Medford Woman Makes Claims Of Racism Against Pittsfield Mayor

May 14, 2014

The Pittsfield human rights commission held its first meeting Monday night since being reactivated April 22nd after lying dormant since the late 1990s. Doreen Wade, seated to the right in white, requested the commission investigate Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi and the city for discrimination and unfair hiring practices.
Credit Jim Levulis / WAMC

A black woman is charging Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi with racism and discrimination. The matter was brought to the city’s human rights commission, less than one month after it was formed.

“I’m here today to request an investigation to be done on the practices of the mayor of Pittsfield, Mayor Bianchi, city employees and the city by its employees and representatives of claims of discrimination, unfair hiring practices, inequality of opportunities and retaliation just to name a few,” said Wade.

Doreen Wade presented that claim to the Pittsfield human rights commission Monday night. The group held its first meeting since being reactivated April 22nd after lying dormant since the late 1990s. Wade, who lives in Medford, met with Mayor Dan Bianchi in April 2013 hoping to relocate her online publication, New England Informer, to Pittsfield. Since then, Wade says she also applied for several jobs within city government. She claims her applications have not been seen. Commissioner Susan O’Leary asked Wade about this at the meeting.

“In your opinion, is that inefficiency or discrimination?” asked O’Leary.

“Since it’s been three decades, I call it discrimination,” Wade replied. “Because it’s mayor, after mayor, after mayor. But this mayor seems to be the only one who has said to me, if you bring a black business here you will get no assistance, and has kept his word for a year.”

Wade says Bianchi also made racist comments about African Americans during the meeting. Bianchi says that is misleading, inaccurate and unfounded.

“Unfortunately in our society anybody can accuse anybody else of anything,” Bianchi said Tuesday. “My mistake was not having somebody else in the room with me at that initial meeting.”

Bianchi says the first time he met Wade was that meeting in his office last April.

“I’m not sure how you would characterize what she brought me before,” Bianchi said. “She brought nothing before me. She walked into our office and she immediately made a statement that went something like this: ‘I can’t believe that the mayor of the city of Pittsfield wouldn’t support a successful black business relocating to the city of Pittsfield.’ To which I said ‘I don’t know that I would or wouldn’t, you’d have to explain what you do and how we can be helpful.’”

When Wade described what her business was, Bianchi says he put her in touch with a business specialist in the city’s community development office. He says he didn’t think the city could help fund it.  

“I certainly would be more than happy to help you arrange an office here in town and internet connection, but that’s pretty readily available and the rents for that are very reasonable,” Bianchi recalled. “So I really am dumbfounded by her complaint.”

Bianchi says he met with members of the Berkshire County chapter of the NAACP, which was reactivated in December 2012, following that meeting.  Wade told NAACP President Will Singleton she wasn’t happy with the mayor’s responses during that first meeting, so Singleton suggested all three meet. Commissioner Cecilia Rock questioned Wade after Wade said Bianchi intimidated her during that second meeting.

“Are you saying that he shook his finger in your face up close?” asked Rock.

“Yes,” Wade replied. “He shook his finger. He put his body and his hand in my face while I sat.”

“Was his voice raised?” asked Rock.

“His voice was really raised,” Wade answered. “He was yelling and screaming.”

Bianchi says he never left his seat during the meeting with Wade and NAACP President Singleton.

“That’s totally inaccurate,” Bianchi said. “I was sitting right where I am now and she sat right there. Yes, I may have wagged my finger at her. I don’t believe that’s against the law. I don’t believe it’s discriminatory. But quite frankly I think what is unfair is being unfairly accused of something and yes that did cause me to be a little short with Miss Wade.”

Singleton says during the second meeting, Wade was showing Bianchi respect, but at that point the mayor wasn’t showing the same respect to Wade.

“During that second meeting there was discussion,” Singleton said. “Miss Wade accused the mayor of saying some things which he denied. Then he became in my opinion agitated. He did not stand up, but he did lean forward and he did shake his finger in Miss Wade’s face. Miss Wade’s response was that ‘I am talking to you with respect Mr. Mayor and I wish you’d treatment me the same way.’ That’s what happened.”

Bianchi says the city did review Wade’s most recent application for an opening as the city’s director of administrative services. The slot as the mayor’s aide was filled April 22nd. Here’s Bianchi.

“I saw her resume for the recent opening in that office and quite honestly she wouldn’t be qualified for it,” said Bianchi.

Last July, Wade filed a complaint against Medford’s cable access television station claiming hate speech and discriminatory behavior were directed at her. Wade is a former member of the station’s board of directors. Medford Community Cablevision dissolved in October over various financial and community issues. Medford police continue to investigate Wade’s claims. Wade says she is being denied a living in Pittsfield.

“I’m just going to say it out and out after a year of dealing with this, our leadership is racist,” said Wade.

About half an hour into Wade’s talk before the commission, Commissioner O’Leary asked Wade what she would like to see done.

“After our investigation, what would you like the end result to be?” asked O’Leary. “It’s a very powerful question isn’t it?”

“It’s an extremely powerful question and I have an extremely powerful answer,” replied Wade.

“I knew you would, that’s why I asked the question,” replied O’Leary.

“I would like to see new leadership,” said Wade. “Plain and simple.”

The commission is an independent entity with the authority to conduct investigations, issue reports and seek assistance from state offices and outside legal counsel. City Councilor Churchill Cotton, who is black, is on the commission.

“I have no problem being independent,” Cotton said. “I don’t work for the mayor. I was elected by the citizens of Pittsfield.”

“It was empowered with those authorities so that it could be impactful,” Bianchi said. “I’m happy that they have them. They have the authority to subpoena, they the authority to make recommendations and to make findings. I look forward to their furtherance of this particular case.”

Pittsfield also formed the Affirmative Action Advisory Council this past summer to update an affirmative action plan inactive since the early 1990s, after Singleton asked if the city had one. The county's NAACP chapter has urged the city to hire more minorities, filing complaints of long-term discrimination.  The human rights commission tabled Wade's request for an investigation until its next meeting June 9th and asked Wade to provide printed testimony.