unsuccessful run for Pittsfield mayor objected to the construction of the school by a margin or four to one, though he did not present any evidence to support that claim.
He did, however cite an unscientific 2015 online poll conducted by the Berkshire Eagle in which 307 respondents did support a city vote for the construction project by the same ratio.
Ford had to interrupt Gaetani with a loud, "Excuse me!" when he strayed off-topic, into his suspicions of hazardous materials inside the current Taconic High School and his experiences in the 1980s helping to design the city's water treatment plant and was not addressing his questions.
Ford took the matter under advisement.
Contact Bob Dunn at 413-496-6249.
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