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Pittsfield Questions DPW and Utilities Management

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
09:40AM / Thursday, July 17, 2014
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The City Council debated the opinion of the city solicitor on a question of appointments.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The management structure of the Department of Public Works is being debated among city officials.
 
Councilor at Large Barry Clairmont says Mayor Daniel Bianchi needs to appoint two positions — one to oversee utilities and the other the public works department.
 
Currently, Bruce Collingwood oversees both. In 2011, the City Council approved a change proposed by then Mayor James Ruberto that split the one position into two to spread out responsibilities.
 
But, appointments to the positions were apparently not done, so the separation exists on the books only.
 
"The existing organizational charts do not match up to what was being proposed in 2010 by Mayor Ruberto," Clairmont said.
 
A provision in the new city charter calls for all vacant positions to be filled by temporary appointments by April. Clairmont is arguing that the mayor and the City Council need to make those appointments.
 
"This is not about an individual. This is about compliance with the charter," Clairmont said, adding that the position Collingwood occupies does not exist and, therefore, he doesn't have the authority to do the job.
 
City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan disagrees and says it isn't needed because "there is no vacancy." 
 
"You can't remove a department head by ordinance," she said. "The person who was serving in both positions would have to be removed from one."
 
Degnan said Collingwood's position still exists by law until the mayor brings an administrative action to the City Council to remove him from the appointment. Then, the council would need to reappoint him in the two positions that were created.
 
"In my view, they weren't consolidated correctly," Degnan said.
 
Council President Melissa Mazzeo said it doesn't matter which job title Collingwood has, he is still performing the work in the job description and has been since 2005, when the responsibilities were consolidated into one post.
 
"The bottom line is that the person is still doing the same job," Mazzeo said, in defense of why a reappointment isn't needed.
 
While the question of reappointment is one aspect of the question, the larger question is how the two departments will be managed in the future.
 
"If you are going to make this significant shift in philosophy — and in 2010 when Mayor Ruberto wanted to make that change he came to the council — the concern is that we're not following along the rules," said Ward 6 Councilor John Krol. "I have a problem with that because I felt strongly at the time that the organizational shift was a good thing."
 
Krol said that while Collingwood has been doing the same job since 2005, the vote in 2011 was an indication that there should be a change. For Krol, the important question is more "about the efficiency of the city" and not so much if Collingwood needs to be reappointed.
 
Clairmont made a motion calling for the mayor to make temporary appointments, suggesting that he would be voting in favor of Collingwood for both. However, his motion fell short in a 6-5 vote. Councilors Jonathan Lothrop, Nicholas Caccamo and John Krol joined Clairmont in voting for the appointments. The rest of the council voted against.
 
Degnan suggested that if the City Council wants to separate the positions, the best way would be to work with the mayor in crafting an administrative order. 

Tags: appointments,   city charter,   city council,   public works,   

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