Pittsfield Mayoral Candidate Accuses Officials of 'Smear Campaign'
Craig Gaetani called a press conference at his house to publicly refute the charges brought against him by Pittsfield city employee.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayoral Candidate Craig Gaetani is denying that he threatened a city employee, calling the charges a "smear campaign" orchestrated by the mayor's office.
Gaetani is accused of threatening a clerk with the Pittsfield Fire Department, telling her he would shoot her and burn down her home. At a show-cause hearing two weeks ago, a clerk magistrate determined there was enough evidence to proceed with charges of threats to commit a crime, and making annoying phone calls. He is expected to be arraigned in court on Aug. 19.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Gaetani adamantly denied that he threatened the woman and vowed that he will beat the charges. He says the charges are an attempt by Mayor Daniel Bianchi, Commissioner of Public Services Bruce Collingwood, Police Chief Michael Wynn, and Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski to damage his campaign for mayor.
"Concerning the charges against me, they are plainly false and they it be proven beyond any doubt on Aug. 19 in [Central Berkshire] District Court," Gaetani said.
"These same charges against me, which were trumped up by the gang of four — Bianchi, Collingwood, Police Chief Wynn, and Chief Czerwinski of the Fire Department — are the same charges that will bring them down."
The West Street resident admits to having had an heated exchange with city staff over a car he wanted the Fire Department to remove. Gaetani says there was an illegally parked car at a complex he owns on Indian Street and officials refused to remove it from the property. He said he placed multiple calls to the Fire Department and visited Czerwinski on four separate occasions asking for the car to be removed to no avail.
Gaetani says the city officials used the incident as an excuse to "trump up charges" to deflate his mayoral campaign.
"I might get a little hot and yell a bit on the telephone but wouldn't you after nine requests and four visits?" Gaetani said. "To tell somebody that I am going to burn their house down or shoot them is completely ridiculous and completely unfounded."
On July 2, Police responded to city offices at 100 North St. where the fire inspector's office is located about the alleged threats. Police Chief Michael Wynn said last week a patrol officer did not witness the events but the city employee requested a report be filed with courts. That report led to the show-cause hearing and ultimately a clerk-magistrate's decision that the accusation warranted being heard in criminal court.
The city also issued a trespass notice, barring Gaetani from the inspection offices at 100 North. The mayor's office previously said it did so because Gaetani has "used threatening language" toward the worker. The order is confined to the city offices.
Gaetani has used what many would perceive as threatening language toward city councilors during council meetings. On multiple occasions, City Council President Melissa Mazzeo was on the verge of having police escort him out of the chambers. He also caused the abrupt adjournment of a Human Rights Commission meeting last year.
Wynn said Gaetani has also "berated" staff members in the Police Department on several occasions.
Gaetani accuses Wynn of being in on the efforts to stymie his mayoral campaign. If elected, he vows to fire Wynn and Czerwinski, for being in on the effort he says is headed by Bianchi.
On Wednesday, Bianchi said he was unaware of the details surrounding the charges against Gaetani and denied claims that he had anything to do with it.
"Until notified by another news organization this morning, I was unaware of the charges," Bianchi wrote in a statement. "I am a respectful person and I would never do or say anything to be hurtful."
Gaetani added that he has suspicions that Linda Tyer, who is also running for the seat, may be in on it too because one of her supporters — City Councilor Barry Clairmont — attended the show-cause hearing.
"The police chief and the fire chief feel they are not accountable to the taxpayer. I have seen them in action and how they treat the taxpayer as they have treated me," Gaetani said. "If they will treat me like this knowing I may be their boss, how will they treat the little guy with no money and no connections, and in great fear of reprisals? For just these reasons, I will be firing them on Jan. 3 when I become mayor."
The candidate says he is hoping to clear his name quickly through the court system so that voters know he is trustworthy. He said he will be representing himself at the Aug. 19 arraignment because he is "better than attorneys."
He also vows to fire Collingwood for not allowing him into the city's water filtration plant, which he says he designed and built in the 1980s.
"I consider him one of the weakest commissioners I have seen here," Gaetani said.
He also took shots at the local media, saying it has been "remiss" on covering his campaign.
He also promises to "kill" the new Taconic High School building project. He also supports Bianchi's recent attempt to change the date of the preliminary, saying he is showing the "Jewish community that Craig Gaetani hears them," even though local rabbis support the date as scheduled.
Gaetani is running for the corner office against Bianchi, Tyer, and Donna M. Walto. The preliminary election will narrow the field to two candidates.
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