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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Bassani, Bloom Open Forum Standoff

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, November 10, 2005

Edward J. "Ted" Bassani at Nov. 9 City Council meeting
North Adams – The Nov. 9 City Council meeting’s open forum brought City Council President Michael C. Bloom and suspended WNAW-WMNB radio station News Director Edward J. “Ted” Bassani to a standoff over Bassani’s desire to speak.

Bassani was suspended from his employment duties last week, after he filed an application for an assault and battery complaint against Mayor John Barrett III at the Northern Berkshire District Court.

Bassani alleged that during a Nov. 1 meeting with Barrett at the mayor’s office, Barrett ordered him from the office and shoved a bag belonging to Bassani into Bassani’s chest. Bassani has alleged the incident occurred while he was asking questions about a possible city purchase of a West Shaft Road sewer line owned by North Adams Apartments Limited Partnership. The partnership’s general partners are listed as Michael Deep, David L. Higgs, and Michael Crayford.

Barrett has denied the incident.

The city-based radio station is owned by Vox Communications.

Bassani, Bloom Verbal Tango

Bassani sat through the business portion of the City Council meeting and raised his hand to speak during the open forum, which is usually scheduled just before meeting adjournment. He approached a microphone and was told by Bloom, who had spoken to Bassani before the council meeting began, that he would not be permitted to speak because of the pending legal action against Barrett. Bloom said that he was concerned that any remarks might “drift” into the pending legal matter. Bloom told Bassani that he had already informed Bassani that he would not be allowed to speak during their private conversation.

Bassani said that he would not speak about the alleged incident and attempted to speak to the councilors present at the meeting.

Councilors Clark Billings and William Donovan were absent from the meeting, and Barrett was not present.

Bloom interrupted Bassani to reiterate that he was not allowing Bassani to speak.

The two exchanged back-and-forth comments, with Bassani insisting that he would not mention the alleged Nov. 1 incident and Bloom insisting that Bassani not speak.

At one point, Bloom referred to the “awkwardness” of Bassani’s presence at the meeting and Bassani answered “I am a resident of this city, Councilor.”

The exchange continued for a few more seconds and Bloom warned Bassani that if he continued to attempt to speak, Bloom would have him removed from the room. Public Safety Commissioner John Morocco and two city police officers were at the meeting; Morocco did approach Bassani as the exchange continued.

Bassani asked if he was about to be arrested and if so, on what charges. He was not arrested.

Bassani attempted to hand several documents to Bloom, and Bloom told Bassani to mail the documents. Bassani asked if he could deliver the documents to City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau’s office and Bloom said that would be acceptable.

Bassani then left the meeting.

Prior to the start of the meeting, Bassani provided copies of the documents to media reporters. The documents include a letter addressed to the Massachusetts Ethics Commission asking for an investigation into “the circumstances surrounding my suspension from my job as a radio reporter in North Adams on the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 2.” The letter presents Bassani’s version of the events that he alleges led to his suspension and asks the commission to obtain City Hall telephone records for Nov. 2.

On Nov. 10, Vox officials declined to comment about Bassani’s suspension, saying that the firm does not make public comment on personnel matters.

Another document was addressed to city councilors and also outlined Bassani’s version of the events leading to his suspension. The letter states that Bassani would like to resume duties at the radio station and restore his professional relationship with Barrett and also calls for a public apology from Barrett.

Deep and Buddington At Open Forum

City resident and real estate developer Michael Deep asked to speak at open forum following Bassani. Deep told councilors that information about a West Shaft Road sewer purchase agreement Barrett relayed to them during an Oct. 11 council meeting was inaccurate.

Barrett and Deep are embroiled in a contentious and public debate involving a possible city acquisition of 3,400-feet of sewer line and a lift station [pumping station] located on West Shaft Road. The sewer line currently serves the Tunnel Brook apartment complex; the complex, sewer line and lift station are owned by North Adams Apartments Limited Partnership.

Deep asked Bloom if he would be allowed to speak about the alleged inaccuracies and Bloom indicated that Deep was in a legal position similar to Bassani. Bloom also asked Deep if Deep believed that he could keep his remarks within the two-minute time requirement imposed on any open forum speaker. Deep said that he probably could not.

Deep attempted to deliver a nine-page document to Bloom and Bloom told Deep to route the document through Gomeau’s office.

Deep distributed the papers to media members present at the meeting prior to the meeting’s start. Included in the contents are two proposed resolutions for councilor consideration. One proposed resolution asks that city councilors recommend to “Radio Station WNAW and WMNB that the suspension ordered upon Ted Bassani be immediately lifted and he be reinstated to his former position with back pay and benefits.”

A second Deep-proposed resolution asks that councilors recommend Barrett enroll in anger management classes.

Eric Buddington, who made an unsuccessful bid for a two-year city council term during a Nov. 8 election, spoke briefly during the open forum.

“I am disappointed that open forum places restrictions on people before they speak,” Buddington said.

Bloom responded that until the mid 1990s, council meetings had no place for open comments. Debates and public discussions are limited to meeting agenda items, Bloom noted.

Deep returned to the microphone and told councilors that he served one term as a city councilor beginning in 1978.

“We welcomed debate and we wanted the truth,” Deep said.

Speaking on Nov. 10, Deep said that he served as a councilor alongside Vincent Pappas and Daniel J. Alcombright.

“And those guys weren’t afraid to ask questions and ask for documentation,” Deep said. “Of course, that was a different mayor. That was Mayor Richard Lamb.”

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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