A Pittsfield employee’s job hangs in the balance with a hearing scheduled for Friday. It could determine whether the city’s veterans’ agent will remain employed.
Friday’s termination hearing comes just over a week after Mayor Dan Bianchi suspended Rosanne Frieri without pay.
“There were concerns I had about her performance and when she decided not to meet with me, the decision was pretty easy to put her on administrative leave,” said Bianchi.
Reached by phone Wednesday, Frieri said she was uncertain if she will show up for Friday’s hearing and directed further questions to her attorney, Al Cimini. Cimini did not return a call seeking comment. Speaking with The Berkshire Eagle, Frieri was quoted as saying she refused to meet with Bianchi unless a third party was involved, claiming she had been “badgered” by the mayor during an earlier meeting in his office.
Bianchi has also come under fire from Medford resident Doreen Wade, who claimed similar actions on the part of the mayor. Wade, a black woman, said Bianchi made racist comments to her and then physically intimidated her by standing over her during a subsequent meeting in his office with Will Singleton, president of the Berkshire County NAACP Chapter, in the room. Singleton has said the mayor got agitated during that meeting, but never left his seat. Bianchi has said Wade’s claims of racism are false.
“As far as Ms. Frieri, I guess when certain people get into hot water they fabricate things,” Bianchi said. “I think that’s exactly what’s happening here. Anybody that knows me, and I’ve got five decades of history, knows that I’m not a bully and knows that I treat people fairly and you can ask anyone in this building.”
Former Mayor James Ruberto appointed Frieri to the nearly $50,000 a year-position, which handles state and federal benefits for more than 130 of the city’s veterans, in 2007. The position was included among adjusted pay scales allowing for increases based on longevity and performance approved by the City Council earlier this week. Frieri also serves as veterans’ agent for the towns of Lenox, Dalton, Cheshire, Peru, Lanesborough and Richmond. Mayor Bianchi says Pittsfield’s veterans are still being adequately served in Frieri’s absence.
“We’re fortunate to have another person in that office that does a very good job,” Bianchi said. “I immediately got a call from the Veterans Services Department in Boston who understood what kind of situation we were dealing with here in the city of Pittsfield and they stepped right up and said any help we can give you. I’ve gotten calls from many, many veterans who’ve offered to help.”
According to The Berkshire Eagle, Frieri is also considering legal action against the city and Mayor Bianchi. The termination hearing is set for 10:30 a.m. Friday at Pittsfield City Hall.