Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I turned 39 (2014)

Monday, October 1, 2007

Andrea F Nuciforo Jr - LUCIFORO! - A Devilish Story of Strong-Armed Tactics, Political Corruption & $inecures. Also see Denis Guyer, Carmen Massimiano

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Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. aka LUCIFORO!
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JONATHAN MELLE's STAND AGAINST NUCIFORO
Written on September 27, 2004

My story about Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., (Luciforo), which I hope to tell for years upon years, decades upon decades, and I hope someday will be told for eternity, is that during the Spring of 1998 he secretly tried to have me arrested by the Pittsfield Police without Nuciforo telling either me or my father, with whom he had communicated with at that time on an almost weekly basis. Nuciforo lied to the police by telling them that I was threatening him.

At the North Adams, Massachusetts, Fall Foliage Parade, it was Nuciforo (with his then-legislative aide Sara Hathaway at his side) who confronted me in a hostile manner in the Fall of 1997. Luckily, I had my cousin and Uncle, the latter of whom was visiting North Adams from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at my two sides and after he sized the three (3) of us up (even though I looked down at the ground in panic), he with Hathaway quickly walked away from us in fear for himself (as my family members protected me against Nuciforo by stepping in front of me. I felt like I was the President with Secret Service protection). I could not believe what had taken place. Here, the Berkshire State Senator was marching in a parade with many potential witnesses, and he tried to get in my face without cause.

At this point in the story, I think it is important to note that my dad, Bob Melle of Becket, was elected to the then Berkshire County Commission along side with then Berkshire County Commissioners William “Smitty” Pignatelli of Lenox and Ronald Kitterman of Pittsfield. My dad and I, among others, took a stand against then Governor William F. Weld’s ultimately successful proposal to abolish Berkshire County Government and for the state to take over its functions under the premise that centralization in big government or big business makes for a bigger economy of scale, reduces waste and increases economic efficiency. Nuciforo, as state Senator, concurred with then Governor Weld’s arguments that economic efficiency under the model of corporate governance is the end all of big government initiatives and that an abolished rural county government under the administrative prowess of the state would serve the People best as a “1-800” number to the citizens instead of actual human beings and representatives. Indeed, centralized bureaucracy won the day under Bill Weld, Andrea Nuciforo and other top-down state government officials. My dad and I, together and respectively, had a more organic view of government. We believed that we are a government “Of the People, By the People and For the People.” We believed that this process needed to include a lot more input by Berkshire County residents and the thirty-two (32) cities and towns. My dad and I wanted more representation, not less, and we did not want government in any way, shape or form that represented “bureaucracy” in the form of a “1-800” number in the name of corporate styled economic efficiency model. I still believe in the position that my dad and I took. Now, back to the story at hand…

Earlier that summer in August of 1997, I attended a promotional ceremony at the Berkshire County Court-House for now Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) Justice Francis X. Spina, who is a native of Pittsfield, Massachusetts (like my dad and I and many other proud Pittsfield natives). My dad and I were socializing with the public after the ceremony, and Nuciforo looked over at me with a stare that would have intimidated the President himself, nonetheless myself.

But little did Nuciforo know during those times that I have the deepest love of my country and devotion to God, and Nuciforo also did not know that I do know and believe that I am an American Citizen with U.S. Constitutional Rights and Civil Liberties and that I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live: GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH!

At the time, Nuciforo thought that there were coercive ways that he could intimidate me. But because of my strong beliefs in the USA (my country), Freedom and Liberty, I would not respond in kind to his intimidation. Therefore, Nuciforo decided that he would get to me through the system. Nuciforo decided to bad mouth me to other politicians, namely U.S. Congressman John Olver, State Senator Stan Rosenberg, State Representatives Dan Bosley and Peter Larkin, among others, including North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, who told me that people said that I am “flaky” and that I did not have what it takes to make it in the real world (I still think Mayor Barrett is a good man, however). Most importantly, Nuciforo tried to get to me through the system via false reports to the police, which I understand made him look real bad to the police.

Nuciforo tries to act cocky around me when I see him at events. But what Nuciforo may not yet realize is that I do indeed love my country and I believe in God. No amount of coercion, ostracism, money or false morality will change my views, beliefs or actions. I know who I am and whom I support.

I attended Dawn Taylor Thompson’s two (2) political events in Pittsfield, Massachusetts on Thursday, September 23rd, 2004. I was impressed by her advocacy for public safety and the guest speaker’s similar comments. As a long-term vocal critic of state Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo II, I must disagree with the UNETHICAL eight (8) year Boston corporate banking lawyer/lobbyist’s – under the false pretense of a Berkshire Senator — negating criticisms of his opponent’s efficacious advocacy for public safety and likewise criticism of Nuciforo’s poor record on these life and death issues.

Dawn’s accurate criticisms of Nuciforo’s sole opposition to the all felon DNA Database in the Spring and Summer of 2003 must be put in the framework of a human perspective on the issue. A young 16-year old woman named Molly Bish was brutally raped and murdered in late June 2000. Her grieving parents went to Beacon Hill in the name of their late daughter and other victimized youth to ask lawmakers to put into law the proper public safety apparatuses to catch rapist, murders and perpetrators of violence against our youth, especially young woman.

In the midst of the Bish family’s requests for legal reforms for public safety, there was an inhumane state Senator from nowhere else than Pittsfield, Massachusetts who stood up against their every request. This person was none other than Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. While other lawmakers rushed to the Bish family’s side, including Pittsfield State Rep. Peter Larkin and newly elected Lenox State Rep. “Smitty” Pignatelli, Nuciforo decided to make a stand for “civil liberties” without apologies or any empathy whatsoever to the Bish family.

On public safety, I do know and believe that she would have taken a human look at the issues the Bish family was fighting for last year. Dawn would have told Molly Bish’s parents, siblings and community members that she cares about their situation and is sorry that such a crime took place against a 16-year old girl with her whole life still ahead of her. Dawn may have taken alternative points of view different from the Bish’s, but I know Dawn and I know she would have done so with compassion and for the public good.

While I agree with Nuciforo that we live in the age of a FASCIST U.S. Attorney General (John Ashcroft) who has nullified the U.S. Constitution in terms of the First Amendment’s Freedoms of Speech and Religion and also the Double Jeopardy clause in the same Bill of Rights, I personally have been a victim of Nuciforo’s own authoritarian actions (and so has my father).

Given the situations that I have been through with Nuciforo and the unspoken ones only I know that my father has been through with him where I will say both our rights and civil liberties were respectively nullified via Nuciforo’s intimidation and corruption of the system against my dad and I during the same time period, I see Nuciforo as disingenuous, malicious and unfair.

Artificial and banal politicians such as Nuciforo and states such as the former-U.S.S.R. do not last forever. Alluding to John Ashcroft is a point where I am in concurrence with Nuciforo, but that is where we meet and diverge. For Nuciforo is just as fake as Ashcroft, and the more and more the People see authoritarian politicians and states that corrupt other people and systems, the weaker and weaker those bad guys and evil states become.

I believe that someday that Stan Rosenberg and I will have a beer together. That Denis Guyer and I will work for forward looking reforms together. That Mayor Barrett and I will celebrate North Adams together. But I know that that day will come when Nuciforo is a private citizen and no longer exercises his all-or-nothing corrupting influence for his own UNETHICAL personal gain.

When the time is right, I will work to solidly oppose Nuciforo and other corrupt politicians and immoral states like him. I will work in an ETHICAL way with the People, News Media and Politicians for the good goals of truth, justice and the American way! My work will not be for my own personal gain, but as a member of team that collectively works under Liberty and God for the common good of humanity.

-Jonathan A. Melle
~Former lifelong resident of Berkshire County, Massachusetts~

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On "Luciforo's" new business venture:

www.jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2008/03/andrea-nuciforo-park-square-ventures.html
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On "Luciforo's" corrupt political career:

www.jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2007/10/andrea-f-nuciforo-jr-luciforo-devilish.html
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On "Luciforo's" write-up in The Boston Globe concerning his collusion with the state's Massachusetts Insurance Companies & other wealthy, corporate elite financial institions lobbying Beacon Hill:

www.jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2008/01/nuciforos-corruption.html
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On "Luciforo's" Strong-Arming of Sharon Henault and then Sara Hathaway out of a 2006 Massachusetts State Government Election for Registry of Deeds in Pittsfield:

www.jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2008/01/andrea-nuciforo-strong-armed-two-women.html
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On "Luciforo" on "Berkshire Blog":

www.berkshireeagle.blogspot.com/2005/05/topic-state-senator-andrea-f-nuciforo.html
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www.massscorecard.org/MA-Senate/Andrea_Nuciforo.htm
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www.boston.com/business/specials/autoinsurance/waystosave/
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"LUCIFORO nightmares!"
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The following are just some of many issues where Nuciforo is a power-hungry, vindictive and mean-spirited politician: (a) In the Spring of 1998, Nuciforo set up secret plans with the Pittsfield Police Department to try to have me arrested if I stopped by his Pittsfield District Office, (b) Nuciforo tried to ruin both my dad’s 31-year career as a probation officer and also his brief position as a County Commissioner, during the same time period as when he tried to put me in jail, in the same secretive manner, (c) Nuciforo mean-mugged me by getting in my face while two family members had to step in front of me to ward him off during the 1997 North Adams Fall Foliage Parade, (d) Nuciforo has given me many very mean looks for speaking out against his corruption as a State Senator, (e) Nuciforo has political henchmen who have either directly or indirectly harassed me for speaking out against his corruption as a State Senator, which include Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Dalton State Representative Denis "Gold-Digger" Guyer, and Pittsfield Registrar of Deeds Mary O’Brien. These Berkshire career politicians do Nuciforo’s dirty work in order to keep him in office, (f) Nuciforo serves as a private corporate Attorney for a private Boston Law Firm representing big financial companies, especially big banks and insurance companies, while at the same time he sets public policies for these companies as Senate Chairman of the Finance Committee regulating these corporate entities, (g) Nuciforo collected well over $100,000 in campaign contributions from these big insurance and other financial companies in one-year, (h) Nuciforo is poised to run for U.S. Congress very soon with all of his political corruption.

-Jonathan Melle

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www.iberkshires.com/images/site_images/stories/25612.jpg
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"Ruberto Details Plans for Success", By Jen Thomas -iBerkshires.com-, January 07, 2008
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Mayor James M. Ruberto is sworn in by Register of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo as City Councilors Matthew Kerwood and Michael Ward look on at Monday's inaugural ceremony.
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www.iberkshires.com/story.php?story_id=25612
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NEWS ARTICLE

Ex-senator moving on insurance position
Six say Nuciforo sought advice

By Frank Phillips, Globe Staff | January 16, 2007

Former state senator Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., who was sworn in two weeks ago as Berkshire County register of deeds, is already moving on to his next job search: a bid to become Governor Deval Patrick's commissioner of insurance.

Nuciforo, who has been the Senate chairman of the committee that oversees the state's heavily regulated insurance industry, has told his former colleagues and politically connected figures on Beacon Hill that he wants the insurance post, which would pay about $120,000 a year. The move would require him to resign as register, which pays him about $80,000 a year but also permits him to practice law.

Nuciforo, a Pittsfield Democrat, did not return calls over the last several days seeking comment. Nuciforo's former Senate aide, Patrick J. Quirk, said the senator would have no comment other than he would be "flattered" to be considered for a position in the Patrick administration.

But six of his former Senate and political colleagues on Beacon Hill have told the Globe that he has sought their advice and help in seeking the insurance post.

It is not clear what chance Nuciforo has in landing the position in the Patrick administration. A senior adviser to the governor said the former state senator probably would not get the position, although he may be granted an interview. Patrick's press secretary, Kyle Sullivan, said the administration does not comment on "pending personnel matters."

Nuciforo's campaign to become insurance commissioner has confounded many of his former colleagues in the State House and stirred the political world in Pittsfield, where Nuciforo has been a popular state senator for 10 years.

Last March, he shocked local political observers when he announced he would not seek reelection and instead run for the register of deeds position that was being vacated.

Because he was a popular senator with a bulging campaign account, his presence in the campaign for register persuaded two other contestants, including a former Pittsfield mayor who once served as his aide, to drop out of the race. He ran unopposed in the primary and general election, taking over what is considered a political sinecure.

Nuciforo, a 10-year incumbent whose final Senate term ended Jan. 2, was deeply involved in several controversial auto insurance reform proposals designed to change the way auto insurance is regulated in Massachusetts, including plans by several major firms and former governor Mitt Romney that sought to create a more competitive market.

Nuciforo , the former Senate chairman of the Financial Services Committee, came out strongly against House legislation proposed last June that would have phased out state-set rates and phase in competitive rate setting over five years. He predicted that if it passed the House, the bill would be "dead on arrival" in the Senate, contending it was "consumer-unfriendly." He and other critics said it would sharply increase premiums for drivers in urban areas.

Commerce Insurance Co., the state's largest auto insurer, has lobbied heavily against many of the proposals on Beacon Hill, contending that proposals to overhaul the system would raise rates for drivers in urban areas. Those opponents say the legislation would reduce subsidies that currently flow from suburban and rural drivers to urban motorists.

Nuciforo collected $11,000 in political donations from Commerce executives in the last year. As his committee considered the bill last year, he also collected donations from insurance company executives who wanted more autonomy in setting rates. Massachusetts is the only state in which regulators set auto insurance rates.

Patrick has yet to clearly outline his views on insurance reform, although during the campaign last year, he said he would like to see more competition.

Nuciforo has focused his private law practice on insurance issues during the time he chaired the committee. He is listed as "of counsel" to Berman & Dowell, a Boston law firm that cites insurance defense as one of its three practice groups. He joined the firm the year he became committee chairman. Nuciforo's practice area is listed "insurance coverage" and "insurance defense , " according to the firm's website. That legal work entails defense work for insurance companies against claimants.

According to the firm's promotional material, Joseph S. Berman, a partner, "leads the insurance defense group which provides clients with aggressive and cost-effective representation in a broad range of insurance matters, including insurance defense, coverage, and the defense of unfair insurance practices lawsuits."

Berman said in an interview several months ago that Nuciforo does not refer insurance defense work to him or others in the firm.

Nuciforo, who made $72,000 a year as a state senator, listed receiving $15,000 in income from the law firm in 2005, according to his latest financial statements filed with the State Ethics Committee.

Last week, Patrick fired Julianne M. Bowler, Romney's insurance commissioner, who was implementing an assigned risk plan, in which as many as 1 million of the state's drivers would be randomly assigned to carriers based on market share. The plan marked a radical change from current policy.

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April 3, 2006

Re: Nuciforo's Domination!

My dissent has never been stronger than after thinking about the following news article, “Registrer race narrows to two” (The Berkshire Eagle, 3/29/06): This is the exact example of SMALL town close-minded politics that makes Pittsfield so ruined and hopeless for fair-minded people with ideals. Moreover, Nuciforo’s coercive persuasion over the Pittsfield Middle District Registrar of Deeds race is yet another example of Nuciforo’s INTIMIDATION and controlling use of the insidious machine facetiously known to many intellectuals as “Pittsfield Politics.”

The problem with Nuciforo’s heavy-handed move to gain the support of Sharon Henault and have her drop out of this current race for “elected” public office is that if Sharon Henault acted otherwise, Nuciforo would have with total banality ruined Henault’s career in public service by terminating her employment and blacklisting her from employment in the tight Pittsfield economy if she opposed her.

WE LIVE IN A FREE COUNTRY for crying out loud! Nuciforo should not be able to get away with such top-down, insidious machine politics that smack of fascism. Is not there anyone out there who can hear me? Doesn’t anyone care? I will assist anyone who cares about our precious gift of American Democracy to legally and legitimately oppose the domination of Nuciforo’s PITTSFIELD POLITICS! Stop Nuciforo NOW!

-Jonathan A. Melle

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Register race narrows to two

By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff

The Berkshire Eagle

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

PITTSFIELD — Sharon E. Henault yesterday withdrew as a candidate to succeed Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds Mary K. O'Brien and said she will instead support State Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.'s bid.

The 38-year-old Henault's decision leaves Nuciforo and his former chief of staff, ex-Pittsfield Mayor Sara Hathaway, both Democrats, as the only two candidates who have so far taken out nomination papers to run for the six-year term as O'Brien's successor in the November elections.

"I love and enjoy my job," said Henault, who has been the first assistant register to O'Brien for almost four years. She began working at the registry of deeds 21 years ago as a junior clerk.

"I was running because I was concerned about what was going to happen to the office," she said. "When I took out my papers, I didn't know who was running or who was interested in the position."

Henault was the first to take out nomination papers for the office, but after meeting with Nuciforo to discuss how the registry operates, and after talking over her decision with family, friends and supporters, Henault said she decided to withdraw from the race and back Nuciforo.

"I've always respected him and enjoyed talking to him," she said. "I felt confident that if he got into office that it would remain the same."

Both Nuciforo and Hathaway could not be reached for comment last night.

The register's position is a low-profile post but carries an annual salary of roughly $80,000 and is a position that incumbents can hold for decades. O'Brien was first elected in 1975, when she defeated three men in the Democratic primary and then out-polled the Republican candidate, the late Paul Abkowitz.

Henault said the register performs more administrative duties than the first assistant does.

"I enjoy being an assistant because I like everything I do and because I'm very hands-on," Henault said. "I felt that if I was elected register it wouldn't be as hands-on. I hope he (Nuciforo) gets in so that I can remain in the position that I'm in."

Henault said she will support Nuciforo's candidacy, but isn't sure how.
"I will do what I can, but as a state employee I have to be careful," Henault said.

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"Nuciforo’s perjury, fraud and conflicts of interest"

This message is for the People of Berkshire County, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the News Media, Concerned Citizens, and State Senate Republican Candidate Dawn Taylor Thompson to understand the illegal and unethical business activities of State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo II, who is seeking a fifth-term as State Senator this year.

Allegation # One: State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo II committed perjury in a personal financial disclosure to the Ethics Commission (see Addenda: Appendix B).

Fact # One: Nuciforo stated that he earned all of his “extra income” from his Pittsfield Law Practice during the calendar year of 2003 (see Addenda: Appendix B).

Fact # Two: Nuciforo is one of five corporate Attorneys for a Boston Law Firm (see Addenda: Appendix A).

Fact # Three: Nuciforo never explained his private law practice activities for Berman and Dowell in Boston to the Ethics Commission and the People of Berkshire County.

Conclusion # One: Nuciforo’s perjury to the Ethics Commission is evidenced by the three aforementioned facts. Nuciforo is corrupt (and misleading) by not disclosing all of the sources of his “extra income” to the Ethics Commission. Nuciforo must explain to the People his position as a corporate Attorney for “Berman and Dowell” in Boston. Nuciforo must report and/or be reported for his perjury to the Ethics Commission; and he should explain his corrupt actions to the People of Berkshire County. Nuciforo should be prosecuted for his perjury to the Ethics Commission.

Allegation #2: Nuciforo committed fraud by not reporting his full income to the Ethics Commission.

Fact #1: Nuciforo, as with all Massachusetts and American citizens, are income taxpayers to the state and national governments. Nuciforo’s “extra income” is also subjected to taxation.

Fact #2: Nuciforo is one of five Attorneys with “Berman and Dowell” in Boston.

Fact #3: Nuciforo reported no “extra income” from his position with “Berman and Dowell.”

Conclusion #2: Nuciforo’s “extra income” statements to the Ethics Commission are fraudulent. Nuciforo’s fraud is evidenced by the three aforementioned facts. Nuciforo’s “extra income” is subject to taxation laws of both Massachusetts and U.S. laws. Nuciforo must be investigated for his income reporting to the state of Massachusetts’ Dept. of Revenue and the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Nuciforo should be prosecuted for any and all fraudulent income reporting to the DOR and/or IRS.

Allegation #3: Nuciforo committed conflict of interest violations by both sitting as the Chairman of the Committee on Banks and Banking in the Massachusetts State Senate and serving as a Banking Law Attorney for “Berman and Dowell” in Boston.

Fact: See Addenda: Appendix A.

Conclusion #3A: Nuciforo is BOUGHT AND PAID FOR by the Boston special interests!

Conclusion #3B: None of these news items have been reported to the People of Berkshire County. The news media is not effectively reporting the facts and issues to the People. The news media is showing a similar corruption to the disingenuous actions of the politicians. It seems like almost everyone has a price, but only some people and entities are a little more obvious than others.

Note: The three branches of government are (1) the Legislative, (2) the Executive, and (3) the Judicial. The fourth branch –or the fourth estate- is the Press, which is now called the news media.

Author’s Note: I, Jonathan A. Melle, am an American Citizen with U.S. Constitutional Rights and Civil Liberties. I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live!

Addenda

Appendix A

http://bermananddowell.com/attorneys.jsp

Berman & Dowell

210 Commercial Street,

Boston, Massachusetts 02109-1305

Telephone: 617-723-9911

Facsimile: 617-723-6688

Joseph S. Berman

Elizabeth S. Bostwick

John S. Day

Rodney S. Dowell

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ANDREA F. NUCIFORO, JR.

Of Counsel, Email: anuciforo@bermandowell.com

Practice Areas: Professional Liability Defense; Commercial Litigation; Banking Law; Insurance Coverage; Insurance Defense.

Lawyer for Berman & Dowell (a Law Practice industry) from January 1999 — September 2006 (7 years 9 months). "Luciforo" served "Of Counsel" at this Boston-based litigation practice. Source: www.linkedin.com/pub/andrea-f-nuciforo-jr/6/1b/982

Biography: Law Clerk to Chief Judge Frank H. Freedman, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, 1989-1991. Member, 1997— and Chairman, Committee on Banks and Banking, Massachusetts State Senate, Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin District.

Appendix B

"Lawmakers report extra income" published in The Berkshire Eagle on Wednesday, 6/2/04

BOSTON -- Practicing law was a bit more prosperous in 2003 for state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., D-Pittsfield, though it's unclear whether it was the result of the senator working more as a lawyer.

According to a personal financial disclosure to the Ethics Commission, Nuciforo earned $20,897 from his Pittsfield law practice last year, a sharp increase from the $8,400 he earned as an attorney in 2002. In 2000, Nuciforo earned less than $5,000 as an attorney.

One of Nuciforo's areas of expertise is in estate planning.

Compared to many other members of the Legislature, Nuciforo's outside earnings are not significant. Many legislators are also powerful attorneys earning upward of $100,000, while others own lucrative businesses.

Though Nuciforo's lawyer earnings were more than double the previous year, attorneys often explain that there is not always a direct correlation between what they are paid and the number of hours they worked.

Nuciforo did not want to comment, only saying that he stands by his disclosure as fact.

He represents the largest district in the state geographically, with 48 cities and towns. He is also Senate chairman of the Banks and Banking Committee.

Lawmakers and state officials are required to file statements with the Ethics Commission that detail their earnings and personal holdings. They were only required to state dollar ranges when reporting a value of a home or earnings, though some were more specific.

NOTE: The State "Ethics" Commission let Nuciforo off the hook with a CONFIDENTIAL decision. Hmmm.

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10/11/2007

This link used to take you to Nuciforo's Corporate Boston Law Firm web-page:

http://www.bermananddowell.com/jsp2196567.jsp

But now you will NO LONGER find that Nuciforo serves the Corporate Elite for a Private Boston Law Firm named "Berman & Dowell" as a private Corporate Attorney for Boston's big banks and insurance companies.

Now, the link directs you to another web-site:

http://www.lawyers.com/

In the interim, the web-page reads:

WE ARE SORRY...

The page you have requested cannot be found.

Your browser should refresh to http://www.lawyers.com in 10 seconds. If this doesn't occur, click here.

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I (Jonathan Melle) have saved this web-page in the very case that this would happen.

Here you will find that Nuciforo really only serves the Corporate Elite in Boston as a private Corporate Attorney for Boston's big banks and insurance companies.

Berman & Dowell
210 Commercial Street,
Boston, Massachusetts 02109-1305
Telephone: 617-723-9911
Facsimile: 617-723-6688
bermananddowell.com

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
Of Counsel
Email: anuciforo@bermandowell.com

Practice Areas: Professional Liability Defense; Commercial Litigation; Banking Law; Insurance Coverage; Insurance Defense.

Admitted: 1989, Massachusetts; 1990, New York; 1991, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts

Law School: Boston University, J.D., 1989

College: University of Massachusetts, B.A., 1986

Member: Berkshire and Massachusetts Bar Associations.

Biography: Law Clerk to Chief Judge Frank H. Freedman, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, 1989-1991. State Senator, Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin District, 1997-2007 and Member, 1997-2007 and Chairman, 1999-2007, Committee on Financial Services, Massachusetts State Senate.

Born: Pittsfield, Massachusetts, February 26, 1964

ISLN: 904108949

Lawyer for Berman & Dowell (a Law Practice industry) from January 1999 — September 2006 (7 years 9 months). "Luciforo" served "Of Counsel" at this Boston-based litigation practice. Source: www.linkedin.com/pub/andrea-f-nuciforo-jr/6/1b/982

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Boston's Corporate Elite groom Luciforo for his future run for U.S. Congress

Luciforo "Always Wins" his corrupted democratic elections because he strong arms all of his competition out of the races and intimidates his financially constrained political opponents with huge amounts of special interest blood money!
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FindLaw > Lawyer Directory > Lawyer

Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.

Firm: Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.

Address: PO Box 1205
65 Bartlett Ave
Pittsfield, MA 01202-1205

Phone: (413) 499-2244
Fax: (413) 499-7911

West Practice Categories:

Estate Planning

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AND
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Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
Lawyer in Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts
(Suffolk Co.)

Berman & Dowell
210 Commercial Street
Boston, MA 02109-1305
Phone: (617) 723-9911
Fax: (617) 723-6688

Lawyer for Berman & Dowell (a Law Practice industry) from January 1999 — September 2006 (7 years 9 months). "Luciforo" served "Of Counsel" at this Boston-based litigation practice. Source: www.linkedin.com/pub/andrea-f-nuciforo-jr/6/1b/982

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www.nuciforo.com

--2005--

Welcome to My Online Office

Senate President Robert E. Travaglini recently appointed me to serve as chairman of the newly-formed Committee on Financial Services. The committee will have jurisdiction relating to banks, credit unions, insurance companies, insurance agents, state securities laws, and a variety of other matters.

This assignment, in addition to my membership on the Elder Affairs, Higher Education, Consumer Protection, and Election Laws Committees gives me an extraordinary opportunity to serve the citizens of the Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin District. The Financial Services committee will consider changes to Massachusetts laws relating to automobile insurance, homeowners insurance, mortgage lending, and other matters that have a direct impact on consumers across the Commonwealth.

I encourage you to visit Nuciforo.com often, as the site will be updated regularly to keep you informed about legislative activities, and upcoming events in western Massachusetts and the State House.

Thank you for the privilege of representing you in the Massachusetts Senate. As always, please feel free to contact me should you need my help.

Sincerely,

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
State Senator

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www.nuciforo.com

--2007--

Website under construction.
Please call 413-442-6810 with any questions.

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Re: Open Letter to the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
State Ethics Commission
John W. McCormack Office Building
One Ashburton Place
Room 619
Boston, Massachusetts 02108-1501

Attention: Stephen P. Fauteux, Enforcement Division Chief (mgm)

Dear Mr. Fauteux:

Enclosed, please find several news articles, editorials and letters published by “The Berkshire Eagle” entitled: "Challengers face funding obstacles”, “Nuciforo to head panel overseeing auto insurance”, “Nuciforo must show independence in post”, and “Nuciforo’s challenge”. Also, please find a photocopied letter that you sent to me at my previous mailing address in Amherst, NH.

As a former lifelong citizen of the Berkshire region of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts until April 6, 2004, I am disturbed by Berkshire State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo II’s public record of special interest politics. Specifically, Nuciforo has been promoted last month to the position of Senate Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, which will bring in both “intense lobbying and cash donations from the insurance industry” and the banking industry. The problem with this situation continues to be that Nuciforo provides private banking and insurance legal services through the law firm “Berman & Dowell” on 210 Commercial Street in Boston.

Please direct yourself to the following web link: http://bermananddowell.com/jsp2196567.jsp.

This web page even states that Nuciforo’s practice areas include Banking Law, Insurance Coverage and Insurance Defense. This entire situation continues to be evidentially in clear violation of the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A. Please take appropriate legal action.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

NOTE: The State "Ethics" Commission let Nuciforo off the hook with a CONFIDENTIAL decision. Hmmm.

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June 04, 2005

Re: Open Letter to the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission

Commonwealth of Massachusetts
State Ethics Commission
John W. McCormack Office Building
One Ashburton Place
Room 619
Boston, Massachusetts 02108-1501

Attention: Stephen P. Fauteux, Enforcement Division Chief (mgm)

Dear Mr. Fauteux:

Below, please take the time to review the following herein news article published today, June 04, 2005, “Lawmakers disclose finances” (The Berkshire Eagle). ONCE AGAIN, State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo (D-Pittsfield) is in BLATANT violation of the state’s CONFLICT OF INTEREST LAWS!

It is truly amazing to me that I can still go to the following web pages: http://bermananddowell.com/attorneys.jsp , http://bermananddowell.com/jsp2196567.jsp , and see first-hand that Nuciforo is a corporate banking and insurance lawyer. WHAT KIND OF AGENCY ARE YOU RUNNING, ANYWAY? This is a BLATANT and CONTINUAL and RECURRING VIOLATION OF MANY OF THE LAWS THAT YOUR STATE AGENCY ENFORCES.

By the way, I have been posting these matters on the following web blog: http://berkshireeagle.blogspot.com/ , “Topic: Berkshire County’s Politicians - - - - Local, State, and Federal”. Also, I am emailing this letter I am sending to you today to many of the state’s major and regional newspapers, Berkshire Politicians, and the People for their review.

I BELIEVE VERY STRONGLY SO THAT IF YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES DO NOT STOP THIS VIOLATION THAT YOU SHOULD BE FIRED!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

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Lawmakers disclose finances

THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

By Erik Arvidson, Eagle Boston Bureau

BOSTON — State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley appears to have curtailed his out-of-state travels over the past year and a half, though he still travels more than most of his colleagues.

The North Adams Democrat, who in years past would rack up tens of thousands of dollars in traveling expenses from trips all over North America, can no longer claim to be one of the most well-traveled members of the House.

In a disclosure filed with the state Ethics Commission this week that details personal financial information, Bosley reported that he received no travel reimbursements in 2004 from the Council of State Governments, a nonprofit organization made up of political leaders from across the country.

A year ago, Bosley disclosed on his report that he had received between $20,000 and $40,000 from the CSG to reimburse him for travel expenses to attend various conferences and meetings.

Bosley was national chairman of the CSG in 2003, and the position required him to attend virtually every significant meeting.

Bosley's campaign finance reports filed with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance show a sharp reduction in travel-related costs.

Between 2002 and 2003, Bosley compiled a total of $37,230 in traveling expenses, including air fare, lodging, taxi fare, conference fees and meals, according to his campaign finance report.

Most of those expenses he paid out of his own pocket, then reimbursed himself with campaign funds.

But in the report filed in January detailing his campaign finance activity for 2004, Bosley charged just $3,606 in traveling expenses to his campaign account. He still owed himself $5,706 in liabilities, which he did not have to describe in detail but presumably included travel costs.
Bosley could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Both of the Berkshires' new House lawmakers were required to file disclosure reports with the Ethics Commission, even though they were not legislators in 2004.

Rep. Denis Guyer, D-Dalton, reported that he earned between $40,000 and $60,000 as a purchasing specialist for Crane & Co. in Dalton, and between $1,000 and $5,000 as a Dalton selectman. His real estate holdings included his primary family residence on Haworth Street.

Rep. Christopher Speranzo, D-Pittsfield, reported that he earned $57,926 between his position as assistant attorney general and Pittsfield's city solicitor. He also listed only his primary residence, on Thomson Place, for real estate.

The base wage for all members of the Legislature is $55,567.

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Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., D-Pittsfield, disclosed that he earned $9,460 from his law practice in Pittsfield in 2004. He earned $20,897 from practicing law in 2003.

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State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, did not report any secondary income.

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A Past Berkshire Eagle NEWS ARTICLE: "Insurers swell senator's war chest: Nuciforo able to raise $137,000 in donations" (By Erik Arvidson, Eagle Boston Bureau
The Berkshire Eagle, Saturday, January 21, 2006): "Nuciforo (Luciforo's) top donor was the Webster-based Commerce Insurance Co., the state's largest auto insurer, which had 18 executives or employees donate a total of $9,000. All of them donated the maximum $500 allowed to an individual under the state's campaign finance laws. / Commerce has lobbied the Legislature heavily to retain the current closely regulated system, opposing a plan by Romney to provide drivers with more choice and to introduce more competition."

» Nuciforo's (Luciforo's) top five donors

These are the top five companies that had employees contributing to state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.'s campaign in 2005:
1. Commerce Insurance Co. — $9,000
2. Liberty Mutual — $6,800
3. Nation One Mortgage — $5,350
4. Arbella Insurance Group — $2,400
5. Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas LLP — $1,775]
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The Berkshire Eagle

In the State

Thursday, January 27, 2005 -

Nuciforo named leader of new finance panel

BOSTON -- State Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., D-Pittsfield, was named Senate chairman of the newly created Financial Services Committee yesterday by Senate President Robert E. Travaglini.

Nuciforo was formerly the chairman of the Banks and Banking Committee, which has been consolidated with the Insurance Commit-tee to form a new joint House-Senate panel that will examine all aspects of the financial services industry.

House and Senate leaders said the new committee was created to keep pace with the changing face of finance and to eliminate overlap.

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The Berkshire Eagle

Nuciforo to head panel overseeing auto insurance
By Erik Arvidson
Eagle Boston Bureau

Saturday, January 29, 2005 -

BOSTON -- With his promotion to Senate chairman of the Financial Services Committee, state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., D-Pittsfield, has moved front and center in the debate over the high cost of auto insurance in Massachusetts.

In addition to a $7,500 pay raise -- bringing his annual pay to about $70,000 -- Nuciforo's statewide profile will likely rise as a result of chairing the panel that will be a key voice in the debate over how to make auto insurance rates more affordable.

Nuciforo said he would take a balanced approach to considering matters relating to auto and homeowners insurance, which will be the two biggest areas of concern he will inherit as a result of the committee restructuring.

"It's a very broad jurisdiction this committee will have," Nuciforo said. "I come with an open mind to insurance issues. With auto insurance and homeowners insurance, consumers often complain about the limits of coverage. Auto insurance consumers are unhappy with the rate-setting structure. There are a lot of thorny issues to deal with this year."

There are just 19 auto insurers operating in Massachusetts today, compared to 53 in 1990.

Nuciforo would not say whether he agreed with Gov. Mitt Romney's comments that the current auto insurance system is riddled with fraud and rewards bad drivers.

"I will be meeting with all of the interested parties and will conduct hearings. We'll make the best decisions we can," Nuciforo said. "This will be a good opportunity for consumer advocates and representatives of the industry to bring their concerns to the open."

The Financial Services Committee was created as a result of the merger of Nuciforo's old Banks and Banking Committee, and the Insurance Committee.

Nuciforo and his House co-chair counterpart -- who has yet to be named -- will also likely be the subject of intense lobbying and cash donations from the insurance industry.

According to the secretary of state's lobbyist division, the auto, home, and life insurance industries spent a total of $1.46 million in 2004 on lobbyist salaries and contributions to elected officials.

Combined with the reported expenditures of the banking, lending and investment industries, Nuciforo's Financial Services Committee oversees issues that were the subject of $2.6 million in lobbying efforts last year.

The former Senate chairman of the Insurance Committee, Guy W. Glodis of Worcester,received $14,425 in lobbyist donations in just six months in 2003, according to the Metrowest Daily News.

Nuciforo has served as chairman of the Banks and Banking Committee since 1999. Prior to that, he was Senate chairman of the Election Laws Committee.

Senate President Robert E. Travaglini and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi agreed to restructure the legislative committees to modernize them and make them more efficient.

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NEWS ARTICLE:

Casino backers fill key coffers

Lobbyists have given the most money to the House speaker, despite his opposition to expanding gaming.

By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau

The Berkshire Eagle

Sunday, September 30, 2007

BOSTON — State politicians looking to fill their campaign coffers might want to consider a new position — casino gambling opponent.

It has worked well for House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, who has battled fiercely against expanded gambling for three years. He took in $10,575 during that period from lobbyists representing casino interests, according to state campaign finance records. That sum is more than any other lawmaker.

Jane Lane, DiMasi's campaign spokeswoman, argued that the donations prove that money cannot always buy votes.

"The speaker has been a longtime opponent of casino gambling," Lane said. "Obviously these donations have had no bearing on his position and are merely a reflection of their support for the speaker's agenda for the state."

But Barbara Anderson, executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation, has a more cynical view.

"I'm not surprised. Why else would you be holding out?" Anderson said. "I always assumed his resistance came from the fact that, as long as the issue is unresolved, people will be paying him to vote with them."

The contributions include DiMasi's political action committee, which uses funds to elect and retain Democrats in the House.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick's plan to bring three resort-style casinos triggered a surge of money from hopeful developers to lobbyists in the past year. But casino lobbyists were busy trying to sway lawmakers' votes long before that. The lobbyists spent $316,321 over the past three years on Massachusetts politicians, with about $7,000, or less than 2 percent, flowing to politicians in the Berkshires.

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Locally, casino opponent Rep. Daniel E. Bosley took in the most in casino lobbyist donations, $3,150, followed by former Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. with $2,850. Bosley argues that the lobbyists who represent casinos also represent other businesses. He even has a personal relationship with some of them, including one former aide.
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"People think they're buying influence, and clearly they're not," Bosley said. "It's hard to walk through the halls without walking into somebody who's a casino lobbyist, and it says a lot about my fairness and that they recognize smart, hard-working people despite the fact that we're on opposite sides of the issue."

Casino supporter Treasurer Timothy Cahill got the second most in donations from casino lobbyists, taking in about $9,000. He was an ardent opponent of casinos until this year, when he changed his mind, citing slowing lottery revenues.

"Treasurer Cahill is proud to have had the support of thousands of individual contributors over the years, and he makes his decisions independently of the multiple perspectives these donors represent," said Cahill campaign spokeswoman Laurie Basio. The contributions totaled less than 1 percent of Cahill's total donations over the past three years.

Money for access

Pam Wilmot, executive director of lawmaker watchdog group Common Cause, said that money may not buy votes, but it often buys access.

"Money helps with access to officials. It doesn't necessarily guarantee you'll get your way, but it does get you in the door," Wilmot said.

The biggest contributors include Suffolk Downs at nearly $87,000; Mashpee Wampanoags follow at $35,200; Harrah's entertainment at $28,000; Aquinnah Wampanoag gaming at $23,425; Foxwoods at $23,200; Raynham Taunton Greyhound Park at $21,000; and Plainridge Racetrack at $19,084.

Patrick received about $5,000, and Lt. Gov. Tim Murray pulled in about $6,000. Current Senate President Therese Murray, who supports casinos and has only been president since March, took in $5,600.

Wilmot said there is another reason why money might not sway legislator votes when it comes to casinos. People are watching.

"The antidote to money is citizen participation, and that can be mobilized around a few key issues effectively. This is one of them," Wilmot said.

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"10 reasons to vote against Nuciforo"

Written in December of 2003

The following is a top ten list why the voters of Berkshire County should vote the current state Senator out of political office:

10. In 2003, Nuciforo had the 2nd worst voting record in the Massachusetts Senate, missing 96 roll call votes with a 77-percent attendance record.

9. Nuciforo is a Democrat in name only. In the 2002 gubernatorial election, Nuciforo was a weak supporter of Shannon O’Brien and told BCC students vote for the third party candidates.

8. Similar to his colleague, state Rep. Larkin, Nuciforo openly admitted he resides and spends more time out of Berkshire County than within, which leads to…

7. A great majority of Nuciforo’s campaign contributions comes from out of his legislative district, leaving the impression that his real constituency are special interests in the Boston Metropolitan region, which leads to…

6. While two out of three Berkshire County voters endorsed Clean Elections several years ago, Nuciforo overruled the voters and worked to abolish this reformist campaign finance voluntary program.

5. Nuciforo abolished Berkshire County government in the FY99 state budget, but not before Commissioners Tom Stokes, Bob Melle and Ron Kitterman worked on behalf of Cheshire residents to purchase and save their reservoir/lake from weed infestation and the plight of a negligent private owner. At the same time period, Nuciforo placed the Gem of the County into a state accounting agency, leaving Pontoosuc Lake to waste for over two years.

4. Nuciforo failed to sell the Berkshire Economic Development Authority to any one of the 31 municipalities outside of Pittsfield. Instead of selling the Berkshires to outside developers, Nuciforo was left to amending the program to cover only Pittsfield; hence PEDA.

3. Nuciforo voted for leadership payraises this year while local aid, education and public works funding, and lottery money for good causes were all slashed.

2. Nuciforo was the only state Senator to vote against an all felon DNA database, despite the fact that the measure now covers such violent crimes as drugging with the intent to rape and assault and battery on a child to inflict bodily injury.*

1. Nuciforo is part of the problem on Beacon Hill. Berkshire County is not being represented in our state government by sincere and grassroots delegates. For the past couple of years we have experienced painful cuts to our communities while our state Legislators have received indefensible payraises and aristocratic treatment.

-Jonathan A. Melle

*The following editorial appeared on p. 22 of the Boston Herald:

Those felon protectors-Sen. Robert Creedon, Jr. (D-Brockton), Sen. Cynthia Creem (D-Newton) and Sen Andrea Nuciforo (D-Pittsfield)- out to be ashamed of themselves.

A bill to require DNA samples from all felons was on a fast track, backed by John and Magdalen Bish, until 3 senators tried to weaken it.

Creedon's alternative, adding 31 specified crimes to felonies already covered by the database, falls far short by excluding more than 150 crimes, including all drug and gun felonies.

In Virginia, 10 felons previously convicted of forgery were subsequently tied to violent crimes by DNA matches. The all-felon database works. The 3 senators should withdraw their amendment and the entire body out to approve the bill in Molly Bish's name.

-Boston Herald, Tuesday, June 17, 2003.

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NOTE: NUCIFORO CREATED A MONOPOLY FOR BERKSHIRE HEALTH SYSTEMS BY EXCLUDING ACCESS TO CERTAIN CRITICAL HEALTH EQUIPMENT BY ALL OTHER HEALTH PROVIDERS IN BERKSHIRE COUNTY. THIS HELPS THE MONOPOLY BHS, BUT HURTS THE MEDICAL PATIENTS WHO NEED LIFE-SAVING TREATMENTS.

NUCIFORO DID SO WITH NO PUBLIC HEARINGS OR COMMENTS. NUCIFORO PASSED THIS LAW VIA A SECRET AMENDMENT TO THE FISCAL YEAR 2002 "THANKSGIVING" STATE BUDGET.

THIS STORY IS YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF NUCIFORO'S CORRUPT AND POOR LEADERSHIP. ...

-Jonathan Melle

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The Berkshire Eagle

Competitive image
MRI site, facing state obstacle, opens in New Lebanon

By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff

Tuesday, October 05, 2004 -

PITTSFIELD -- A group of radiologists who broke off from Berkshire Medical Center 18 months ago are expanding their offerings, bringing in cutting-edge technology and offering an open-style MRI machine just over the border in New York.

Berkshire Radiological Associates opened their imaging center at 610 North St. in May 2003 after their three doctors emerged from a prolonged divorce with Berkshire Medical Center, which had fought their plans to open their free-standing clinic.

In its first year, the group reported 22,000 patient visits for X-rays, CT scans, mammograms and other services, but the physicians had been unable to offer MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging.

They were blocked by a law passed by the Legislature in 2001 after heavy lobbying by Berkshire Health Systems, the parent company of both BMC and Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington. That law essentially made it impossible for any entity other than a hospital to get a state license to operate an MRI in Berkshire County.

In June, Berkshire Radiological found a way around that prohibition and bought a state-of-the-art, open MRI that they installed in a storefront where the Massachusetts laws don't apply -- just over the state line in New Lebanon, N.Y., 10 miles from its North Street clinic.

The three partners in the practice, Jerome M. Auerbach, Robert B. Geehr and Stuart J. Masters, all said they were relieved to be able to again offer MRI to their patients. By choosing an open-style machine instead of the more common tunnel-style scanners that make some patients feel claustrophobic, they said they are complementing the service available in Berkshire County.

"To have an office that allows us to do everything is very, very important," Geehr said. "I have been doing MR for 15 or 16 years, and I missed doing it and always anticipated that we would be able to do it in some way."

He added, "I would prefer to have it [in Pittsfield] rather than [New Lebanon]. It is an added expense for us, but we really felt that we needed to do this, and I think we have managed to provide the same level of service here that we do in Pittsfield."

Berkshire Health Systems has opposed the doctors and their outpatient clinic because it fears the new office is draining patients and profits from its own facilities. In a medical marketplace that has been unkind to hospitals by offering low reimbursements for many services, MRI has been one of the profitable bright spots. The nonprofit company says competition from an outside clinic threatens its ability to provide the essential but money-losing services that only a hospital can offer, such as an emergency room and an intensive care unit.

The radiologists said they are meeting a need in Berkshire County and serving patients who would otherwise have waited weeks for a scan. They are already performing scans on 10 patients a day, five days a week and are considering extending their hours. Their open machine, shaped like a giant "C," is the only one of its kind serving the Berkshire population.

In addition to MRI, the physicians are starting to offer a broader range of services and recently began performing virtual colonoscopy, which uses a CT -- or computed tomography -- scan to conduct a colon cancer screening. Although it is not for everyone, said Masters, it is a less-invasive and less time-consuming way to examine a colon and look for polyps that could be the precursor to cancer.

Sitting in a darkened room lined with bright, flat-screen computer monitors, Masters demonstrated the virtual colonoscopy. The patient had already been scanned, and with the movements of a mouse and few computer clicks, Masters was able to move through the digital image of the colon like a character in a video game, zooming in to take a closer look at anything suspicious, able to rotate the image anyway necessary to examine the walls of the 3- to 4-foot-long intestine.

The standard colonoscopy performed by a gastroenterologist with a colonoscope is still the "gold standard," Masters said, particularly because it allows doctors to biopsy anything that looks suspicious. If the virtual colonoscopy detects a potential problem, the patient would then have to undergo the traditional procedure.

So far, neither Medicare nor most private insurers cover the virtual study, which costs roughly $1,100, and the group has administered it to only a handful of patients. The procedure is also available at Berkshire Medical Center, but will not be offered until it is reimbursed.

Dr. Robert J. Cella, vice president for medical affairs for Berkshire Health Systems, said the hospital is still not sure what place the virtual colonoscopy has in treating patients. In studies, patients have complained having their colons filled with air -- which is necessary to get a clear image -- is more uncomfortable than the traditional colonoscopy.

"We have had no demand for this particular service," Cella said.

The doctors of Berkshire Radiological expect that virtual colonoscopy will become more and more popular. A study published in the Dec. 4, 2003, New England Journal of Medicine and summarized by the National Cancer Institute found that virtual colonoscopy, when given to people at average risk for colorectal cancer, "was just as accurate as traditional colonoscopy at detecting potential signs of colon or rectal cancer, and was less invasive."

There are indications that Medicare will begin paying for it relatively soon. And with the recommendation that all people over the age of 50 be screened for colon cancer -- the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute -- the doctors expect demand will eventually eclipse the availability of gastroenterologists, making virtual colonoscopy an attractive alternative to people not considered at high risk for colon cancer.

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A farewell from Berk. Radiological

The Berkshire Eagle

Letters

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

We, the employees of Berkshire Radiological Associates, would like to thank all the devoted patients, doctors and their staff who have supported us over the past 4 1/2 years. Since the announcement of our closing, your calls, letters and cards have been overwhelming.

We have enjoyed being here for you and have made many friends along the way. We will miss each and every one of you. We will especially miss your kindness, humor and occasional goodies. We will take with us many fond memories and hopes that our paths will cross again. Again, thanks to you all. Most importantly, we wish you good health.

LISA AVERY

CHRISTINE BARNABY

Pittsfield

The letter was also signed by Mary Campoli, Bernard Godfrey, Lisa Harrison, Jodi O'Neill, Becky Strout, Jack Troop, Lynn Wellington, Sue White and Missy Zink.

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8/26/2007

Dear Berkshire Eagle, et al:

Similar to the ignorance of recent state government history by the Boston Globe, you (The Eagle) have ignorantly revised recent state government history. The reason why BMC (or BHS) got monopoly power over MRI and like medical devices was that Pittsfield’s delegates to Beacon Hill’s State House secretly placed a rider onto the Massachusetts FY2002 “Thanksgiving 2001” State Budget. The 2 Pittsfield delegates were then-Berkshire State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. (Luciforo) and the Pittsfield State Representative Peter J. Larkin – 2 pro-business, anti-grassroots, machine-Pols, who both have made respective, lucrative careers for themselves in the private sector that relates to State House politics.

Luciforo had even wrote letters to the private group of doctors who invested $ into the healthcare industry’s radiological business, giving them false reassurances that they would be able to open a private practice to treat people with cancer and like illnesses. All the while, Luciforo knew that he was working with Larkin to ban them from being able to own the necessary medical equipment—MRIs and the like—to operate said facility.

The commonwealth is supposed to pass an annual budget on or prior to July 1st of every year. In 2001, the budget was not passed by the Legislature until mid-November. Luciforo & Larkin secretly snuck in the law screwing the private medical doctors seeking to start their private practice by giving sole rights in Berkshire County ONLY to BHS to own and operate MRIs and the like medical devices. There were no public hearings, no consideration for medical needs and related issues, and no disclosures to the news media or anyone else about the law.

Acting Governor Jane Swift then went onto sign the FY2002 “Thanksgiving 2001” Budget, and the rest is history. I just wish that the Eagle, similar to the Globe, would get their facts straight when recounting recent past events in State Government history.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

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BMC's big deal

Editorial

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Berkshire Medical Center has won its five-year battle with Berkshire Radiological Associates, but what matters to Berkshire residents is how they will be affected. The purchase of the radiology clinic by BMC will make for a stronger hospital, which benefits the community, but BMC can become even stronger by addressing the needs that outpatient centers fill.

The simmering animosity between the administration of Berkshire Health Systems and many of its doctors erupted into view in 2001 when Berkshire Radiological Associates, the city's only group of radiologists, announced plans for a $4.5 million imaging center on North Street in Pittsfield in 2001. After two years of squabbling, and crippled by legislation banning any business other than BMC from operating an MRI in Berkshire County, the three doctors remaining from the original 11 in the Associates group opened an MRI center in New Lebanon, N.Y., but apparently never succeeded in making the business, with its high overhead, profitable.

At a time when many community hospitals are sinking into a sea of red, Berkshire Medical Center remains profitable. One of the reasons it remains in the black is the determination of BHS administrators to hold on to its profit-making enterprises, and if it has been aggressive in doing so, the financial health of the hospital is that important to the community. Emergency rooms, for one example, operate at a loss, and if a hospital loses its profitable sections, like radiology, those money-losing operations could turn a good hospital into a poor one, if not a defunct one.

One way for BHS to protect itself is to take away the arguments for spin-off outpatient centers. It is understandable that people would rather go to a quiet, attractive clinic than a bustling hospital for outpatient treatment, and Berkshire Radiological Associates was designed to serve this need. In 2003, BMC responded by opening a new women's imaging center boasting the attractive qualities of an outpatient center. If the hospital can provide outpatient facilities that are quiet and comfortable and serve patients quickly, it is less likely that doctors will try to break away to their own facilities and less likely that residents will demand those facilities.

We are encouraged by the graciousness both BMC and the Associates demonstrated in announcing the deal, but it is apparent from the article in Saturday's Eagle that the 15 employees of Berkshire Radiological Associates were caught by surprise by the sale and some fear the hospital will hold a grudge against them. BMC may not be a position to take all of the employees on right away, but we certainly hope the hospital will not hold employment by the Associates group against any qualified job applicant. That would only heighten whatever bad feeling exists.

It is unfortunate that doctors, administrators and patients are so often at odds with one another in Berkshire County, but this is in large part because of a cumbersome national health care system that by definition frustrates all involved parties. That won't change soon, but all involved parties in Berkshire County do need the same thing — a strong, financially sound hospital. This purchase will strengthen BMC, and if BMC can continue to address the needs of patients that outpatient centers are built to serve, the hospital will grow even stronger.
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Loss of Associates is loss of choice

Letters

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I was saddened to see that Berkshire Radiological Associates will no longer be able to serve our community. The doctors, staff, and technicians were kind, considerate and sensitive to individuals needs.

The parking was convenient, it was a cheerful atmosphere and always made you feel welcome and well cared for. I guess the old saying" "nothing good lasts forever" is true in this case.

We should all have the right to choose what we feel is best for our medical needs. That has been taken away as well. We will miss you Berkshire Radiological, a job well done!

MARY (MOLLY) RICCHI

Pittsfield

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BHS deal is win, not a mandate

Letters

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The recent deal between Berkshire Health Systems and Berkshire Radiological Associates highlights the Scylla and Charybdis of 21st century health care delivery. If we are to transform from the inefficient, redundant, competitive system we dragged with us from the 20th century to single-payer universal coverage, we need to dismantle the strategies and tactics upon which the old system was based.

On the one hand, duplication of services by doctors hoping to take the cream from the top of the barrel needs to be stopped. BHS recently opposed just such an orthopedic surgery facility in Lenox. Protecting the hospital's profit-making enterprises from opportunistic doctors is indeed in the community's best interest.

But, do we want our future universal single-payer health care system to be a profit-making business? Do we want our local health care system to provide profitable health care services for no other reason but that they are profitable? Is some profitable health care better delivered elsewhere? Does our current system assist those who wish to go elsewhere, if for no other reason than consumer choice, or does it consider those who go elsewhere profit lost?

Sometimes doctors provide services that are profitable and also extremely beneficial to the patients. Our local oncologists provide such a service that I have had personal experience with and recommend highly. It would be a travesty for BHS to exert the same crushing political clout to grab this share of the pie.

Our future system will depend heavily on local systems delivering quality care that is needed. These same systems will have to be willing to give up profit-making care when it is appropriate that it should be done elsewhere. For example, in orthopedic surgery, advances in computer assisted technology suggest that within a decade or so, joint replacement surgery should be done only in major centers, such as Boston or New York.

Although it might still be profitable to offer computer assisted joint replacements in smaller hospitals, the outcome quality level is expected not to be as good as that of places where larger numbers of cases are done. A smaller local system must be prepared to assist consumers to have their surgery done elsewhere, not attempt to set up its own program just because it is profitable.

It is laudable for the Berkshire Health System to protect our most precious asset by providing care that is profitable. Let us not give them the wrong mandate.

CHARLES KENNY, M.D.

Stockbridge

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BMC squashes a fine business

Letters

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

We are told that Berkshire Health Systems has acquired Berkshire Radiological Associates at 610 North Street because, at least in part, the radiology center was draining valuable business from the hospital and weakening its bottom line. Yet, according to the Massachusetts Nurses Association, Berkshire Medical Center, a "charitable" nonprofit organization, recorded a $24 million profit last year. The imaging center at BMC had shown a steady growth of patients from 151,000 in 2004 to 177,000 in 2006.

So why has Berkshire Radiological Associates posed any real threat to the bottom line of Berkshire Health Systems? The second question I would ask is why these two imaging centers could not get along? Why not work together, rather than develop the antagonism that I read about from Berkshire Medical Center?

It is sad to see the way it treated the people who originally staffed Berkshire Radiological Associates, the way it used its incredible financial resources and lobbying efforts to apply political pressure to prevent an "open" MRI at the 610 North Street address, and the apparent collusion with Baystate Medical Center to force Health New England to refuse to cover most services at the outpatient facility. This removed a large number of people seeking imaging services from Berkshire Radiological Associates' client base and forced them to go to BMC.

While I have concern about the potential removal of another significant tax-paying entity from the Pittsfield tax base, the far more significant question for me is how all this impacts patient services in our community.

As an occasional client of Berkshire Radiological Associates, I have experienced the ease of parking, the warmth of its waiting room, the incredible friendliness and competence of its staff, and the extremely efficient service. I have not had to compete for services with trauma cases or the seriously ill from the intensive care unit. Perhaps of equal importance, I have always had an incredibly prompt response to any test results.

In the years of its operation, I have never seen informational pickets or any other kind of pickets outside Berkshire Radiological Associates. Its employees were obviously happy with their work and the treatment they received from their management. That always translates into more friendly and more efficient employees.

I am somewhat troubled by the obvious need for informational picketing that recently took place in front of BMC where nurses must fight for greater contributions to their pension plans, more adequate staffing, and "respect now." So my third question becomes: Was this really the time to take down an efficient and apparently well run imaging center using monies that might better have been used to reward and upgrade staffing at BMC?

Perhaps if BMC would treat its nursing staff with more respect and dignity and make them feel truly part of the team effort at BMC, much of the nursing shortage would take care of itself. Berkshire Radiological Associates seems to have understood that extremely well.

ROBERT H. SKIDMORE

Pittsfield

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BMC buys rival

City Click photo to enlarge

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Berkshire Radiological Associates acquired, ending a lengthy feud.

By Jack Dew

Berkshire Eagle Staff

PITTSFIELD — After five years of contention and competition, Berkshire Medical Center is buying an outpatient radiology center that had once threatened to drain valuable business from the hospital and weaken its bottom line.

By acquiring Berkshire Radiological Associates, BMC is putting an end to a long-running feud that had angered many in the medical community who said it typified the hospital's sometimes heavy-handed approach to protecting its bottom line.

The deal means the hospital is shuttering its biggest competition in the lucrative imaging field. Neither BMC nor Berkshire Radiological Associates would disclose the final purchase price. The deal is expected to close in the middle of September, and Berkshire Radiological Associates will continue to see patients until Sept. 7.

Despite years of antagonism, both sides sought to put the best face on the deal. BMC spokesman Michael Leary said the purchase was a logical move for the hospital, which has been looking to expand and was contemplating building an outpatient facility on its own. At Berkshire Radiological, Dr. Stuart J. Masters said the two sides had ignored their past and struck a deal that is good for the county's health care system.

It is unclear whether the building will remain a radiology facility. "How this will fit into the needs of the hospital in the future is something we are still reviewing," Leary said.

The building will not be empty: Berkshire Nurse Practitioners has a seven-year lease on office space there, and Robyn Korte, one of the practice's partners, said they intend to stay. Leary said the hospital will honor that lease "to the extent that we are bound by it," but will also look to have discussions with the nurse practitioners about their plans.

Negotiations for the radiology purchase began a few months ago. As part of the deal, BMC said it would try to accommodate Berkshire Radiological's roughly 15 employees; however, Leary said, only two have been offered positions in the hospital, and the others are "certainly welcome to apply for other positions within the health system for which they are qualified, as would anybody."

An employee of Berkshire Radiological, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was worried his comments would hurt his chances of getting another job, said he believes all 15 will be out of work after the sale is completed.

"I think (the hospital) is holding a grudge," he said. "They don't want to hire us. There were pretty hard feelings when we left, and they just don't want to hire us."

He said the employees only learned about the sale when a voice mail was accidentally sent to the wrong number; when they confronted the doctors two or three weeks ago, the physicians admitted that a deal was in the works. He said the hospital had "crushed" Berkshire Radiological over the years, doing "everything in its power to have us not operate. We are competition, so it's fair game, but that's what happened."

The purchase drew criticism from the BMC chapter of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, which is in difficult negotiations for a new contract with the hospital. Chief among the sticking points is a demand from the nurses for a greater contribution to their pension fund.

"(BMC) should be spending its resources on keeping and retaining good nurses," said Ann Marie Adams, a registered nurse at BMC and a member of the MNA committee. "For what reasons do we need to expand? We need to take care of what we have."

While those familiar with deal said it was driven by financial pressures, Dr. Masters would not address what prompted the sale. Masters instead spoke about the mission of the facility and the dedication of the employees.

"We started the facility because we thought that the community would benefit greatly from having an outpatient imaging center where people who get sick or have a medical problem that needs imaging could be taken care of quickly in gentle, professional surroundings," he said.

With easy parking and an earth-toned lobby with a quietly bubbling aquarium, the outpatient clinic was designed as an alternative to the bustle of the hospital, where those seeking an MRI or CT scan competed for attention with trauma cases from the emergency room or the seriously ill from the intensive care unit.

BMC opposed the outpatient center even before it was announced. In December 2001, the hospital's ownership successfully lobbied Pittsfield's representatives in the Legislature for a special law that made it almost impossible for any business other than a hospital to operate an MRI in Berkshire County.

Eight months later, the 11 doctors of Berkshire Radiological Associates announced plans for a new, $4.5 million clinic on North Street. The hospital said the new office would siphon patients from its own imaging center, which remains one of the most profitable aspects of its business and underwrites money-losing — but essential — functions like 24-hour emergency care.

Over the next several months, the hospital demoted one of the doctors from his position as chairman of BMC's radiology department and finally replaced the firm with physicians lured from Michigan.

By the time the outpatient clinic opened in May 2003, only three doctors remained — Masters, Robert B. Geehr and Jerome M. Auerbach.

Unable to open an MRI at first, the radiologists offered CT scans, mammography, X-ray, ultra-sound and a range of other services. They estimated they would see 15,000 patients a year.

But there were early signs of trouble. Health New England, the county's second-largest health insurer, refused to cover most services at the outpatient clinic and eventually pulled out of contract talks with the radiologists. Health New England is run by Baystate Medical Center,which has a close relationship with BMC.

Berkshire Medical Center, meanwhile, was doing more and more imaging business. According to its numbers, the hospital saw 151,000 radiology patients in 2004; 164,000 in 2005; and 177,000 in 2006.

The doctors eventually found a way around the MRI law by installing a
state-of-the-art, open-style MRI in a strip mall just over the border in New Lebanon, N.Y. By that time, BMC had upgraded its own facilities and had brought in a second MRI to meet patient demand.

It appears the doctors were never able to get the kind of business they needed to support their multimillion dollar overhead. Masters said the three physicians will continue to practice at St. Peter's Hospital in Albany, N.Y., and will still run the MRI in New Lebanon.

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Clinic through the years

City

Saturday, August 18, 2007

December 2001 — Berkshire Medical Center urges Pittsfield's representatives in the Legislature to pass a law to essentially ban any business other than a hospital from operating an MRI machine in Berkshire County. The law passes without notice.

July 1, 2002 — Berkshire Radiological Associates, the city's only group of radiologists, announces plans for a $4.5 million outpatient imaging center on North Street. The plan is immediately opposed by BMC.

July 26, 2002 — As the relationship between the doctors and hospital continues to deteriorate, BMC demotes Dr. Robert Geehr from his position as chairman of the hospital's radiology department.

Nov. 1, 2002 — Berkshire Radiological writes to the attorney general, alleging monopolistic practices by BMC.

Nov. 4, 2002 — BMC announces that it is hiring four radiologists from Michigan to take over its radiology department, pushing Berkshire Radiological Associates out.

Nov. 14, 2002 — Berkshire Radiological buys 610 North St. for $535,000.

May 25, 2003 — Berkshire Radiological opens the North Street clinic.

June, 2003 — BMC opens a new women's imaging center designed to make visits easier and more comfortable.

June, 2004 — Berkshire Radiological opens an MRI center in New Lebanon, N.Y., minutes from downtown Pittsfield.

October, 2004 — Health New England says it will no longer allow its 15,000 Berkshire County clients to use Berkshire Radiological's facilities. The two sides had been in negotiations for 18 months.

August, 2007 — Berkshire Radiological Associates agrees to sell its facility to BMC.

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NOTE: THIS IS EVIDENCE OF NUCIFORO'S VOTE FOR GIVING HIMSELF A PAY RAISE DURING A 3-YEAR PERIOD OF STATE BUDGET CUTS!

On page B4 in the SUNDAY REPUBLICAN (May 18, 2003), there is a vote that state Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. and all but 9 of his colleagues took that upset me terribly.

The roll call is titled: LEADERSHIP JOBS.

It reads: Senate 29-9, gave near final approval to a House-approved bill allowing the House & Senate, through their operating rules, to UNILATERALLY set the bonus pay, above the $53, 381 base salary, of their committee chairs and other majority and minority members in leadership positions. Under current law, any bonus pay proposal must be filed as a bill and then go through the regular legislative process and be sent to the governor who can sign or veto it. (A "Yea" vote is for the bill allowing the Legislature to unilaterally set bonus pay. A "Nay" vote is against the bill).

Voting yes: Sens. Brewer, Melconian, NUCIFORO and Rosenberg. Voting no: Sens. Knapik and Lees.

Please note: The May 08, 2003 edition of THE PITTSFIELD GAZETTE, page 21, bottom left to center of page, which is titled, "BEACON HILL ROLL CALL," also records state Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo II's vote on "Leadership Jobs and Salaries (H3743)."

-Jonathan Melle

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My stand against State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.’s inhumane stand against the All Felon DNA Database…

Three years ago on June 27, 2000, Molly Bish, then 16, was reported missing from her lifeguard post in Warren. She was recently positively identified as a murder victim. Unfortunately, her murderer was not found. John and Magdalen Bish, Molly Bish's parents, showed true courage when they went to the Statehouse this month to lobby for a bill to require DNA samples from all felons so that the Commonwealth would have the capacity to apprehend such violent criminals. All but three state Senators listened to the Bish family's case for a DNA database. The three state Senators who opposed the DNA database are state Senators Robert Creedon Jr., D-Brockton, Cynthia Creem, D-Newton, and Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., D-Pittsfield.

I oppose state Senator Nuciforo's cold and pitiless position against a[n all Felon] DNA database. Senator Nuciforo argued that the [all Felon] DNA database would violate the civil liberties of nonviolent criminals. However, Senator Nuciforo supported omitting the following felonies, including, but not limited to, drugging with the intent to rape, assault and battery on a child with bodily injury, and all drug and gun felonies.

This is the delegate that Berkshire County has sent to Beacon Hill since the 1996 election. A politician so removed from everyday life that he would classify child abuse and other felonies as "nonviolent" crimes under the false pretenses of protecting the civil liberties of "nonviolent" felons. It is time that we organize and oppose legislators like Senator Nuciforo so that we can protect our youth in Molly Bish's name.

Note: This bill was signed into law last year by Gov. Romney and only opposed by Nuciforo in the final state Senate vote.

-Jonathan A. Melle

Note: Originally sent in late-June, 2003.

~The author is a fomer-Lifelong resident of Berkshire County, MA. AND, Nuciforo tried to have the author arrested by the Pittsfield Police Department in the Spring of 1998. Nuciforo falsely told the Pittsfield Police Department that I was threatening him. Nuciforo violated my civil liberties! There is more about this corrupt leader's actions against me in another blog heading within this blog web site.~

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June 10, 2005

Re: “Biosafety lab opponents call for more regulations” (The Boston Globe, 6/10/05): Should not State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., D—Pittsfield, be more concerned with the myriad of issues facing his Berkshire District instead of the affairs and goings-on in the city of Boston? Are there not already enough Boston politicians to handle their own city issues? It is bad enough that he violates both the letter and spirit of the law by serving as a private corporate banking and insurance lawyer for Berman & Dowell in Boston, but now Nuciforo is also speaking out against a bill for the state to regulate a proposed Biosafety Level-4 laboratory proposed by Boston University.

Of course, as noted in the news article, Nuciforo is always on the side of the big corporate interests: “…opponents included Representative Patrick Natale, Democrat of Woburn, and Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., Democrat of Pittsfield, as well as a leading business executive. … Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Paul Guzzi said the bill would thwart the BU lab, which is expected to create more than 600 jobs. `This goes in just the wrong direction to support the growth of the life-sciences cluster here within Greater Boston,’ he said.”

How come Berkshire County elects Boston politicians such as Nuciforo to serve her interests? Shouldn’t Western Massachusetts have people who have families, careers, homes and personal lives in the region representing them on Beacon Hill? PLEASE vote out Nuciforo!

Sincerely,

Jonathan Melle

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The Boston Globe
Biosafety lab opponents call for more regulations
By Janette Neuwahl, Globe Correspondent | June 10, 2005

Boston politicians and residents, some wearing surgical masks that said ''This won't save us!" spoke out against a proposed biosafety lab yesterday as lawmakers weighed a plan to regulate labs that study infectious diseases throughout Massachusetts.

A crowd packed a public hearing held to discuss a bill submitted by Representative Gloria L. Fox, Democrat of Boston, that would give the state's Office of Environmental Affairs a greater say in locating biosafety labs. The bill also calls for the Department of Public Health to monitor the labs, including a Biosafety Level-4 laboratory proposed by Boston University.

''We regulate and we inspect beauty parlors, restaurants, nail salons, and just about everything else is regulated and inspected, but not so with Level 3's and 2's and now this Level 4 that is being planned. Nothing is regulated. There is a guideline process, but it isn't mandatory," said Fox. ''This [bill] lifts the veil of secrecy enough to let the public know what they are sitting next to in their homes and communities."

The lab, which would be built on Albany Street adjacent to the South End, has received the blessing of an array of local, state, and federal agencies. Final approval must come from the National Institutes of Health and involves a review of the project's potential environmental impact. NIH has issued a draft report concluding that the lab will pose no substantive environmental risks.

Yesterday, city councilors Maura Hennigan, Chuck Turner, and Charles Yancey testified in support of the bill while opponents included Representative Patrick Natale, Democrat of Woburn, and Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., Democrat of Pittsfield, as well as a leading business executive.

Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Paul Guzzi said the bill would thwart the BU lab, which is expected to create more than 600 jobs. ''This goes in just the wrong direction to support the growth of the life-sciences cluster here within Greater Boston," he said.

Yet, Peter Shorett, director of programs at the Council for Responsible Genetics in Cambridge, warned about the consequences of not regulating the labs. He said he has tracked laboratory mishaps in China, Russia, and Maryland.

A panel of BU staff members said federal standards provide plenty of protections for the public. ''There are existing laws, regulations, and guidelines that make this legislation redundant," said Mark Klempner, associate provost for research at BU Medical Center.

Neighborhood opponents weren't satisfied. ''Despite the best safeguards in the world, accidents are happening and people are fallible," said Aileen Montour of Roslindale. With this lab, she said, ''what we are doing is setting ourselves up as a target."

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8/4/06

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

I must register my DISSENT against Massachusetts Senate President Bob Travaglini's praise for the corrupt, special interest and abusive State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.! The news article below points out that Nuciforo is exiting the Massachusetts Senate after 10 years of public service.

The following is a synopsis of the truth about Nuciforo's real public record:

1 - Nuciforo tried to JAIL me in the Spring of 1998 for speaking out against the state government's proposal to abolish Berkshire County Government. After Nuciforo threatened me two times the previous year, he made false reports to the Pittsfield Police Department that I was threatening him. Nuciforo's real goal was to have me put in Berkshire Sheriff Carmen Massimiano's Jail where I would have been tortured and abused by Sheriff Massimiano's jailer staff. Moreover, during the same time period, Nuciforo launched a Kafkaesque "Ethics" hearing against my dad for speaking out on the state's proposed abolition and takeover of Berkshire County Government. Nuciforo's real goal was to have my dad fired from his Courthouse job and forcing him to resign his elected post as a Berkshire County Commissioner.

2 - Speaking of Conflicts of Interests and "Ethics" hearings, Nuciforo received very large amounts of campaign contributions from the Boston area financial institutions in order to block "Auto Insurance Reform." Moreover, as Chair of the Massachusetts Senate Financial Services Committee, Nuciforo also served as a private Attorney for a Boston Law Firm named "Berman & Dowell" as a Corporate Lawyer for the Boston Area big banks and insurance companies. Ergo, while Nuciforo was setting public policies for Boston's big financials, he was doing their private bidding by way of the "Berman & Dowell" law firm, which he never disclosed on his Ethics forms under the pains and penalties of perjury, fines and jail.

3 - Nuciforo created a monopoly for Berkshire Health Systems by excluding others in the Berkshires from having access to life-saving medical equipment by a secret midnight rider in the FY2002 "Thanksgiving Budget" in the Fall of 2001. There was no debates, deliberations or hearings on the matter. Without doctors having access to this life-saving medical equipment, Nuciforo placed at risk the medical needs of countless number of local medical patients throughout Berkshire County!

4 - During three straight years of state budget cuts to cities and towns, Nuciforo voted himself and his legislative cronies 3 straight pay raises!

5- In this year's Registrar of Deeds race, there were initially two WOMEN running for the democratically elected office. Nuciforo strong-armed both WOMEN candidates out of the race to be the sole annointed politician to take this office. Talk about slighting diversity and democracy at the same time!

6- In the final vote, Nuciforo was the only State Senator to oppose the state's all felon DNA Database to catch violent criminals. Amazingly and bizarrely enough, he did so in the name of "civil liberties." This was the same Nuciforo that tried to Jail me and fire my dad from his job in Spring of 1998 for exercising our Constitutionally protected right to exercise our Civil Liberties! By opposing the all felon DNA database, Nuciforo was opposing including the following felonies to the list: Drugging with the Intent to Rape, Assault and Battery on a Child to cause bodily injury, all gun felonies, and all drug felonies!

7- Nuciforo and the state Legislature have illegally used the State Constitution to silence the rights of the people to decide the complex issues of marriage in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. By a vote of 4-3, the Supreme Judicial Court took judicial activism to a whole new level by saying the state constitution allows same sex couples to marry. Since then the people have been silenced on the matter due to the Legislature's illegal use of the State Constitution! Nuciforo does not believe in letting the people be heard on Constitutional matters.

8- Speaking of letting the People be heard, in the Fall of 1998, 2-out-of-3 voters in Nuciforo's Berkshire Legislative District endorsed Clean Elections. Nuciforo overruled the will of the people he supposedly represents by strongly opposing campaign finance reform. Moreover, Nuciforo for years has received a great majority portion of his campaign donation from well outside of his Berkshire Legislative District!

9- Nuciforo and his legislative cronies have cut state funding to local governments to the bone, bankrupted the City of Springfield by these cuts, and attacked any inefficiencies in local governments with loud outcry's! YET, Nuciforo and his fellow Boston Pols have completely ignored the "Big Dig"! Boston's Big Dig is the most expensive, wasteful and life-threatening public works project in the history of the great United States of America. While Nuciforo has supported drastic cuts to cities and town, pay raises for himself, and corrupt campaign contributions from Boston area big banks and insurance companies, he has done ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to reform the "Big Dig."

10- Nuciforo's real purpose in public office was to serve the powerful Boston Pols, wealth financial institutions in and around Boston, and the Pittsfield Political Machine. Nuciforo voted Berkshire County Sheriff a substantial pay raise because Carmen Massimiano runs the incestuous Pittsfield Political Machine! For doing Nuciforo's dirty work for nearly a decade, Nuciforo voted Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. a $21,710 pay raise thereby taking the corrupt Sheriff's pay to $123,209 a year. While Nuciforo voted his cronie a 21 percent pay raise, he has done little to serve the people he supposedly represents for nearly a decade.

The list goes on and on against Nuciforo's corruption, conflicts of interest, and abuses of power! I hope I have provided you all with a truthful synopsis of Nuciforo's poor and deficient public record as one of Berkshire County's WORST politicians ever!

Sincerely & In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

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Sen. Nuciforo exits after his final vote

By Erik Arvidson, Eagle Boston Bureau

The Berkshire Eagle

Thursday, August 03, 2006

BOSTON — His Senate term doesn't end until next January, but state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. may have taken his final roll-call vote when the Senate enacted a bill allowing a land conveyance in Winthrop at close to midnight Monday.

The 42-year-old Pittsfield Democrat, who is ending a 10-year legislative career to run for the office of Central Berkshire Register of Deeds, is one of two leaving the Senate — the other being Senate Minority Leader Brian P. Lees, R-East Longmeadow.

On Monday, the Legislature recessed from meeting in formal sessions until next January, and most lawmakers will spend little time at the Statehouse as many run for re-election.

Nuciforo didn't make a lengthy farewell speech, which he said he's saving for a Senate session in November after the election, but told his Senate colleagues it had been a "tremendous pleasure" serving with them.

Senate President Robert E. Travaglini, D-East Boston, said that Lees and Nuciforo "represent all that's good about the institution."

It's possible that the Senate could meet again in an rare formal session between now and the end of the year. Gov. Mitt Romney said Tuesday that it was likely he'd have to call the House and Senate back in for a formal session to approve a capital facilities bond bill that was not enacted and which was to pay for public works projects and information technology improvements in state government. House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi rejected that request yesterday.

Also, state lawmakers are scheduled to meet in a Constitutional Convention Nov. 9 to consider, among many proposals, one which would define marriage as solely for heterosexual couples. However, even some proponents acknowledge that a meeting may never be called.

Nuciforo, who served as Senate chairman of the Financial Services Committee, was pleased that he helped stop a proposed bill to scrap the state's current system in which the commissioner of insurance sets auto insurance rates.

"In my judgment, that bill would have enriched huge national insurance companies at the expense of the consumer. I was happy to see it didn't pass," Nuciforo said.

Nuciforo said he wanted to see the bill focus on fighting fraud, reducing bodily injury claims and fairly distribute losses between insurers, but he and other legislators weren't able to come to a consensus.

Still, Nuciforo said the 2005-06 legislative session saw "substantial victories for the city of Pittsfield and Berkshire County," including state funds for a downtown Pittsfield cinema center and money for streetscape improvements, along with support for local cultural venues.

"I think we as the Berkshire delegation really raised the profile of the cultural community here in Berkshire County," Nuciforo said.

Like many of his colleagues, Nuciforo was disappointed that a bill increasing funding for public higher education by $400 million over the next seven years was not enacted.

Erik Arvidson can be reached at earvidson@lowellsun.com.

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"My personal reasons for speaking out against the intimidating, corrupt and poor leadership of state Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr."

My open letter was written on June 25, 2004

I agree with you, Gordon, about specific persons in relations to PeacePlans. I leave it to you to forward any messages about Nuciforo, such as this one, to the PeacePlans message board. In regards to the PeacePlan message board, President Bush is different than Senator Nuciforo because Bush has supported military solutions to areas where there were diplomatic resolutions. No person in power should use the military instead of diplomacy as a solution unless that solution is in self-defense and/or a last resort. Obviously, Iraq was not what it was made out to be by the Bush administration. I am definitely voting for John F. Kerry for President!

As for state Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., I do have a strong dislike for this person. Nuciforo tried to have me arrested in the Spring of 1998 for speaking my views to the public against his (poor) leadership in abolishing Berkshire County government--i.e.-from July 1, 2000 to July 1, 2002, Nuciforo put the former-County government's Pontoosuc Lake in a State Accounting Agency where the body of water was left to neglect for TWO-plus years (see below)! Moreover, Nuciforo neither told me or my family about his false complaints about me to the police. Nuciforo was to have me arrested if I went to his district Senate office in Pittsfield because he deemed me a "threat." I never threatened Nuciforo. He tried to ruin my life by corruptly and secretly working with the police. Fortunately, the police had the integrity to apprise both me and my father, then-Berkshire County Commissioner Bob Melle, about Nuciforo's corrupt and secret plans against me. Nuciforo also put me down at a public meeting in June 1997 when I challenged his record on the issues. Nuciforo told me that he did not like me in front of many public citizens. Nuciforo is a very intimidating top-down public official and he stands against everything that I stand for. I stand for Democracy and the will of the People. I stand for Freedom of Speech and open participation in American government. That is what I do and will always continue to do for as long as I live. Nuciforo will never stop me from speaking my mind and apprising the public of his corrupt public record. Indeed, I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live. And that goes for Peter Larkin, Dan Bosley & "Smitty" Pignatelli, too. I love my country and no one will ever take my citizenship away from me. I am an American citizen! Shaun Kelly never tried to intimidate me from speaking about on government issues, even when I dissented against Shaun Kelly's record, which also has some real good accomplishments and merit. Unlike Nuciforo, Larkin and Bosley, and possibly Pignatelli, Shaun Kelly is a true advocate of the People!

The reason why voters should be concerned about Nuciforo's "extra income" is because he stated to the ethics commission nothing about his affiliation with the "Berman & Dowell" Boston Law Firm as a Corporate Attorney for big banks and insurance companies. Moreover, Nuciforo has not apprised the public about his position as a Corporate Attorney for "Berman & Dowell" in Boston. Instead, Nuciforo has stated that he earned his "extra income" from his Pittsfield Law Practice. Nuciforo is being very misleading in his statement to the ethics commission. I do, indeed, believe Nuciforo committed a willful violation of the law by committing perjury to the state ethics commission.

I do, indeed, believe that Nuciforo is in conflict of interest to be Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and also serving as a private Corporate Attorney for Banks in a private Boston Law Firm which his constituents no nothing about. This could very well be part of the reason why Nuciforo supported repealing the Clean Elections Law.

Has Nuciforo been a good Senator? My answer is a 100% NO! See my further reasons about Nuciforo's poor public record below / at the bottom of this email message.

Who is Dawn Taylor Thompson? I am leaving that part up to the candidate herself. I hope the People listen to Dawn Taylor Thompson and her platform, views and ideas for Berkshire County, Western Mass., and state government. I have spoke to Dawn several times as well as emailed her both my views on public policy and on Nuciforo's poor record as a public servant. Dawn is a Republican. Dawn is also bipartisan and supports universal healthcare, public education and increased state aid to our communities. I will leave you with Dawn's Contact information and I hope you contact her and she contacts you. Please give Dawn Taylor Thompson your due consideration.

Thank you,
Jonathan A. Melle
Democrat
Former resident of Berkshire County
6/25/2004

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9/1/2006

When my dad was the last Chair of the Berkshire County Commission, he and his local government colleagues explained to the local taxpayers that under the state of Massachusetts' plan, all assets and monies would be assumed by the state while all liabilities and debts would be assumed by the Towns. The state government, under the legislation passed by state Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo II and state Representative Dan Bosley in the Summer of 1998, placed everything under the operations of the state government expect for the Berkshire Regional Retirement System. Why did Nuciforo and Bosley exempt this system from state operations? The answer is that these types of institutions have UNFUNDED LIABILITIES! Following form to function, Nuciforo and Bosley have ultimately left the public debts of the Berkshire Regional Retirement System on the Towns or local taxpayers of Berkshire County.

From 1996 through this point in 2006, which is a good decade or 10-years, my dad and his local colleagues spoke out against the state operated "Big Dig." Even 10-years-ago, the state operated "Big Dig" was the most expensive, corrupt, pork barrel, and wasteful public works project in the history of the U.S.A. While Nuciforo and Bosley were quick to point out the weaknesses of local governments, including County Governments, they did not do one goddamned thing in over a decade to reform the "Big Dig"! IN CONCLUSION, Nuciforo and Bosley are HYPOCRITES and IDIOTS for not only screwing the Towns of Berkshire County out of millions of dollars of local assets and public monies, but also they overlooked the real problem(s) in the Massachusetts state government -- most notably, the "Big Dig"!

So why was Berkshire County Government abolished? The answer is two-fold.

First, Middlesex County went bankrupt and the state Legislative leaders did not want to bail them out of their insolvency. Under the almighty Golden Dome, the Legislature found that it would be much more "efficient" to abolish Middlesex County Government and assume its operations under the apparatus of the state government. But, there are 14 Counties throughout Massachusetts, so what about the other 13. Because the Father of the Massachusetts Constitution, John Adams, never mentioned County Governments in this historic document, any law could be passed to change the existing laws pertaining to these regional entities from Colonial Times. So, through Parliamentary procedures, the state Legislature was able to pass a law to abolish entire systems of governments throughout the state. Now, I have to note that I have a problem with the Legislature seeing EFFICIENCY in taking over county governments because (a) the state assumed the assets and public monies while leaving the liabilities and debts to the municipalities, and (b) the state should have been much more concerned with the "Big Dig" and other more important state government operations, policies and programs before focusing on local and county governments.

The second reason why the state government abolished Berkshire County Government and many of the other Massachusetts County Governments was due to a patrician $80 Million Trust Fund deficient former-Governor by the name of William Floyd Weld, who now resides in multiple wealthy estates in the great state of New York. Bill Weld tried to radicalize the Republican Party, but his ambitious plans fell to the very politically different current U.S. President, George Walker Bush, who was then another Trust Fund Governor of the great state of Texas. Bill Weld stood for the economic values of the Republican Party, which are the Corporate Elite's Supply Side theories on redistributing wealth to the fortunate Trust Fund families so that their prosperity will trickle down to the have nots. However, Bill Weld stood for the social values of the Democratic Party. While Bill Weld viewed government as an agent of Corporate Power and Trust Fund Wealth, he espoused that government should take a hands off approach to social issues such as abortion, birth control, and homosexuality. In short, Bill Weld believed in a strong Wall between Church and State where the State protects the individuals rights to choose how to live their lives under their own personal discretion.

So how does this all go back to County Government? The answer is that it was Governor Weld's firm Corporate beliefs that guided him to the state taking over the diminished County Governments. The ultimate big business and big government argument for Corporate or Centralized Government takeovers of small business or local governments is: BUILD the ECONOMY of SCALE, Centralize resources, goods and services, wipe out economic waste or inefficiencies, downsize administrative and other non-essential personnel and associated operational costs, and thus create new efficiencies through the now larger economic scale of business or government. From this argument, GE's Jack Welch produced record earnings while wrecking the economies of old industrial mill cities like Pittsfield or Schenectady, Bank of America is now the largest financial institution in American History, but does not operate in rural areas such as Berkshire County, and our American Government is currently more Centralized in Power and Authority in Washington, D.C. and, to a much lesser extent, state capitals such as Boston than ever before in our the history of our great Nation-State. So Bill Weld used his Corporate prowess to put in to practice an economic theory to assume the operations of Middlesex County Government and then eventually Berkshire County Government -- as if all regions are going to be impacted the same way regardless of their differences.

To Dan Bosley's dismay, I have put a lot of thought in to the Governor and Legislature's abolition and takeover of Berkshire County Government. And to my delight, I say to Dan Bosley and the rest of the aristocracy on Beacon Hill: The state government is deficient in its public policy record, especially with the state operated "Big Dig", which is the most expensive, FATAL, and wasteful public works project in the history of the United States of America!

Lastly, I want the aristocracy under the almighty Golden Dome known as Beacon Hill's State House to know that I, Jonathan A. Melle, am an American Citizen with U.S. Constitutional Rights and Civil Liberties, and I, Jonathan A. Melle, will always speak my good conscience for as long as I, Jonathan A. Melle, shall live. GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

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"Classic Jonathan Melle" - (Only the Title and caption are by Mary E. Carey)
Fellow Pittsfield native Jonathan Melle observes Massachusetts politics from the Live Free or Die state. Reprinting his views here (see below) is not an edorsement.

http://ongeicocaveman.blogspot.com/2007/09/classic-jonathan-melle.html

The following essay, below, is written by me (Jonathan Melle) -

9/10/2007

What do John Olver and Jon Melle have in common?

Dear News Media, Politicians & the People:

The answer to the above question is...ANDREA F. NUCIFORO, Junior, (aka Luciforo)!

To explain, John Olver is the long-standing sitting United States Representative for most of Western Massachusetts. Unlike the incumbent Congressman from Amherst, Massachusetts(John Olver), Nuciforo, of Pittsfield/Boston, is a minion of the "John Forbes Kerry, Martin Meehan, Barney Frank...special interest political machine" ran by the large financial institutions in and around Boston. The Corporate Elite in Boston wants Nuciforo elected to Congress, thereby ousting Olver, so that he will do their bidding on Capitol Hill.

To illustrate, when John Forbes Kerry ran for the presidency several years ago (in 2004), the Corporate Elite in Boston put on a fundraiser for the wealthy candidate in Nantucket (Spring, 2004). The event, which was hosted by John Kerry, was also co-hosted by Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., who wore a matching tuxedo as he stood next to the junior Massachusetts Senator greeting the wealthy corporate executives and lobbyist who raised more campaign money for Kerry than the incumbent Bush was able to raise from his Corporate Elite donors in 2004.

To further illustrate, go to the following web-site:

http://www.bermananddowell.com/jsp2196567.jsp

There you will find that Nuciforo really only serves the Corporate Elite in Boston as a private Corporate Attorney for Boston's big banks and insurance companies.

Furthermore, please review the Boston Globe's 1/16/2007 news article, pasted below, which explains that:
$$$$$$$$$$$$
"Nuciforo , the former Senate chairman of the Financial Services Committee...collected $11,000 in political donations from Commerce executives in [2006],...Nuciforo has focused his private law practice on insurance issues during the time he chaired the committee. He is listed as "of counsel" to Berman & Dowell, a Boston law firm that cites insurance defense as one of its three practice groups. He joined the firm the year he became committee chairman. Nuciforo's practice area is listed "insurance coverage" and "insurance defense , " according to the firm's website. That legal work entails defense work for insurance companies against claimants. ...Nuciforo, who made $72,000 a year as a state senator, listed receiving $15,000 in income from the law firm in 2005, according to his latest financial statements filed with the State Ethics Committee. ...
$$$$$$$$$$$$

In 2008, Nuciforo will be able to run for U.S. Congress against John Olver and keep his "sinecure" in Pittsfield where he makes over $80,000 per year as the Central Berkshire Registrar of Deeds with a term of being up for "election" every 6 years. Nuciforo was "elected" to this "sinecure" in 2006 and he will not be up for "election" again until 2012. That gives Nuciforo the best of all Worlds! On the one hand, Nuciforo will raise more campaign money than John Olver because of his affiliations with the Corporate Elite in Boston, and on the other hand, he will have the security of his "sinecure" in Pittsfield. The only advantage that John Olver has against Nuciforo will be his long-standing incumbency. BUT, John Olver has one more ace up his sleave, although he may not know it, and that will be the assistance of Jonathan Melle (me) in defeating Nuciforo in his run for Congress by exposing the FRAUD Nuciforo really is!

NOW, here is the difficult part. Jonathan Melle (me) comes from a "have-not" background. My parents rely on public pensions for their financial security. Around this time in (the Autumn) 1997, my dad was quoted in The North Adams Transcript as criticizing the commonwealth for not paying the full amount to the Berkshire County Government for the Courthouse rent. By the Spring of 1998, Nuciforo filed a Massachusetts State Ethics Commission report against my Dad to get him fired from his then state job as a probation officer and force his resignation from my dad's elected position as a Berkshire County Commissioner. Please note that during the same time period in the Spring of 1998, Nuciforo set up secretive plans with the Pittsfield Police Department to have me arrested because Nuciforo alleged that I was a threat to him after Nuciforo threatened me twice the year prior. Please note that if Nuciforo got his way, my dad would have lost both of his jobs and his son (me) would have gone to jail. Had Nuciforo gotten my dad is trouble, my dad would not be collecting a state pension today. My family would be very poor instead of middle class.

What is the point? By Cliff Nilan calling my dad, Denis Guyer sending my mom anonymous letters with my emails enclosed, and the like, the point is that if I help John Olver next year win re-election by providing the Congressman with documents of Nuciforo's deficient and corrupt public record, the Pittsfield Political Machine will strike at my family again -- 10 years later. The Pols will try to take away one or both of my parent's public pensions to spite me for my long-term and continued stand against Nuciforo. My parents will blame me instead of the Pols for their plight, and dirty politics will win the day.

Because the absurdly trivial Pittsfield Political Machine has their targets on Congressman John Olver to put Nuciforo in political office, my family will be a casualty of war. I will be made to be the bad guy, and Nuciforo will shine like a statue and smell like a rose.

What John Olver and Jon Melle have in common is Nuciforo's dirty politics. I hope that John Olver realizes what is coming and will protect more than his own interests--i.e., guard at least my parents in their coming times of hardships. I don't care what happens to me in all of this. Bash me around, spit on my face, slander my name all over the place. I will still be there, standing tall, helping my parents and John Olver during their difficult times of need. I have been through Nuciforo's dirty politics ten years ago, and I am ready and willing to face him in Round #2!

In closing and on a human level, my mom is suffering as a cancer survivor. I know that politics is usually banal: Abortion, Healthcare Coverage, Homelessness, etc. BUT, in this case, have a heart for my mother's illness. The odds are against her. She may not survive. Do what you want to me, but please don't harass my mother anymore. If you "Pittsfield Good Old Boys" want to play hardball with me, I will beat you at your pathetic game each and every time around. If you want to play hardball with my mother while she is vulnerable and suffering, then you will meet the strongest of my continual dissents. You don't like me, and I don't like you, and that is the banal reality, but please, please, please have a heart and stop targetting my mother.

I WILL ALWAYS SPEAK MY GOOD CONSCIENCE FOR AS LONG AS I LIVE!

In Dissent,

Jonathan A. Melle

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NEWS ARTICLE:
NOTE: This news article does not have anything to directly do with Luciforo, but rather, it shows the power of the INSURANCE LOBBY in state politics.
Law puts Blue Cross on offensive
Insurer fighting to hang on to union, municipal business
By Jeffrey Krasner, [THE BOSTON] Globe Staff | October 26, 2007

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts' lucrative business of selling health insurance to municipalities and unions is under attack since a law was enacted in June allowing cities and towns to join the health insurance plan for state employees.

At least eight municipal health plans have signed on to the state plan, known as the Group Insurance Commission, or GIC, ahead of a Monday deadline for 2008 enrollment. Blue Cross is fighting back with a publicity offensive that asserts its plans for municipalities can save them as much money as the GIC.

The stakes are high because rising health insurance costs for public employees at the local level are stretching already-tight budgets, and municipal officials are considering all options for controlling spending. The GIC, which covers about 280,000 state employees and dependents, usually keeps its annual premium increases beneath the double-digit range that has been the norm for Massachusetts health insurers over the past seven years.

Saugus town manager Andrew Bisignani said he will begin offering healthcare coverage to employees through the GIC Jan. 1. He expects to save between $1 million and $2.5 million a year, a significant amount for a town with an annual budget of about $68 million.

"It's been horrendous," Bisignani said of rising insurance costs. "Our premiums have been going up 20 to 25 percent a year. We're looking for a way to stabilize the cost, keep the premiums down, and have a more experienced administrator of the health plans."

But John Coughlin, vice president of select markets for Blue Cross Blue Shield - the state's largest health insurer with about 3 million members - said cities and towns should reconsider his company's Municipal Blue plan.

In letters to the editor and op-ed pieces sent to newspapers throughout the state, he urges communities to consider joining together to create larger pools of employees. He also criticizes the quality of the GIC's health plans.

"The benefit plans offered through the GIC are simply not at the same level as those offered today by most municipalities," he wrote.

In an interview, Coughlin said Blue Cross plans are offered in about 90 percent of the state's cities and towns, and that it has about 65 percent of the market in those communities.

He said working with Blue Cross to lower premiums could be an alternative to switching to the GIC for cities and towns, and might help them avoid fractious negotiations with unions that represent town employees.

Before a town can join the GIC, it must secure a 70 percent approval vote from its combined teacher, fire, police, and other unions representing town employees. Such votes - which ask individual unions to give up the ability to negotiate their own health benefits package - can be contentious.

The GIC asks health plans to bid on its business each year. For the past eight years, Blue Cross hasn't participated in the bidding process, said Dolores Mitchell, longtime executive director of the GIC.

"I called them up and asked them to bid," she said. "They really don't say why they don't."

The GIC offers municipalities several options for employee health insurance, including plans from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan.

Blue Cross plans have lower copayments and deductibles, leading to lower out-of-pocket expenses for members.

But the greater use of "cost sharing" methods featured in GIC offerings usually leads to lower premiums than commercial plans like Blue Cross.

The GIC has also been an innovator in controlling healthcare costs.

For instance, it spurred insurance companies to start offering reduced copayments for lower-cost generic drugs.

In addition to Saugus, the towns of Winthrop and Groveland, three school districts, and two other municipal groups have opted for coverage under the GIC since the law allowing such coverage took effect.

The number of groups joining was limited by tight deadlines: extensive paperwork had to be completed by Oct. 1. The deadline was later extended to the end of the month.

"Next spring you'll see a couple dozen cities and towns starting the process," said John Brouder, a partner in Boston Benefit Partners, a consultant to companies and municipalities on healthcare benefits.

"The real interesting thing is to see how many people sign up in October 2008," the deadline for 2009 coverage under the GIC.

Jeffrey Krasner can be reached at krasner@globe.com.

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News Article:
Cut in auto rates to average 7.7%
Drop is smaller than in no-competition system
By Bruce Mohl, (Boston) Globe Staff
November 20, 2007

Massachusetts auto insurance premiums will drop an average of just under 8 percent in the first year of the state's new competitive insurance system, less than what some analysts had forecast would happen if regulators continued to set the rates.

State officials said the rates filed yesterday for policies renewing April 1 would yield a reduction in the statewide average premium of approximately 7.7 percent. Massachusetts regulators under the current system had cut the statewide average premium for 2007 by 11.7 percent, lowering it to $899.

The Division of Insurance will officially release the filings today, but company officials estimated that 70 to 80 percent of the state's drivers will probably see rate reductions, while about 20 to 30 percent will see their rates hold steady or increase by as much as 10 percent.

The state is switching to a competitive auto insurance system after 30 years in a bid to attract big national carriers, expand coverage options, and drive down premiums, which are among the highest in the country.

The state's 19 existing companies introduced many new coverage options yesterday, but no new carriers jumped into the market. Rates also fell, particularly for some drivers, but not as much as some had expected.

On a conference call with reporters yesterday, Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes initially declined to provide the statewide average premium number for next year, saying it was "not a reasonable comparison" under her new regulatory system of managed competition. The number has been used in past years to compare one year's rates to those of previous years.

She later called the Globe back and provided the number, but cautioned that it failed to take into account the many policy enhancements companies are beginning to offer.

"This is the number, but it's not the story," she said.

Burnes estimated that premiums for 46 percent of the cars insured by the state's five biggest carriers, or about 1.2 million vehicles, would drop by 10 percent or more.

Massachusetts currently is the only state in the nation where regulators set all auto insurance rates. The Patrick administration is moving to a system where companies can implement their own rate plans, subject to regulatory approval. Rate increases, at least initially, are capped at 10 percent.

Yesterday's filings were accompanied by a flurry of news releases as companies pointed to steep discounts and policy enhancements they plan to offer drivers they consider the best risks.

Companies introduced discounts for students with good grades, for customers who continue to insure their vehicles with the same firm, or for those who also purchase an insurance policy for a home, a condo, or an apartment.

Companies also introduced policies that wouldn't penalize drivers for a rare accident or that cut in half from six to three years the time an accident would remain on a customer's driving record.

Commerce Insurance of Webster, the state's largest automobile insurer, said it would retain its discounts for members of the American Automobile Association and provide other benefits, including pet-injury coverage.

Many of the company press releases promoted premium reductions of 20 to 35 percent for their best customers, but the definition of a best customer was vague. Hanover Insurance Group of Worcester said about 5 percent of its existing customers would qualify. Officials with Liberty Mutual Group of Boston said they didn't know how many of their customers would qualify.

Arbella Mutual Insurance Co. of Quincy, the state's third-largest automobile insurer, said it broke its customers down into five groups: safest, good, careful, standard, and special. A company spokesman said those defined as the safest drivers would receive an average rate reduction of 19.4 percent next year, while good drivers and careful drivers would receive average reductions of 14.5 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.

The Arbella spokesman said standard and special drivers would receive average rate increases of 4.7 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively.

Companies have until next Tuesday to amend their rate filings, and several said yesterday that they plan to review what their competitors filed and adjust their rates accordingly.

Stephen D'Amato, a consultant to the Center for Insurance Research in Cambridge and a critic of managed competition, said the 7.7 percent reduction in the average premium wasn't impressive. He noted that industry officials had been forecasting an 8.5 percent reduction if the commissioner continued to set rates.

"Clearly, this is not the auspicious start that the Division of Insurance had been telling public officials and consumers to expect," he said. "In addition, based on the proposed rates, there's a real concern that many drivers with clean driving records could actually see rate increases, which we've been told for months would not happen."

An industry executive, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said his firm had forecast a reduction of more than 10 percent in the average statewide premium if the insurance commissioner continued to set rates.

"Companies are happy with this," he said.

But Burnes called projections that rates would drop 10 percent or more if she continued to set rates "sort of an urban myth." She said the new policy enhancements and proposed rate reductions were great news for consumers.

"Nobody was offering any of these benefits under the old system," she said.

James MacPhee, Liberty's general manager, said the new system is far superior to the old system.

"It's speculative to say we would do better under state-set rates,' MacPhee said. "Consumers are going to get big rate decreases and product enhancements they would not have received otherwise."

Changes in managed competition are percolating in the Legislature. The Patrick administration currently prohibits the use of such factors as income, occupation, education, and credit history in setting a driver's premium, but a Senate bill likely to be taken up this week would prohibit many more factors by requiring insurers to consider only driving record, garaging address, type of vehicle, and certain other information.

Bruce Mohl can be reached at mohl@globe.com.

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News Article:
New auto rates itemized
By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Drivers gunning their engines for auto insurance savings might want to shift into park.

The rates proposed by the state's 19 auto insurance companies won't take effect until April — anyone renewing a plan between now and then will do so under the old system — and some drivers could see their premiums increase by up to 10 percent, leading critics of competitive rate setting to say that their fears are coming true.

The average statewide plan will decrease by 7.7 percent, but good drivers could see reductions of as much as 25 or even 35 percent, with some companies offering aggressive discounts to capture the lowest-risk customers. Drivers with bad records, on the other hand, could see premiums rise by up to 9.9 percent.

Massachusetts is allowing auto insurers to set their own rates for the first time since the 1970s, ending years of state-set premiums. Under the rules set by Gov. Deval L. Patrick's administration, there are some restrictions: No driver can see his or her premiums increase by more than 10 percent, and companies are forbidden to use a driver's credit score to assess risk.

State Insurance Commissioner Nonnie Burnes released four sample policies yesterday that showed the maximum possible discount for four customers — a single driver with a good record, a family of three with one speeding ticket and so forth. All could find plans offering double-digit discounts, some as high as 36 percent over their current bills.

Although Burnes pointed to those rates as proof that good drivers from all areas will benefit under competition, the samples she released included only perfect or near-perfect drivers; she did not release samples that showed increasing rates for bad drivers.

The plans showed a broad range of potential prices: The same driver could be offered a 6 percent increase from one company and a 25 percent decrease from another. Burnes said drivers will have to keep their eyes open to make sure they get the best deal.

"It will be worth people's while to look around for the good deals," Burnes said. "They should be motivated and shop around. There are additional provisions that at least some customers might find interesting."

Most insurance experts suggest that consumers wait until the smoke clears and then explore the new marketplace.

"I would advise clients to do nothing because (the new rates) won't start until April 2008, and those polices won't be issued until the middle or end of February," said Edward Burniske of Reynolds, Barnes & Hebb Inc. insurance company in Pittsfield. "Hopefully, your agent will price them out for you, because a lot of the companies are going to give discounts for customers with homeowners' policies or two cars on the same policy."

James T. Harrington, executive director of the Massachusetts Insurance Federation, said that 64 percent of state drivers have good enough records to qualify for cheaper rates. Because 80 percent of all drivers already use insurance brokers, he suggested that they continue to do so, but go to two or three to find the best deals.

But critics of competition renewed their charge yesterday that the state is creating a system of insurance haves and have nots. Companies will cherry-pick the least risky drivers in the safest areas.

Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., former state senator from Pittsfield, was a leading opponent of competitive pricing when he oversaw the insurance industry as chairman of the Legislature's Financial Services Committee. Now the Middle Berkshire register of deeds, he remains a critic of ending state control.

"In effect, what has happened is that a playing field that was entirely level for drivers is less level today," he said, "and it is less favorable for some of the most vulnerable drivers."

Last year, under the state-controlled system, drivers received an 11.7 percent premium reduction, and many industry observers expected rates to decline another 10 percent if the state set prices again this year. Nuciforo said he was not impressed by the 7.7 percent average drop in pricing.

"There will be big savings for a few drivers, pretty good savings for other people that are not unlike what they would have had (if the state set the prices), and there are going to be some pretty dramatic spikes for others," he said.

And it will be harder for drivers to tell what they are buying, he added, as insurers can now introduce new products that may be confusing or simply incomprehensible to the lay person.

And the rates still could change. The companies have a chance to amend their prices next week; although many are expected to either keep their proposals the same or to lower them to compete with other providers, they also could increase them.

Eagle Boston Bureau reporter Hillary Chabot contributed to this story.

At a glance ...

New rates were introduced Monday, as Massachusetts is allowing auto insurers to set their own rates for the first time since the 1970s, ending years of state-set premiums.

The average statewide plan will decrease by 7.7 percent. Good drivers could see reductions of as much as 25 or even 35 percent, but bad drivers could see premiums increase up to 9.9 percent.

Consumers are advised to shop around for the best deal; one company could increase the premium for a driver, while another company could offer a decrease of as much as 25 percent.

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CONSUMER BEAT
Navigating the mass confusion of auto insurance deregulation
By Bruce Mohl, (Boston) Globe Staff
November 25, 2007

We're one week into a new era of auto insurance competition. How's it going so far?

It's a mixed bag. Under rates filed by the insurers last Monday, the average premium would drop 7.7 percent next year. Some industry officials believed the drop would have been bigger if state regulators had continued to set the rates. The move to competition also failed to attract any new insurers to the state. On the plus side, companies are rolling out all sorts of new benefits and discounts they didn't offer before.

Is there any chance the average premium could drop further?

Yes. Insurers have until Tuesday to amend their filings, and several have indicated they plan to lower their rates to remain competitive. The average premium also might start falling next year when drivers start gravitating to lower-priced carriers.

Some companies say they are offering their best customers discounts of more than 35 percent. I'm a good driver. Will I get a 35 percent discount?

Close to 60 percent of the state's drivers have clean driving records, but not all of them will see big discounts. Insurers will offer their best rates to drivers they consider the best risks, which is not necessarily the same as the best drivers. Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes released an analysis last week of how four types of good drivers would fare with the five biggest insurers, and it showed huge savings for the drivers no matter where they live. On closer inspection, however, the analysis wasn't very informative. It showed the discounts drivers would receive only if they qualified for most, if not all, of a company's discounts. But it's unlikely many people would qualify for all of a carrier's discounts. Liberty Mutual Insurance of Boston, which offered steep rate cuts in the commissioner's analysis, said a driver wanting a 35 percent rate cut would have to be someone with a spotless record who has been a customer of Liberty for a long time. They would also have to insure multiple cars and possibly a home with Liberty, have high bodily injury limit coverage, and drive relatively few miles each year.

What kind of rate cuts can I expect?

It depends on a multitude of variables, but the commissioner said 46 percent of the vehicles insured by the state's five biggest carriers would receive a reduction of 10 percent or more. In its initial rate filing, Commerce Insurance of Webster, which currently insures nearly one-third of the state's vehicles, enclosed a chart indicating about half of its customers would receive a discount greater than 10 percent.

What about drivers considered poor risks?

Their rates will go up, but no more than 10 percent under a temporary cap imposed by the commissioner. The impact is greater than 10 percent since rates overall are headed down as the rates of these drivers are headed up. Overall, the premiums on 20 to 30 percent of the state's vehicles, up to 120,000, are expected to go up.

Where are the big national carriers? Why aren't they jumping into the market?

The rules of the road for insurers in Massachusetts are still being worked out, and most big carriers don't want to commit to a market before they know exactly what they're getting into. The current rules in Massachusetts also bar insurers from using a lot of rate-setting tools that are commonplace in other states, such as a driver's credit history, education, occupation, age, and gender. "When you look at markets throughout the US, these are very basic rating factors," said Douglas Nadeau, a spokesman for State Farm Mutual Insurance. "The state is taking steps in the right direction, but there still needs to be some more tools and some more flexibility."

What are some of the new benefits being offered by insurers?

Many companies are offering loyalty discounts and full replacement coverage for new cars that are stolen or totaled. Travelers of Massachusetts is offering a 10 percent discount to hybrid vehicle owners. One attractive benefit is accident forgiveness. Under the existing system, an isolated accident or moving violation can increase a driver's premium for up to six years. Under competition, several carriers plan to offer benefits that waive the premium surcharges or shorten their impact.

What's the best way to shop for auto insurance in a competitive system?

Agents say they will do the work for you, but they typically only represent a handful of companies so they can't give you a complete picture. Once rates are finalized toward the end of the year, websites will probably pop up designed to allow you to shop more easily. The Division of Insurance is also planning to provide some comparative information on its website. Judging from the experience in other states, nothing beats compiling all your auto and driving information and running it by all the major companies. Hold off until early next year when rates are finalized.

My policy renews before April 1. Will I get the 2007 state-set rate for another year or can I take advantage of the competitive market sooner than that?

You're stuck with the 2007 rates for now, but you could cancel your existing policy effective April 1 and sign on with another carrier to take advantage of the competitive rates. State officials say you may even be able to cancel your policy and sign anew with your existing carrier, if they let you do that. Liberty Mutual, for one, is offering customers of other companies a financial incentive to switch. The company will give you a credit on your Liberty premium for a portion of any fee your existing carrier charges you for canceling your policy early.

Bruce Mohl can be reached at mohl@globe.com.

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The Boston Globe - Letters

Use common sense on insurance rates
November 25, 2007

If statistics show that a person with good credit history is a better risk to insure than someone with a bad credit history, why shouldn't the insurance companies be able to use that information to set their rates? After all, insurance is based on risk factors.

Why should a person who lives in the country have to subsidize a person who lives in the city? Don't Boston, Worcester, and Springfield all have public transportation? We don't have that option here in rural areas.

On another note, why should the drivers that actually have insurance subsidize those that drive without it? I think if a person is found driving without insurance, they should be sentenced to a year in jail or community service cleaning up the sides of the roads they illegally drove on.

Also, the minimum amounts people are allowed to carry in this state need to be upgraded to at least $100,000-$300,000 for bodily injury and property damage, not the current $20,000 to $40,000 limits. If you have ever been hit by a person who has the minimum limits and are injured, you are never going to recoup your losses unless, of course, you carry underinsured and uninsured motorists on your policy. This is another area where responsible parties are forced into subsidizing other drivers.

I do not believe there should be subsidies or state control on insurance. Let competition do its job, and responsible people will get the rate breaks they deserve.

Frank Forbes
Douglas

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AG calls for more cuts in car rates
Says insurers' profits would be ruled excessive under old system
By Bruce Mohl, Globe Staff | November 27, 2007

Attorney General Martha Coakley is urging the state's auto insurers to lower their 2008 rates, saying the companies were including more than $200 million in extra profits and payments to agents that would not have been allowed by regulators in previous years.

Coakley said the state's average premium would have fallen 11 percent had the companies not factored in unjustified profit and commissions into initial rate filings they submitted to the state last week. That's nearly the same as the 11.7 percent reduction approved by the state insurance commissioner for this year, which resulted in an average premium of $899.

Based on company rate filings last Monday, Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes said the average premium reduction for 2008 would be 7.7 percent. But the attorney general says the actual number is 6 percent. Coakley said Burnes lumped discounts for members of groups and associations in her calculation, resulting in an apples-to-oranges comparison with the previous year's rates.

Insurers have until noon today to amend their initial filings, which cover policies that must be renewed by April 1. Some companies have already said they plan to cut their rates.

After 30 years under a system where state regulators set all auto insurance rates, the Patrick ad ministration is transitioning to a system in which companies would set their own rates subject to regulatory approval. The administration calls the system "managed competition" and says it will reduce rates for good drivers and usher in policies with increased benefits. Auto insurance rates in Massachusetts are among the highest in the nation.

The attorney general's office by law and regulation represents consumers in the rate-making process. Currently, the attorney general scrutinizes the industry's filing and recommends appropriate rates to the state insurance commissioner. Under managed competition, the attorney general will scrutinize individual company filings and recommend changes to the commissioner.

Coakley was traveling and unavailable for comment yesterday, but her office issued a statement that said she was gathering information as part of her watchdog role as the state moves to managed competition.

"At this stage, it is too early to make a determination about whether managed competition will advantage or disadvantage consumers," Coakley said in her statement.

Kimberly Haberlin, a spokesman for the insurance commissioner, said Burnes "takes her role as a consumer advocate very seriously and will ensure that the division holds insurers to the highest possible standards."

Haberlin said it was premature to get into a debate over the average premium. She said insurers are likely to file lower rates today, lowering the average premium. She also said the average premium may drop further once consumers start shopping around for the best deal on auto insurance next year.

Coakley's comments were in an informational bulletin she sent to automobile insurers on Wednesday. The comments came to light yesterday when the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group and the Center for Insurance Research, two consumer groups opposed to managed competition, sent copies of the bulletin to reporters.

"The bottom line here is that Massachusetts drivers are paying a lot for this new 'managed competition' auto insurance system, which was sold as a way to lower our rates," said Deirdre Cummings, legislative director for MassPIRG.

In her bulletin, Coakley said she was concerned that auto insurers appeared to be guaranteeing themselves greater profits by overstating their cost of capital, a practice not allowed previously. She said she was also concerned that insurers were rolling the cost of contingent commissions, which are essentially profit-sharing arrangements with agents, into their rates.

Coakley said previous insurance commissioners in some rate decisions have barred the profit-sharing arrangements from being incorporated into auto insurance rates because they don't benefit policyholders. She also said the arrangements had the potential "to create troubling conflicts of interest" by encouraging agents to steer policyholders to insurers that offer the agent - not the consumer - the best deal.

Frank Mancini, the president of the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents, said it was an exaggeration to suggest the profit-sharing arrangements would result in conflicts of interest. He said the benefits of the profit-sharing arrangement hinged on customers generating profit for the insurance company by filing fewer claims, which an agent would not know in advance.

Coakley's bulletin also noted that four of the state's largest insurers - Commerce Insurance of Webster, Safety Insurance of Boston, Arbella Mutual Insurance of Quincy, and Travelers of Massachusetts in Worcester - filed average rates that varied by only three-tenths of a percent.

Coakley called the minor variations "a surprising coincidence given the differences in the companies' losses and expenses." She said the companies in their rate filings appeared to be overstating their losses and expenses.

Officials at the companies either declined to comment or could not be reached for comment last night.

Coakley also raised other concerns. Insurers currently are prohibited from using such factors as occupation, education, credit history, and homeownership in setting auto rates, but Coakley said she feared that insurers might be using proxies for those banned factors in their rate filings.

Her bulletin did not get into specifics, but consumer advocates have raised concerns that companies may be violating the prohibition on use of home ownership by offering discounts to customers who also insure a home with them.

Of the 19 companies that filed rates last week, only Liberty Mutual Insurance of Boston and USAA of San Antonio had average reductions greater than 10 percent. USAA serves only military personnel and their families.

Doug Bailey, a spokesman for Arbella, said the company plans to file new rates today that will increase the company's average premium reduction of 6.2 percent. He also said the industry's overall average rate should drop.

"I don't know if it will drop enough to satisfy the attorney general," he said.

Bruce Mohl can be reached at mohl@globe.com.

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State Attorney General Martha Coakley
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News Article:
Auto insurance rates decline further
By Matt Murphy, (Berkshire) Eagle Boston Bureau
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

BOSTON — The state's auto insurers have dug a little deeper — but only a little — to find additional savings for Massachusetts drivers.

In their final proposed auto insurance rates for next year, the state's 19 auto insurance companies amended their rate filings yesterday, but in most cases offered only modest additional decreases.

The average Bay State driver will see a 7.8 percent decrease in their insurance premiums next year, only one-tenth of a percent lower than projected after the first round of filings on Nov. 20.

Last year, auto insurance rates dropped 11.7 percent under the state's regulated system, in which one rate was set for all insurers.

Companies had a week to amend their rates and coverage options proposed last Tuesday in response to their competitors under Massachusetts' new "managed competition" system.

"I think this is another chapter in the story of an improving auto insurance market that's going to really deliver benefits for consumers," Insurance Commissioner Nonnie Burnes said.

Nine of the 19 insurance companies lowered their rates in response to their competitors, while 10, including three of the top four biggest insurers, basically held steady.

Plymouth Rock, the state's seventh-largest auto insurer, amended its rates to reflect a 7.3 percent decrease from 3.8 percent last week in response to competition.

Burnes cautioned against focusing on the size of the average decreases.

She said consumers are the winners in the first test of introducing competition to the market because they now have the ability to shop around for different plans and pricing.

The new rates will take effect April 1. For the first time since a disastrous attempt to introduce competition in the 1970s led to skyrocketing costs for urban drivers, state officials are trying a deregulated auto insurance market.

Burnes said that concern appears to have been alleviated.

"Good drivers, wherever they are, are going to see competitive rates," she said.

The Arbella Insurance Group, the state's third largest insurer, announced that its average rate cut would be about 7.7 percent, 1.5 percent more than it projected last week.

The best drivers — about 8 percent of the 350,000 car owners insured through Arbella — could see up to a 28 percent decrease, according to the company.

Companies cannot raise rates more than 10 percent for the worst drivers with bad records under the new system.

Arbella also announced a new Customer Care Package — free enhanced coverage for services such as towing and rental cars — that exemplifies some of the tactics companies are now using to lure customers.

"This is only the beginning as we make further discounts and enhancements available to our best customers," said John Donohue, chairman and CEO of Arbella.

Many insurers also are offering loyalty discounts of up to 10 percent for customers who stay put, along with additional discounts for multicar families or for students with good grades.

Until now, Massachusetts was the only state that still prevented auto insurance companies from setting their own rates.

Attorney General Martha Coakley has expressed some skepticism of the new rates, arguing that insurance companies filed for higher profits and included commission fees that previously were not allowed.

Coakley, who serves on behalf of consumers, estimates that the rate decrease should be closer to 11 percent if these higher profit margins were excluded.

Burnes said customers will be able to limit profits by taking their business elsewhere. She acknowledged Coakley's concerns and said she intended to speak with the attorney general's office about its concerns.

"We're looking at the filings with great care. We will be further analyzing the rates and scrutinizing them carefully," she said.

The Division of Insurance has 45 days to review the rate filings and make sure they comply with state law. Insurers are barred from using factors such as occupation, education or other social factors when determining rates.

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News Article:
Insurers wait to see new auto rules' effect
Regulatory climate still uncertain, says an industry official
By Bruce Mohl, (Boston) Globe Staff
November 29, 2007

Big national automobile insurers like Geico, Progressive, and State Farm Mutual Insurance appear to be taking a wait-and-see attitude about Massachusetts' move to managed competition.

Company officials say they are following developments in Massachusetts closely, but they aren't ready to jump into the market. A State Farm spokesman said additional changes in the marketplace are needed, while officials at other companies are saying little or nothing about what it would take for them to enter the market.

Peter Robertson, Massachusetts legal counsel for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, which counts many of the national companies as members, said the regulatory climate here is improving but is still uncertain.

"It's much too early," he said. "They're very cautious about entering these types of markets until the dust settles."

National automobile insurers shunned Massachusetts for years because its regulators set all auto insurance rates. But now the Patrick administration is moving to what it calls managed competition, under which insurers set their own rates, subject to regulatory approval. The administration has said that managed competition will lower rates for good drivers, expand policy benefits, and bring new competitors into the market.

So far, only Peerless Insurance, a Keene, N.H., subsidiary of Liberty Mutual Insurance of Boston, has indicated it plans to do business in Massachusetts. Peerless intends to file its own rates, but it would help Liberty, the state's fourth-largest auto insurer, cover a marketing niche, since Peerless sells insurance through agents while Liberty sells policies directly to customers.

Companies that want to do business in Massachusetts could file rates in February for policies renewing in May, or they could file rates later for policies renewing later in the year - assuming they have a license to operate here. But analysts say that many of the national carriers are waiting to see whether Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes approves the rate plans that were filed on Tuesday by companies that already do business in the state.

Burnes has hinted that she will be free-market oriented in her reviews of the rate plans, but Attorney General Martha Coakley, who will represent consumers in the rate proceedings, has suggested that prices aren't dropping enough.

The other big concern about Massachusetts among national auto insurers is that Burnes's regulations prohibit the use of such factors as credit history, education, occupation, and home ownership in setting individual driver premiums. She has said she will review the prohibition on credit history after a year.

Douglas Nadeau, spokesman for State Farm, the largest US auto insurer, said his company is concerned about subsidies in Massachusetts that flow from suburban drivers to urban drivers and prohibitions on the use of such rating factors as credit history, education, occupation, age, and sex.

"Credit is a valid predictive tool," he said, reflecting the thinking of most insurers. "When you look at markets throughout the United States, these are very basic rating factors."

Nadeau said more steps must be taken by Massachusetts regulators. "They've taken the first steps in reforming the auto insurance market in Massachusetts, but there are still a lot of tools and flexibility that are needed to keep the rates of Commonwealth drivers down," he said.

Cristy Cote, a spokeswoman for Progressive, the nation's third-largest insurer, said the company hasn't jumped into the Massachusetts market but that shouldn't be interpreted as a lack of interest. "We continue to be interested," she said.

Officials at Geico, the nation's fourth-largest insurer, didn't return repeated phone calls. Warren Buffett, who runs Geico's corporate parent, Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., told the Globe in August that he wanted the insurance company to operate in Massachusetts. He said Geico would prefer to use socioeconomic factors currently banned here, but the inability to use them wouldn't necessarily prevent the company from coming in.

One top official at an insurer already operating here, who asked not to be identified for competitive reasons, said his company is expecting national insurers to start doing business in Massachusetts late next year. He said he expects the Patrick administration to relax some of the prohibitions on rating factors by then.

Andrew Carpentier, regional marketing vice president and chief operating officer of Encompass Insurance, said his company is bullish on Massachusetts. He said the big national insurers who are not here, including Encompass's corporate parent, Allstate Insurance, are probably following developments here closely. Allstate is the nation's second-largest carrier.

"They want to see what managed competition shakes out to be in the next five to six months," he said.

Bruce Mohl can be reached at mohl@globe.com.

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(A Boston) GLOBE EDITORIAL
So much for insurance savings
December 2, 2007

THE PATRICK administration's "managed competition" plan for the state's auto insurance industry is off to a slow start. It could hardly seem otherwise, when the reduction in the average statewide premium is expected to be less than it would have been under the state's old, much demonized system of "fixed and established" rates.

Drivers who renew their policies beginning in April should receive an average reduction of 7.8 percent, according to the state Division of Insurance. But that reduction would have been about 11 percent under the outgoing system, in which state regulators set auto insurance rates, according to state attorney general Martha Coakley. While companies were touting loyalty discounts and other come-ons, Coakley was delving into recent rate filings under the new system. She found more than $200 million in extra profits and payments to agents that would not have been allowed by regulators in earlier years. Insurance commissioner Nonnie Burnes should examine the filings with an equally sharp eye.

Massachusetts residents paid onerously high auto insurance rates for many years. But recent safety initiatives and successful crackdowns on auto insurance fraud have led to rate reductions of roughly 20 percent over the past three years. That was possible even under a system that flattened rates for young and urban drivers who might otherwise have taken to the road without any insurance at all. It wasn't a perfect system, but it was a fair one. How people drive, not who they are, largely determined the cost of insurance.

That's no longer the case. The new system allows rates linked to non-driving factors; discounts go, for example, to students with good grades and customers who buy lots of insurance for their plentiful assets. Consumer advocates worry with good cause that such factors will be used as proxies for the kind of socioeconomic data, including income and occupation, that Burnes expressly forbids in the process of choosing customers and setting rates. The good driver who anticipates a discount of 25 or 30 percent should be prepared for a big disappointment. In the world of auto insurance, good drivers are not synonymous with good risks. In that same world, young and urban drivers fare especially poorly.

Part of the purpose of managed competition is to entice national insurers, like Geico, into Massachusetts. So far, no new companies have jumped in. But the administration should be careful what it wishes for.

"If you strip away enough consumer protections, you can get any insurer to enter the market," says Stephen D'Amato of the Cambridge-based Center for Insurance Research. "But attracting new insurers is worthwhile only if it produces lower and fairer rates."

Many residents remember lofty promises of lower rates during electricity deregulation. It seems we've been down this road before.

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"Governor Deval Patrick gives generously to 100G gang"
By Howie Carr, The Boston Herald, Sunday, December 9, 2007
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Also at $105,000 is David Simas, who used to be Bristol County’s elected register of deeds in Taunton, which brings us to another interesting contrast. Most of the registers of deeds are now vassals of Secretary of State Bill Galvin. Galvin has 629 employees and only three make more than $100,000. He has at least three registers of deeds who are veteran hack pols, ex-Mayors Dick Howe and Gene Brune ($97,270 a year) and ex-Sen. Andrea Nuciforo ($86,092). That Galvin. What a cheapskate.

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"Insurer defends '08 auto rate plan: Commerce to argue filing fully complies with state guidelines"
By Bruce Mohl, Globe Staff | December 14, 2007

Sounding a combative tone, the state's largest automobile insurer says it intends to vigorously defend its 2008 rate plan at a hearing before state regulators on Jan. 9.

Both the state Division of Insurance and Attorney General Martha Coakley have raised concerns about the rate filing of Commerce Insurance of Webster, but a top official at the firm said yesterday the company believes its filing is in full compliance with the regulations and guidelines issued for managed competition by Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes.

"We are going to stand by our filing and vigorously defend it," said James Ermilio, senior vice president and legal counsel at Commerce, which insures approximately one-third of the state's cars.

While other automobile insurers have indicated they would change their filings in the wake of concerns raised last week by the Division of Insurance, Commerce's pledge to defend its rate plan indicates the transition to managed competition is unlikely to go smoothly.

After 30 years of letting state regulators create one set of auto insurance rates for all the carriers, the Patrick administration this year decided to move to managed competition, in which each company creates its own rates but they must be individually approved by state regulators.

Coakley earlier this week requested hearings before Burnes on the rate filings of Commerce, Premier Insurance of Worcester, and Safety Insurance of Boston, saying they were attempting to overcharge customers by over $100 million. She also said rates would be lower if state regulators continued to set them. Coakley has until next week to decide whether to request additional hearings on other companies' rate filings.

A spokeswoman for the Division of Insurance said the hearing requested by the attorney general on the Commerce rate filing would be held on Jan. 9, with a prehearing to set ground rules scheduled for Wednesday. The spokeswoman, Kimberly Haberlin, said the hearing would focus on whether elements of Commerce's rates were excessive and whether the company was using any discriminatory rating factors. Haberlin said concerns raised by the Division of Insurance about Commerce's filing would be addressed at the same hearing.

Four major concerns have been raised about the Commerce filing. The Division of Insurance last Friday said Commerce, Liberty Mutual Insurance of Boston, Electric Insurance of Beverly, and Arbella Mutual Insurance of Quincy had violated division guidelines by basing discounts on how much bodily injury coverage a customer had purchased. The division also said Commerce had incorrectly incorporated a discount it offers to members of the American Automobile Association into its rates rather than offering it separately as a group discount.

Coakley has raised broader concerns. She accused Commerce, Premier, and Safety of padding their profits and on Wednesday accused Commerce and Liberty of developing their rates in a way that could lead to unexpected higher rates for urban drivers.

Although the rate filings of other companies have been criticized by state regulators, Ermilio said Commerce feels as if it has been singled out. Ermilio said Commerce took a very conservative approach in crafting its rate plan while many of its competitors were far more aggressive in interpreting division guidelines. He said his chief concern was that all companies be treated equally.

He said managed competition so far seemed unlike the systems in place in other states. "We're treading in new waters," he said.

The rate plans filed by companies last month are for policies renewing after April 1. Ermilio said Commerce would like to start sending out policies to agents and customers by mid-February, which means any disputes about rates would have to be settled fairly quickly.

Bruce Mohl can be reached at mohl@globe.com.

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"Coakley working to define AG's role under new insurance system"
By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press
Saturday, December 15, 2007

BOSTON — In the old days, the attorney general played a starring role in the state's annual auto insurance rate-setting ritual.

Attorney General Martha Coakley is finding that under the state's new "managed competition" system, de- fining that role is proving far trickier.

Under the old system, the state's top law enforcement officer typically cast himself — until Coakley it was always a "he" — in the role of defender of all car owners, pushing for deeper cuts or smaller increases than the insurance industry wanted.

It was a politically envious position. The final decision was in the hands of the state's insurance commissioner, but the attorney general could always claim the moral high ground.

Last year, amid a heated contest for the Democratic nomination for governor, Attorney General Thomas Reilly called for an 18.2 percent cut in auto insurance rates — enough to reduce the average driver's policy by about $180 per year.

That was significantly steeper than the 8.3 percent cut recommended by the statistical arm of the state Division of Insurance, or the 3.7 percent cut submitted by the auto insurance industry itself.

All three recommendations were handed off to the insurance commissioner, who made the final call — the cut was 11.7 percent.

But that was then.

When Massachusetts decided to stop being the only state to set a single rate for all insurers, it meant big changes for drivers, insurers and the attorney general.

Under the new system, insurers file individual rates with the insurance commissioner. Those rates become effective unless the commissioner objects.

The attorney general has a more limited role, retaining the right to trigger hearings on individual insurer rate filings when she decides they are needed to protect consumers.

Coakley says she supports the new, more competitive system, but isn't abandoning her job of protecting consumers, in part by issuing a series of public informational "bulletins."

She's released four "bulletins" in the past two months.

In the first, on Nov. 14, Coakley criticized the way the industry calculated suggested advisory rates for companies that insure less than 1 percent of the market. She also proposed rates for drivers unable to obtain insurance in the open market.

In another, she faulted insurers for proposing what she calculated would be a 6 percent statewide average decline in rates, compared with a more generous 7.7 percent cut according to Insurance Commissioner Nonnie Burnes' calculations.

Coakley argued consumers could have expected a bigger reduction had the state used its old rate-setting system, and said the insurers' rate proposal included more than $200 million in extra profits and payments to agents that wouldn't have been allowed under the old method.

Coakley also has ordered three major auto insurers to defend their proposed rates at public hearings. She said the proposals from Commerce Insurance, Premier Insurance and Safety Insurance would collectively overcharge Mass- achusetts drivers by more than $100 million.

Coakley says she's only protecting the interests of consumers, while at the same time guaranteeing the shift over to a competitive system is done fairly.

"While we support the goal of competition in the automobile insurance market, it is the attorney general's responsibility as the ratepayer advocate to ensure that competition is introduced in a way that does not have a negative impact on consumers," Coakley said in her most recently bulletin.

Coakley says the goal isn't to return to the old, one-size-fits-all, system, but to ensure "a transparent process so that consumers can make an informed decision when they purchase insurance."

Burnes has given generally high marks to the state's 19 insurers. Based on filings submitted last month, she has said at least 1.2 million of Massachusetts' 4 million motorists will see a 10 percent cut or more.

"The very good news is that every company filed for an average rate decrease," Burnes said in November. "We are seeing what appears to be very substantial deductions for good drivers."

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"Coakley: 2 more insurers overcharge: Industry group calls attorney general's reports 'baseless'"
By Bruce Mohl, Boston Globe Staff, December 18, 2007

Attorney General Martha Coakley yesterday accused two more of the state's automobile insurers of trying to overcharge their customers, this time by more than $25 million.

Coakley requested hearings before Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes to challenge the 2008 rate filings of Arbella Mutual Insurance Co. of Quincy and Hanover Group of Worcester. She earlier requested hearings on the filings of Commerce Insurance of Webster, Safety Insurance of Boston, and Premier Insurance of Worcester, which she said overcharged customers by a total of more than $100 million. The Jan. 9 Commerce hearing is the only one scheduled so far.

While Coakley insisted she was calling for a hearing only if a company's rate filing was excessive, a group representing many of the state's automobile insurers accused her of being opposed to competition and making "baseless and inflammatory claims" in the bulletins she has released over the last two weeks.

"The AG should stop hiding behind rhetorical bulletins and just say that she doesn't want competition and that she will use all of her resources, especially during the competitive rate hearing process, to prevent it," said James Harrington, executive director of the Massachusetts Insurance Federation, in a statement.

Coakley responded that it's unclear now whether managed competition will result in lower rates for consumers or increased profits for insurers. Either way, she said, it's her job to protect consumers, while the top priority of insurance companies is to make money.

"Don't pretend that you have the consumer's best interest in mind," she said, referring to the insurers.

For the first time in 30 years, the state is moving away from a system where regulators approve one set of auto insurance rates for all the companies and replacing it with a system called "managed competition" where each company sets its own rates subject to regulatory approval.

Coakley represents consumers in this new rate-setting process, and Burnes will serve much like a judge. Burnes's spokeswoman said each rate filing will be subjected to "a rigorous and thorough review process." It is unlikely Burnes will reject Coakley's hearing requests.

Coakley said the filings of Arbella and Hanover were similar to the other three companies in that they inflated expenses and loss projections and padded profits.

John Donohue, the chief executive of Arbella, said he was surprised at Coakley's hearing request since his company is seeking an average rate cut of 7.7 percent, one of the largest in the industry.

"It appears the attorney general has inexplicably singled out companies who filed for the largest rate decreases, an action that appears to be anything but proconsumer," Donohue said.

A Hanover spokesman said he was confident the company's rate filing was a "good and fair one and ultimately will be upheld."

In a separate letter to Burnes, Coakley's top insurance aide, Glenn Kaplan, raised concerns about the way most of the insurers increased their base rates and then offered discounts from the higher base rates. He also said some of the discounts offered by insurers may be proxies for rating factors that Burnes has banned, such as income, homeownership, and age.

"The companies should be required to explain to policyholders the relationship between the base rate increases and the 'discounts,' and to make clear that the 'discounts' reduce artificially inflated rates and may not actually discount rates for many policyholders," Kaplan wrote.

Bruce Mohl can be reached at mohl@globe.com.

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THE BOSTON GLOBE: Op-Ed
MARTHA COAKLEY
A fair lending system
By Martha Coakley, December 18, 2007

THE FORECLOSURE crisis has become serious enough for the White House to announce national relief efforts. This fall, the residential foreclosure rate was double that of the year before. Experts predict higher default rates next year. For years to come, journalists and economists will discuss how so many sophisticated investors as well as well-intentioned home buyers were seduced into investing in home loans destined to fail.

We already have some answers. For more than a year, the attorney general's office has conducted investigations and pursued several lawsuits against mortgage brokers and lenders for illegal lending practices. Based on the evidence, it is clear that at the root of the foreclosure crisis is inappropriate conduct by individuals and companies who operated with little or no effective regulation or oversight.

Most lenders and brokers offer professional services and treat their customers fairly. However, an alarming number of practices and products enabled some brokers and lenders to profit at the expense of their customers and the system. These include:

Exceedingly risky loan products, such as adjustable-rate mortgages where lenders qualified borrowers based only on their ability to pay at the initial "teaser" rate.

Widespread serial refinancing at 100 percent loan-to-value, a lending model that can stay afloat only so long as home prices continue to appreciate dramatically and continuously.

Deceptive conduct by lenders and brokers, who failed to disclose critical terms, including their own compensation and how it was calculated.

Conflicts of interest, such as arrangements where the lender pays the broker a higher fee for placing consumers into higher-priced loans.

Inadequate underwriting, such as use of no-documentation loans.

Sale of loans by the original lender to investors, leaving the lender with little or no incentive to guard against bad loans that will default.

The damage caused by these practices, especially when used simultaneously, is widespread and harmful, not only to the victims who face foreclosure, but to the stability of communities and the economy. Victims suffer damage to their credit, and lose not only their homes, but often their life savings. Foreclosures cause home values in a neighborhood to decline, and cause investors and banks to lose money and homeowners to lose their equity. Abandoned homes attract trash, unauthorized tenants, and crime, and cause a deterioration in the tax base.

This fall, Governor Patrick and the Legislature finalized legislation to require licensing and oversight of mortgage lenders by the Division of Banks, as well as credit counseling, stiffened penalties, and a 90-day right to cure a default for homeowners. At the federal level, Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts has led a bipartisan effort to enact national standards to ensure meaningful underwriting and prohibit broker and lender conflicts of interest.

As part of the solution to serious and widespread violations, our office has also issued new consumer regulations prohibiting unfair and deceptive conduct in mortgage lending. Specifically, the regulations:

Require mortgage lenders and brokers to consider a homebuyer's ability to repay an adjustable-rate loan at the higher adjusted rate.

Prohibit broker conflicts of interest.

Prohibit lenders from price gouging or discriminating against borrowers with similar credit ratings and relevant qualifications.

Restrict loans made without income documentation.

These measures make illegal the abusive, deceptive practices that led many homebuyers to enter loans that were designed to fail. It should not be difficult for an honest broker or lending company to follow these standards and still run a profitable business - after all, most brokers and lenders already do.

In the midst of a crisis, it is especially important that government responses be crafted carefully so that they neither overreact nor cause more harm than good. The new regulations avoid placing an undue burden on brokers, lending companies, and banks.

A home of one's own is a central part of the American dream. It is clear that the secondary market-driven model of lending used in recent years to make this dream a reality was fundamentally flawed and now is broken. A new model of transparent and responsible lending is needed. These regulations should provide a return to fair competition for those community lenders. The laws and regulations adopted in Massachusetts, combined with efforts on the federal level, will help clean up the mortgage lending system and restore that dream for more families.

Martha Coakley is attorney general of Massachusetts.

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"2008 rate filings of 8 insurers approved: Commissioner, AG at loggerheads over industry's projections"
By Bruce Mohl, Globe Staff, December 20, 2007

Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes yesterday approved the 2008 rate filings of eight insurance companies, including one that Attorney General Martha Coakley is challenging because Coakley says it includes millions of dollars in customer overcharges.

Burnes approved the rates of Safety Insurance, Amica Insurance, Quincy Mutual Insurance, OneBeacon Insurance, and four smaller companies, Fireman's Fund, Farm Family, Praetorian, and State Farm Mutual Insurance.

Coakley has challenged the rate filing of Safety, saying the company inflated its expense and loss trends and padded its profits. Coakley has said the filings of Safety, Commerce, and Arbella Mutual Insurance would result in over charges to customers totaling more than $100 million.

Burnes reached the opposite conclusion on Safety. She said its filing didn't contain excessive losses, expenses, or profits. She agreed to hold a hearing on Coakley's challenge to Safety's filing on Jan. 11, but her approval of Safety's rates and her comments at a regulatory hearing yesterday indicate a change is unlikely.

The insurance commissioner and attorney general may be headed for a confrontation.

Coakley, in a series of bulletins to the industry, has suggested that rates would have dropped significantly more in 2008 if regulators had continued to set them, as they have for the past 30 years. She has said many of the company filings don't comply with past decisions of insurance commissioners.

Burnes, who is trying to usher in an auto insurance system in which companies set their own rates subject to her approval, suggested several times yesterday that Coakley's analysis was off base. She referred to Coakley's "so-called bulletins" and suggested many of the attorney general's concerns about what prior commissioners approved were irrelevant to the current proceedings.

"There's one insurance regulator in the Commonwealth, and that's the commissioner of insurance," Burnes said.

Burnes indicated her standard for reviewing filings is much narrower than the attorney general's. She said she hired an actuarial firm to develop an indicated rate for each company based on the firm's projected losses, expenses, and profits. She said the actual rates filed by the eight companies whose rates were approved were all lower than the indicated rates developed by her actuarial firm.

The indicated average rate for Safety, for example, was a 6 percent reduction. The company's rate plan sought a 6.3 percent average reduction. Amica's indicated average rate was a 4.9 percent reduction, but the company filed for a 7.9 percent average reduction.

The tension between the commissioner and the attorney general surfaced during a meeting to discuss legal housekeeping issues prior to a Jan. 9 hearing on the rate filing of Commerce, which insures a third of the vehicles in Massachusetts. Both officials have raised concerns about Commerce's filing.

Commerce yesterday said it shouldn't be required to provide additional documents to Coakley, who is challenging the company's 6 percent average rate reduction. Burnes seemed sympathetic to the request and asked Assistant Attorney General Peter Leight why she shouldn't grant it.

Leight said he wanted to verify the numbers in Commerce's filing. He said the attorney general would subpoena the documents if Burnes denied the request. Burnes didn't make a decision on the document request, giving Commerce and the attorney general until today to submit written arguments.

Commerce's decision to defend its rates could be costly. If it loses and its rate plan is rejected, the company would only be able to offer its 2007 rates starting April 1, said a spokeswoman for the Division of Insurance, which could put it at a competitive disadvantage since every other company is lowering rates below 2007 levels. Commerce in mid-February could file new rates for policies renewing in May, the spokeswoman said.

The insurance commissioner yesterday also scheduled hearings on Coakley's challenges to the rate filings of Premier Insurance (Jan. 14), Hanover Insurance (Jan. 16), and Arbella (Jan. 18).

Bruce Mohl can be reached at mohl@globe.com.

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"State Officials: Salary report likely"
By Hillary Chabot, Eagle Boston Bureau
Wednesday, January 02, 2008

BOSTON — A five-member committee charged with examining the pay scale for Gov. Deval L. Patrick and other elected officials expects to release its report in March.

The panel was appointed by Patrick in October after lawmakers filed a supplemental budget that would have boosted his salary by $7,000. Other constitutional officers received a 4.8 pay increase.

"We want to look at what the competitive landscape is out there and what is appropriate to attract and retain quality people," said panel member Paul Guzzi, president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce.

Patrick also chose Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause, a government watchdog; Stephen Crosby, a University of Massachusetts dean and former secretary of administration and finance; Thomas Kochan, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology School of Management professor; and Nora Costa, a managing director of Salary.com for the panel.

Panel members have met only once since they were appointed Dec. 14.

They notified the press two hours before the meeting.

Guzzi said the board will follow the open-meetings law and notify the public 48 hours before the meetings in the new year. It plans on meeting twice a month until it releases its report.

Members will report not only on Patrick's salary but also on those of Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi.

David Guarino, spokesman for DiMasi, said the speaker is awaiting the report in which Patrick is the only one who did not take the salary increase in the supplemental budget last year.

Attorney General Martha Coakley's salary went from $127,523 to $133,644; the salaries received by the secretary of state, lieutenant governor, auditor and treasurer rose from $124,920 to 130,916.

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"New year on Beacon Hill"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A suggested to-do list for Beacon Hill legislators in 2008.

* Hold hearings on Governor Patrick's casino gambling plan. There is no better way to expose the myths of the gambling panacea than to give it a full airing. To do otherwise only creates sympathy for a plan that won't generate enough revenue to justify its headaches. House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, a casino opponent, should schedule hearings.

* Get state troopers off the construction sites. A state facing the latest in a series of budget crunches can't afford to have highly paid troopers hanging around holes in the ground. As Boston Magazine noted slyly in its year-end issue, the money saved could perhaps be used to address the huge backlog of DNA evidence rotting in state police crime labs.

* Pass Representative Christopher Speranzo's bill requiring gas prices to be listed in whole numbers. Gas prices are shameful enough without the added insult of the nine-tenths of a cent the industry thinks is fooling consumers into believing they are paying less. The fact that industry lobbyists are unhappy with the bill is a good argument for its passage.

* Support the governor's effort to allow communities to generate needed revenue through additional meals and hotel taxes. Not too many years ago, banning smoking from bars and restaurants was supposed to herald Armageddon. It has worked fine, to the state's benefit. The meals tax is another example of an issue whose danger is hugely overrated.

* Pass the governor's bond bill to fund highway and bridge improvement projects throughout the state. Do not, however, approve any new projects that don't have maintenance costs built in. The state is now paying the price for decades of failure to fund repair and maintenance projects.

* Find a compromise on closing corporate tax loopholes. The state can't afford to watch this money slip away every year, and if a modest reduction in the corporate tax rate is required to pass the needed legislation, so be it. It will be worth it in the long run.

* Don't wait until the last minute. A full-time Legislature shouldn't be cramming like a harried high school freshman at the end of each session. Too many bills were left dangling when lawmakers went home for the holidays.

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1/8/2008

"Luciforo", THE DARK PRINCE of Pittsfield, swears in the city's returning "Good Old Boy Network" Mayor! How BANAL! How predictable! How "Pittsfield Politics!"

In Disgust!
Jonathan Alan Melle

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Go to:
www.iberkshires.com/story/25612/Mayor-Details-Plans-for-Success.html
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"Mayor Details Plans for Success"
By Jen Thomas - iBerkshires.com - January 07, 2008

PITTSFIELD - When Mayor James M. Ruberto addressed hundreds of local legislators, community leaders and the incoming city councilors at Monday morning's inaugural ceremony, he sent one clear message - Dare to dream.

"Here we are today - Jan. 7, 2008 - in the dead of winter, with some tough economic times upon us and a lot of uncertainty upon the world," said Ruberto, who is embarking on a third consecutive term as mayor. "Some would say we should lay low until we reach a more secure future. But I say we must continue our commitment to securing our own future."

"Now is not the time to back down. Now is the time to dream big."

After taking the oath of office, administered by Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., Ruberto explained that part of that dream is working to make Pittsfield "the finest small city in the Northeast" and "the envy of the entire region" through a collaborative effort that engages all citizens. Outlining plans that included a new high school, a continued emphasis on the revitalization of the downtown and a commitment to diversity, Ruberto said the path to progress is clear.

"Four years ago, it was more difficult to see our future but now we can see a picture of our community," he said.

Specifically, Ruberto expects to see construction begin on his much-celebrated $12.9 million Beacon Cinema on North Street, more General Electric Economic Development funds funneled to the Berkshire Museum for future renovations and a reshaping of the Park Square area. In his third term, Ruberto wants to see Pittsfield's streets safer and stronger, a goal he wants to achieve by encouraging renters to become homeowners.

"For far too long, we have been far too patient, waiting for various ideas from Boston bureaucrats to improve our neighborhoods," he said. "As we improve our neighborhoods and invest in the city, we will provide housing to those who need it. We will strengthen our safety net of services. We will improve handicapped-accessibility around this city. We must promote health and safety."

The key to success for the city is a strong connection between government and business, said Ruberto, who named attracting new businesses to the area as a priority.

"We have to attract new employers, create new jobs and open up opportunities for our citizens," he said.

Ruberto's biggest undertaking in the new year, though, may be the promise to create a new high school that addresses all the needs of the modern student.

"At the center of our dream for a better Pittsfield, we must have and will have a plan in place for a new state-of-the-art high school. I have seen the talent of our kids and they have inspired me," he said. "This will not be cheap. It will not be easy but some things are just simply necessary."

"This high school will be a monument of Pittsfield's renaissance," he continued.

Ruberto pledged to look confidently ahead, all the while asking for the support of the people to make his dreams a reality.

"Who in God's name is going to do all the work? The answer is all of us. I'm asking every able-bodied person to take and share in this dream and to share in the work to see it through," Ruberto said.

Monday's inaugural ceremony also doubled as an organizational meeting of the City Council and a swearing in of the members-elect of the City Council and the city clerk.

For re-elected Council President Gerald Lee, his fifth term may be the most exciting.

"I'm curious to see what the year holds. I expect people to be talking about the money allocated to the museum and the streetscape project. I'm also interested in the plans for the school. It obviously won't be completed in my time here but it'll be started now," Lee said.

With the first regular meeting of the City Council set for Tuesday night at 7:30, Lee said he's ready to get moving.

"With the first meeting tomorrow, there's not much time to celebrate," he said.

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Mayor James M. Ruberto is sworn in by Register of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo as City Councilors Matthew Kerwood and Michael Ward look on at Monday's inaugural ceremony.
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City Councilors were also sworn in on Monday.
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City Council President Gerald Lee will serve his third term in that position.
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"Coakley hails MySpace agreement"
January 14, 2008 02:47 PM, By Jonathan Saltzman, (Boston) Globe Staff

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley today hailed an agreement between 49 US state attorneys general and the popular social networking site MySpace as a "huge step" toward protecting children who venture onto the Internet.

Under an agreement signed by the attorneys general and the company, MySpace has approved a broad set of guidelines aimed at shielding children from sexual predators who use the site as well as from inappropriate material.

"This is an additional tool to keep kids safe online," she said.

MySpace, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and the most popular social networking site, has pledged to take several steps to ensure children's safety, including allowing parents to send in their children's e-mail addresses so that MySpace can prevent them from creating a profile on the site.

"This agreement also has to include the education of parents and kids about the dangers of social networking sites," Coakley said in a news conference. "We are in a brave new world on this. And we're not going to go backwards."

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Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley
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"'Win-win for MySpace': Attorney General Martha Coakley lauds the social networking site for helping protect kids from predators"
By Hillary Chabot, (Berkshire) Eagle Boston Bureau
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

MySpace has reached a "groundbreaking" agreement with Massachusetts and 48 other states to keep sexual predators and bullies from misusing the site, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced yesterday.

The popular social networking site has agreed to work with attorneys general across the country to create age and identity verification as well as other protections to make the site safer for younger users.

"This is a huge step forward," Coakley said during a press conference this afternoon. "This is a win-win for MySpace: They've acknowledged there are some problems with the site, and their willingness to work with the attorneys general is an indication that child safety comes first."

Coakley said she hopes other social networking sites, such as Facebook, will participate.

The landmark agreement was applauded by victims' advocates, legislators and district attorneys across the state as a necessary step in tackling the foreign world of the Internet.

"We know there are these people just waiting for these kids, and we have to do something about it," said Magi Bish, whose 16-year-old daughter Molly was abducted from a pond where she worked as a lifeguard in Warren in 2000. "I'm ecstatic they're going to take additional steps to protect children."

MySpace agreed to make the default setting private for 16- and 17-year-old users and to allow parents to hand in children's e-mail addresses, preventing anyone from misusing the addresses to set up false profiles. According to the search engine on MySpace last night, there are at least 600 18- to 20-year-olds within five miles of Lowell on MySpace.

The private company, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., also will accept independent monitoring and work toward creating technology to track those who post sexual or violent inappropriate content. Users under 18 also will be blocked from forums such as the romance and relationship medium, Coakley said.

"This is just a start, but it's a good start," Coakley said of the agreement. "We can now work together in a cooperative way as opposed to an adversarial way."

Authorities have been working to make cyberspace, and particularly social networking sites, a safer place for children. A bill is currently before the Legislature which would make it a crime for people over 18 years old to lie about their age for the purpose of engaging in sexual conduct with a child.

"This is an area right now that's an exploding haven for online predators," said Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone. "The social networking world is a largely anonymous and potentially dangerous place for young people to play. It's like an unsupervised playground which is open to predators."

Leone created a Cyber Protection Program last year, a unit of prosecutors and investigators focused on protecting children from predators on the Internet, while Berkshire's District Attorney David F. Capeless created a mentoring program that trains high school students to teach children in kindergarten through second grade about Internet safety.

"Now the tough part comes. This is all good intentions, and the tough part is implementing this so that it works," Capeless said.

Internet technology advances far more quickly than legislation — and sometimes law enforcement — can keep up, Coakley said.

"We are in a brave new world on this, and we need to tackle it together. We are in agreement that this is a good first step," she added.

Parents must continue to monitor their children's Internet use, stressed state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield.

"While this can be a powerful tool for networking, it can also be a dangerous place for kids," he said.

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"Terms of MySpace agreement"
Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Among other measures, MySpace agreed to:

Allow parents to submit children's e-mail addresses to MySpace to prevent anyone from misusing the addresses to set up profiles.

Make the default setting 'private' for 16- and 17-year-old users.

Respond within 72 hours to complaints about inappropriate content.

Devote more staff and resources to classify photographs and discussion groups.

Strengthen software to find underage users.

Create a high school section for users under 18 years old.

— Associated Press

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The Backup Files, January 13, 2008
By Bob Kievra (rkievra@telegram.com), Worcester TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF, Sunday,

Weighing in

State regulators with differing opinions can’t get into the ring and wrestle one another. Instead, they do what comes naturally to most government officials: They conduct hearings. Attorney General Martha Coakley, the daughter of an insurance agent, squared off last week with Insurance Commissioner Nonnie Burnes, a former Superior Court judge. The two sparred over how auto insurance rates are being set in Massachusetts under new rules that enable insurers to name their own prices. Unlike awards shows, which give only passing mention to the bean counters who tally votes, last week’s hearing and those scheduled this week put the spotlight on mathematically gifted actuaries, those number-loving experts who measure everything from snowfall amounts in Sterling to the number of accidents at Kelly Square.

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"Regulators in spat over auto rates: Burnes denies Coakley insurer's documents"
By Jeffrey Krasner, (Boston) Globe Staff, January 9, 2008

In a sharp rebuke to a fellow regulator, Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes yesterday denied Attorney General Martha Coakley's attempt to obtain rate-setting documents from Commerce Insurance of Webster, Massachusetts' largest auto insurer.

The decision means Coakley will not be able to compel Commerce to produce documents that could shed light on how the insurer sets its rates for 2008, the first time in three decades auto insurers have been allowed to set their own rates in the state.

That could limit Coakley's ability to play the role of a consumer advocate as Burnes implements her plan to switch the state's auto insurance market from the former system - in which state regulators set auto insurance rates - to a new system being promoted as managed competition. She has called a series of hearings to discuss rates proposed by five of the state's 19 auto insurance companies. The first one, examining Commerce's rate filing, begins today.

Some consumer advocates said Burnes's decision is a setback for consumers.

"The ruling demonstrates that the insurance commissioner has no interest in allowing the attorney general to represent the public effectively," said Stephen D'Amato, a consultant to the Center for Insurance Research in Cambridge. "For consumers, the likely result will be excessive rates."

The move demonstrates that Burnes wants to swiftly put in place the plan she undertook less than a year ago. It also shows how the former Superior Court judge will use both the letter and the spirit of the law to maintain her grip on the reform process.

Burnes cited numerous technicalities in rejecting Coakley's effort to subpoena documents from Commerce. She wrote that the attorney general did not follow proper procedure when the subpoena was issued, and did not properly deliver it to Commerce. A subpoena must be delivered by someone not involved in the matter, but Burnes said Coakley had one of her investigators deliver it.

Beyond the technicalities, the commissioner also said Coakley had no right to seek information using a subpoena because Burnes had already ruled that the attorney general would not have the right to discovery, a legal term for the ability to investigate records.

"The attorney general is using its subpoena as a discovery tool," she wrote. Burnes also sided with Commerce's lawyer, who called Coakley's efforts "an outrageous abuse of power."

A Commerce vice president did not return calls seeking comment.

Commerce is one of several auto insurance companies that sought to maintain the status quo, in which rates are set by regulators. But Burnes's ruling, which limits the power of the attorney general to get information from insurers, could help the transition to competition.

"Our goal in calling for hearings on Commerce's and other insurers' rate filings was to bring transparency to the rate-setting process under the new managed competition system," Coakley said in a statement. "We are very concerned that our office's inability to acquire appropriate information is likely to render the hearings ineffective and does a disservice to consumers."

A lawyer representing auto insurers who favor the move to competition hailed the action.

"This is the commissioner saying she is setting the ground rules and there isn't going to be a prolonged legal proceeding," said Peter Robertson, an attorney for Fairness for Good Drivers, a coalition of insurers. "We're going to get to the nub of this, which is whether Commerce's rates are too high or not."

Robertson added, "She is a smart judge and she's acting like a judge."

Auto insurers late last year filed their proposed rates for 2008 to the Division of Insurance, and were given a chance to amend their submissions. Commerce sought a rate reduction of 6 percent each time. Coakley contends that the former, highly regulated system would have resulted in a reduction of at least 10 percent. She also said the average rates filed by insurance companies are potentially misleading.

"Within a given insurer's rating plan, some consumers may see significant savings," Coakley's staff wrote in a December bulletin on the transition to managed competition. "Others, however, will not and may face up to 10 percent increases."

In addition to Commerce, companies that have been called to defend their proposed rates are Arbella Mutual Insurance Co., Safety Insurance Co., Premier Insurance Co. of Massachusetts, and Hanover Insurance Group. Those hearings will be held later this month.

Separately, Burnes said she had approved rates filed by four additional auto insurers, bringing the total number of accepted rates to 14. "With each managed competition rate we accept, we take one step closer to bringing better prices and products to all of the good drivers in Massachusetts," said Burnes in a statement. "The rates on file have withstood the division's extensive review process and mark the beginning of a new era of consumer savings and consumer choice in the state's auto insurance market."

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Jeffrey Krasner can be reached at krasner@globe.com.

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Donor: Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., Contribution: Updated Q2/2007 Barack Obama $1,500, 2008., Address: 74 NORTH ST, Pittsfield MA.
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www.fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/neighbors.php?type=name&lname=Nuciforo
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Did you know that $16,626 was donated in this donor's zip code (1201)? Click here to find out how much was given and to who.
$$$$$
http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/neighbors.php?type=loc&addr=&zip=01201&search=Search
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"For Travaglini, it's a picture-perfect return: Former Senate leader commissions portrait"
By Matt Viser, (Boston) Globe Staff, January 19, 2008

Former Senate president Robert E. Travaglini has spent $30,000 from his campaign fund on a most unconventional cause: an oil-on-canvas portrait of himself that will enshrine the East Boston politician alongside other former Senate presidents including Calvin Coolidge, Horace Mann, and William M. Bulger.

In looking to record his image for posterity, Travaglini is taking a path not dictated by tradition. While the State House has a portrait of nearly every governor, save Mitt Romney, and a handful from Colonial days, it has never been understood that Senate presidents offer up paintings of themselves. Some have; most haven't.

Travaglini is the first known to have selected an artist, Thomas Ouellette of Boston, a contemporary realist well known for painting still-life scenes of ordinary objects, such as tableware, kitchen appliances, and light bulbs.

Only 11 out of 93 Senate presidents in Massachusetts history have a portrait hanging among 86 governors at the State House, most of them from the early 1800s, said Susan Greendyke Lachevre, who oversees State House artwork. No House speaker has ever had a painting done, unless he has gone on to higher office.

"I had never really thought about it," said Thomas F. Birmingham, who held the office for seven years before Travaglini and said he may now have to consider having his own portrait done. "I'm sure my mother would love it."

A spokesman for Senate President Therese Murray, who came into office with Travaglini's support and would decide what to do with the portrait, said she has not yet been approached by Travaglini about where to hang the piece. But the spokesman, David Falcone, said they would be happy to find a spot for him in the pastel-colored Senate Reading Room, where most of the other portraits are displayed.

Some current portraits could be shuffled in the process. Bulger, whose portrait was installed a year ago and now sits on a wall by itself, may have to be moved to the left to make room.

Travaglini rose from a group of Senate hopefuls in 2003 to become the first Italian-American to lead the 40-member body. After four years at the helm, the affable politician left last March to start a lobbying firm.

Travaglini did not respond to requests for comment, but his legal adviser and business partner, Thomas R. Kiley, acting as his spokesman, said the portrait was not Travaglini's idea. He said the former Senate president agreed to it at the urging of longtime friends and constituents.

"They are as proud of Bob as people were about General Hooker and Paul Revere and John Hancock," Kiley said. "There is a desire to honor his accomplishments appropriately."

He would reveal few details about the painting, but said: "Bob says it's beautiful. But I look at his face all the time. I don't know how beautiful it can be."

Ouellette had never painted a politician, although he has done other portraits, including a former Olympian, college professor, and nude women. Travaglini is depicted wearing a gray suit and a grin, sitting in a chair inside the Senate president's office.

"Some men like to look macho and stern," Ouellette said. "I've given him a bit of a smile, without it being a toothy smile."

Ouellette, who paints in his Boston studio, said that he was approached by Travaglini about a year ago, several months before he left office, and that the portrait is scheduled to be completed in late March.

James A. Aloisi Jr., one of Travaglini's longtime friends, said he was among those who pushed him to do it.

"It was like pulling teeth," he said. "It's not something he would have thought about. He doesn't have much of an ego, so doing a portrait came from people like myself who care very deeply about his ascension to that office."

The gubernatorial portrait is a longstanding State House tradition that former governors have used to put a final stamp on their legacies. William F. Weld, a hunter, posed at Fresh Pond in Cambridge wearing blue jeans, with an armadillo (a personal mascot) in the background. Michael S. Dukakis, who cultivated an image as a thrifty man-of-the-people, considered using a photograph to save money before setting on a $10,000 oil painting.

Following her 21-months in office, Jane Swift unveiled her $40,000 portrait in 2005, showing her wearing a dark suit and pearls, holding a sheath of Senate bills.

Senate presidents have their photos taken, and they are displayed along the walls inside the wood-paneled office. House speakers do the same thing, although those rooms are generally closed to the public.

"They are recognized and appreciated, but it's not a formal program like the governors," Lachevre said. "It probably started with an old Senate president who gave it as a gift. We acquired some early paintings, and suddenly there was a collection."

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Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.

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"AG looking into $16.4m severance: Blue Cross-Blue Shield payment to ex-CEO seen as extraordinary"
By Jeffrey Krasner, Boston Globe Staff, January 24, 2008

Attorney General Martha Coakley is investigating the $16.4 million payment Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts made to William C. Van Faasen, the insurer's former chairman and chief executive, who retired Jan. 1, according to a Blue Cross-Blue Shield director and others with direct knowledge of the probe.

Coakley is also examining the new management structure at Blue Cross-Blue Shield under which Cleve L. Killingsworth holds the positions of chairman and chief executive.

Van Faasen received $16.4 million in a lump-sum retirement benefit in January 2006 when he stepped down as chief executive. He continued as chairman until his retirement this month. The size of the payment is considered extraordinary by some because as a nonprofit, Blue Cross-Blue Shield is expected to use surpluses to support its healthcare mission.

Commenting on public charities in general, Harry Pierre, a spokesman for the attorney general, said, "A public charity must use all of its funds to advance the charitable purpose for which it was established." Emily J. LaGrassa, director of communications for Coakley, declined to comment on the investigation.

"We intend to fully cooperate with any inquiry," said Gloria Larson, president of Bentley College in Waltham and a Blue Cross-Blue Shield director since 2006. "We're pleased to do it, but we feel this will end in a satisfactory way for both of us."

Separately, Insurance Commissioner Non nie S. Burnes said she is monitoring executive compensation at Blue Cross-Blue Shield, in part because of Van Faasen's payout.

"It's a pretty eye-popping number," said Burnes. She said she would examine Blue Cross-Blue Shield's most recent executive compensation when that information is filed with the insurance division March 1, along with the insurer's 2007 financial information.

"When we look at what they file with us, we'll decide whether there's anything we could, should, or want to do," said Burnes. "I'm keeping an eye on it."

Chris Murphy, a Blue Cross-Blue Shield spokesman, said, "The commissioner of insurance is our primary regulator and if she has any questions, we'd be happy to talk to her."

Van Faasen, 58, joined Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts in 1990 and became chief executive in 1992. He added the role of chairman in 2002. He is widely credited with guiding the insurer through a financial crisis and steering the company to its current position as Massachusetts' dominant healthcare insurer. With more than 3 million members, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts is about twice as big as the second- and third-largest health insurers combined. In 2006 it had annual revenue, mostly from premiums, of more than $2 billion, and generated net income of $157 million.

Blue Cross-Blue Shield has also been an important force for healthcare change in Massachusetts. It donated $50 million to the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, which undertook groundbreaking work in implementing electronic medical records in three towns.

Van Faasen earned nearly $3 million in salary and bonus in 2006, according to a recent filing made with Coakley's office, which oversees the state's charities and nonprofits. That included $500,000 in base pay and $2.46 million in bonus based on results, according to the company's filing.

But it was the $16.4 million that attracted the most attention within Massachusetts' close-knit healthcare industry. The retirement pay was earned throughout Van Faasen's 17-year career at Blue Cross-Blue Shield, the company said. Some of the payout was disclosed in filings with the attorney general's office made in previous years, Murphy said at the time. Other portions were not disclosed, because of arcane disclosure rules and how the retirement payments had vested.

Coakley's investigation of the payout and the insurer's management structure come just as Killingsworth - Van Faasen's hand-picked successor - is moving out of the shadow of his mentor. Some healthcare industry officials said they are troubled that Blue Cross-Blue Shield chose to let one person hold the titles of chief executive and chairman.

"This is a terrible design and it's just a bad idea," said Nancy M. Kane, professor of management at the Harvard School of Public Health. "It makes accountability of the organization to the community, represented by the board, a farce."

Linda Crompton, chief executive of BoardSource, a Washington, D.C., organization that advises nonprofits on corporate governance, said the insurer's structure "raises all kinds of issues about independence."

"Having one person fill both positions is a very poor practice, and it's something we counsel against," said Crompton.

Last month, Blue Cross-Blue Shield named Larson "lead director," in a move intended to counterbalance Killingsworth's power. Larson said she will have authority to call meetings of the independent directors - those who do not work for Blue Cross-Blue Shield - and will review Killingsworth's annual performance evaluation.

"This is a sign of agreement between the board and senior management to encourage the right kind of independence," she said. "It's a balancing act. Cleve Killingsworth wants this kind of independence in his board of directors. At the same time, the more we can share a partnership with senior management, the better off we'll be."

Lucian Bebchuk, director of the Program on Corporate Governance at Harvard Law School, said a lead director can be an effective foil to a powerful chairman and chief executive.

"The labeling of someone as lead director by itself carries no magic," he said. "You need to give this person responsibilities for the title to produce an improvement in governance. They must be able to chair meetings of independent directors and to have some role in setting the agenda for meetings of the full board."

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Jeffrey Krasner can be reached at krasner@globe.com.

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The Boston Globe, Business, Saturday, January 26, 2008, “In Brief” news item by Jeffrey Krasner:

“Commerce, Safety auto insurance rates approved”

[Massachusetts] Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes approved the auto insurance rates from Commerce Insurance Company and Safety Insurance Company. [Massachusetts] Attorney General Martha Coakley had challenged the rates filed by five insurers under the state’s new system of managed competition. [Massachusetts] drivers will begin receiving notices in February for insurance policies that renew in April. Rates are generally expected to decrease, but critics including Coakley say they would have fallen further under the old system in which the state set rates.

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"Health care bucks at work"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Monday, January 28, 2008

We applaud state Attorney General Martha Coakley for looking into the circumstances surrounding the obscene severance package that Blue Cross-Blue Shield gave to its retired former chairman and CEO William J. Van Faasen. At a time when millions of Americans can't afford health insurance or are indebted by it, Blue Cross decided that Mr. Van Faasen deserved a $16.4 million payment when he stepped down two years ago. This would be bad enough if Blue Cross was a private corporation, but it is a nonprofit, and as such is expected to use its surpluses to support its health care programs. "It's pretty eye-popping," Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes told The Boston Globe in what is the understatement of the year so far. How much is too much? Ms. Coakley will try to find out.

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"State says insurers must list executives' pay"
By Jeffrey Krasner, Boston Globe Staff, February 1, 2008

Consumers will soon be able to learn how much their insurance companies are paying top executives.

Nonnie S. Burnes, the state's commissioner of insurance, is now requiring all insurance companies - including those that provide health, property, and auto insurance - to report how much compensation the top 10 executives receive at each insurer. The disclosures must be included in the companies' financial filings for 2007, which are due by March 1.

Burnes said Massachusetts previously had compelled companies to disclose the compensation information, but the requirement was dropped about 10 years ago.

"This is an important piece of information for us and for the public to know," Burnes said. "There is a national debate about executive compensation, and Massachusetts can participate in this discussion if the companies are required to submit this information."

Burnes said consumers might want to consider how much a company's executives earn before choosing an insurer. "In the insurance area, this is a whopping expense that presumably will filter down to the rates," she said.

Public charities and nonprofit companies such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts, the state's largest health insurer, must file statements with the attorney general showing how much their top five executives earn in salary, bonus, and other compensation. Insurance executives said that many other states also require executive pay to be disclosed.

Consumer advocates praised the move by Burnes.

"This is a terrific thing for consumers," said Barbara Anthony, executive director of Health Law Advocates, a Boston nonprofit that assists consumers in disputes with health insurers. "The more transparency, the better."

Anthony said insurance company directors might "think twice and scrutinize pay packages more carefully" if they know the compensation is going to be publicly disclosed.

Said Deirdre Cummings, legislative director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, "Consumers make better choices when they get access to meaningful information."

It's especially important to disclose executive pay at insurance companies that contract with the state, Cummings said: "Our tax dollars are going to that business, and pay to executives is information that taxpayers should have."

Frank O'Brien, vice president of the Property Casualty Insurers Association, which represents more than 1,000 companies nationwide, said his organization does not object to the requirement.

"Other states require it," O'Brien said. "From the industry's point of view, we've always had to do it and it's no big deal."

Originally, the disclosures were intended to ensure that executive pay didn't compromise the financial health of smaller insurance companies, O'Brien said. Now, he said, officials at some Massachusetts insurance companies might be interested in seeing what their competitors are paying.

Consumers who want to view salary information will have to request companies' annual filings at the Division of Insurance offices in Boston. There are no plans to post the information on the Internet.

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Jeffrey Krasner can be reached at krasner@globe.com.

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"New company files to offer Mass. insurance"
By Matt Murphy, Transcript Statehouse Bureau
Tuesday, February 26, 2008

BOSTON -- Drivers looking for more choices to save on their car insurance got another option Monday when Progressive filed to enter the Massachusetts insurance market.

The nationwide auto insurer filed new rates with the state Division of Insurance looking to become the first new company to enter Massachusetts since the state moved to its new "managed competition" system.

Promising an average reduction for consumers of up to 18 percent on their auto insurance premiums, Progressive would become the 20th company to offer policies in the state.

"We're excited about offering Massachusetts drivers the potential to save money and the opportunity to have an insurance company known for its innovative products and responsive 24/7 claims and customer service," said Cathy Wilton-Bransch, Prog-ressive's Massachusetts product manager.

Progressive, the country's third largest auto insurance group, al-ready offers commercial auto insurance in Massachusetts, but the Bay State is the only state in the country currently where the company does not write private policies.

"There were certain things about the regulatory environment that prevented us from operating in a competitive way," said Cristy Coté, a Progressive spokeswoman for the northeast.

Massachusetts is in the midst of a move to "managed competition," a new system under which the state still maintains the authority to approve rates and rate-setting criteria but does not set premiums across the board.

Progressive hopes to join Peerless Insurance, a division of the Boston-based Liberty Mutual Group, as the second company to jump into the Massachusetts market since the new system was introduced.

Peerless announced into intention in November to start offering policies sometime after May 1, but has yet to file specific rates.

"What this says is that the new system is working," said Insurance Commission Nonnie Burnes, who will now review the filing to make sure it adheres to consumer protection regulations.

Customers looking to sign up with Progressive will be able to do so starting May 1 if the rates are approved. At first, consumers will have to compare rates and get insurance quotes online at the company's Web site, www.progressive.com.

Gradually, Progressive intends to make their products available through independent agents and over the phone, but wanted to make its products available as soon as possible online.

Coté said Progressive will initially offer just private auto insurance policies to be followed with other products for boats, motorcycles and recreational vehicles.

James Harrington, the executive director of the Massachusetts Insurance Federation, said Prog-ressive's announcement "indicates that for the first time in more than three decades a new national auto insurance company wants to come into Massachu-setts market."

"Simply put, this is huge -- a big win for Massachu-setts auto insurance companies," Harrington said.

Statewide, drivers can expect to see an average decrease of 7.8 percent in their auto insurance rates based on filings by the original 19 policy writers.

Those rates reflect a range of discounts that insurers estimate could provide discounts of 25 to 35 percent for the best drivers.

Critics of the new system have said more competition does not necessarily mean better prices for consumers, and have argued that drivers stood to see a greater decrease in rates this year -- more than 11 percent -- if the system was left untouched.

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A Boston GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Auto plan rates a closer look"
March 1, 2008

A SOBERING report this week raises concerns that the Patrick administration's "managed competition" auto insurance plan could turn out to be a junker for perfectly good drivers considered poor risks in the eyes of insurers because they are young, unmarried or renters. The report casts a shadow over Insurance Commissioner Nonnie Burnes's August pledge that she would prohibit insurers from using socioeconomic factors in setting rates and deciding whom to insure.

The report, "How You Drive Takes a Backseat to Who You Are," uses the new rates filed by the five largest insurers in the state to show that a sample 27-year-old driver with a perfect record would still absorb an average 5 percent rate hike under the new insurance regulations. She takes the hit because she is a single woman who rents. The report then profiles the married couple upstairs who would receive a 14 percent decrease in their premium based largely on a multicar discount and the fact that they carry a homeowner's policy with the same insurer. Yet this 57-year-old couple caused four major accidents in the past six years. It's "who you are" not "how you drive" that will determine losers and winners under the new regulations, according to the report, published jointly by MASSPIRG and the nonprofit Center for Insurance Research.

The state Division of Insurance rejects the report. Division spokeswoman Kimberly Haberlin calls it "the same old baseless and misleading arguments" that have echoed since the Romney administration proposed that insurance companies set their own rates. Division officials also contend that the single woman in the sample could do much better by shopping around among the state's 19 auto insurers. As to the careless couple, officials contend they would have landed in a high-risk pool with limited bargaining power.

The two sides in this debate agree on almost nothing. But drivers from lower-income groups need to consider this question: Are discounts simply a sneaky way for insurers to get around the prohibition against using socioeconomic factors, such as marital status, education, homeownership, and race for rate-setting purposes?

It certainly looks that way. Multicar discounts make nice proxies for marital status. Good student discounts can be a convenient stand-in for parental income. Package discounts for auto and homeowner insurance policies leave renters out in the cold.

The old state-regulated system suddenly doesn't look so bad. It flattened premiums for urban and young drivers and still managed to reduce rates an average 21 percent over the last three years.

The Patrick administration is trumpeting the arrival of a major national carrier, Progressive Insurance, to the Massachusetts market. It's a sign supposedly that managed competition has arrived. But it's hardly an achievement if the weight of the new system lands largely on good Massachusetts drivers who can least afford it.

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"The door stays open on political possibilities"
By Russell Contreras, Boston Globe Staff, March 2, 2008

University of Massachusetts at Lowell Chancellor Martin Meehan has been asked the question - "Who are you supporting for president in the Democratic primary?" - so many times he might as well hand out his answer on a cue card.

"You know, I get asked that question quite a lot," the former Massachusetts congressman said with a slight smile during a recent interview in Boston. "And I usually say university officials shouldn't get involved in partisan politics."

In other words: "No comment."

But ask a question about the presidential race to Meehan the political scientist, and you'll get a different response. That's because after 15 years in Congress, the Lowell native says he is ready to share his knowledge about Washington politics with students.

By next year, he said, he expects to be back in the classroom teaching a course on political science. He taught a class as an adjunct professor at UMass-Lowell when he was in Congress.

"I think it's important that I do that," said Meehan, a UMass-Lowell alumnus. "But first, I need to put [an administrative] team together."

The new job - and its multiple duties - means that the political animal within will have to take a backseat, said Meehan. At least for now.

As chancellor, Meehan said, he is more worried about building new residence halls than whether a new campaign finance reform bill is making its way through a congressional subcommittee.

As for the presidential race, he offers that the data from the state primaries and caucuses show that the Democrats are headed for a win this year.

"For example, if you look at Alabama, the Democrats had 100,000 more people participate than the Republicans. That's unprecedented," said Meehan. "It will be a difficult year for a Republican to win."

But who will the Republican nominee, likely Arizona Senator John McCain face? New York Senator Hillary Clinton or Illinois Senator Barack Obama?

"I wouldn't venture to guess," Meehan said, flashing the old political self. "But I think it's going down to the wire."

Scour the blogs around Lowell and you will find that most people don't believe Meehan's political career is over just yet.

Some think he would be the first to throw his hat in if one of the two Massachusetts US Senate seats - occupied by Edward Kennedy and John Kerry - opened up, or, maybe, a Cabinet job is offered.

The prospect of losing Meehan sooner rather than later does not bother UMass President Jack Wilson, who says Meehan will always have people looking for his services.

"Good, qualified people always have other career options," said Wilson. "What's the solution? Hire bad people?"

For his part, Meehan said he is dedicated to fulfilling his three-year contract as chancellor, and is open to staying longer. Still, he's not closing any doors.

"I can't say with absolute certainty what I will be doing in 10 or 15 years," he said.

"Certainly running for office is the furthest thing from my mind right now."

He paused, then added: "But I am 51 years old."
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Russell Contreras can be reached at rcontreras@globe.com.
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"Competitive auto insurance rates set to kick in April 1[, 2008]"
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"Wicked Local" - Pembroke, Massachusetts - with news from the Pembroke Mariner & Reporter and Patriot Ledger
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March 26, 2008

Boston - With just days to go before the state’s new competitive auto insurance system begins, Governor Deval Patrick and Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes met with consumers at South Station today to demonstrate the state’s new sample premium web site and urged them to shop for the best deals under managed competition.

“Starting April 1st, consumers will see how managed competition translates into better rates and better choices for responsible drivers everywhere in Massachusetts,” said Governor Patrick. “Consumers who shop will find that there are enormous opportunities for savings and choice out there. The state has resources and tools available to help consumers navigate the changes so that they can make managed competition work for them.”

With Massachusetts shifting away from an overregulated system of state-set rates, the Division of Insurance unveiled a sample premium Web site (www.Mass.Gov/AutoRates) last month to show consumers the variety of competitive prices and products available in Massachusetts for the first time in 30 years. By answering a few simple questions, consumers can generate a list of sample premiums being offered by each of the state’s 19 insurers. The site instructs consumers to contact an agent or company to obtain an actual rate quote. By clicking on the site’s “find an agent” feature, consumers can easily connect with insurance professionals in their area.

“When consumers use our site, they are struck by the huge variations in prices and discounts being offered by different companies and it really motivates them to get serious about calling their agent and starting to comparison shop,” said Commissioner Burnes. “The savings for good drivers has the potential to be significant so it’s worth it for all consumers to do a little legwork.”

The Division of Insurance estimates that responsible drivers will save at least 10 percent on their 2008 auto insurance premiums.They may see their rates drop even more if they shop around. For more information on the new system and to learn about additional ways to save under managed competition, consumers should visit www.Mass.Gov/DOI.

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Joining the celebration, from left to right: Steve Williams, Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife; Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo; George Wislocki; George L. Darey; Environmental Secretary Ellen Roy Herzfelder; Fish & Game Commissioner David Peters.
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www.bnrc.net/newsletter/200401/images/Darey_dedication.jpg
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"Monitor car rate Web site"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Thursday, April 03, 2008

State Attorney General Martha Coakley is so demeaning of a state Division of Insurance Web site designed to help consumers compare auto insurance prices under the new managed competition system that the executive director of the Massachusetts Insurance Federation haughtily suggests she focus instead on resolving the state's mortgage crisis. Actually, the Web site's accuracy is within her purview, which Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes acknowledged in promising to address the AG's concerns that the site is misleading and contains inaccurate information. The insurance industry is interested first and foremost in increasing profits, not making it easier for consumers to find cheap rates. The Web site, which has attracted more than 600,000 hits in two months, has value has long as the state diligently vets it for accuracy, which Ms. Coakley appears intent on assuring takes place.

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Opinion 1: Patience Needed For Managed Competition
Written by Julie Jepsen
Monday, 14 April 2008
By Richard McGrath
Special to the Worcester Business Journal

In a free-market economy, government agencies don't set prices for products - businesses do.

The Massachusetts auto insurance industry has not operated in a free market for 30 years. Instead, Massachusetts has been the only state in the country where the insurance commissioner sets auto insurance premiums.

While this system was allegedly set up to help consumers, the cost of auto insurance in Massachusetts last year was 27 percent higher than the national average, according to the Boston Globe.

Fortunately, Massachusetts restored competition to the auto insurance industry beginning this month. That's good news for consumers, who should benefit from more choice and lower premiums.

Many insurance carriers have announced benefits such as loyalty discounts, full replacement coverage for new cars that are stolen or totaled, and even a waiver of surcharges for moving violations or accidents.

For the first time in years, consumers will have the freedom to choose the policy that best suits their needs at a competitive rate.

Managing Competition

Nonnie Burnes, commissioner of the state Insurance Department, and Gov. Deval Patrick deserve credit for reintroducing competition to the market, in spite of opposition from many urban legislators and powerful political foes. However, the transition from a government-controlled system to a free-market system will not be painless.

Some are already criticizing the proposed average decrease in premiums of 7.8 percent as being too low. They argue that if the commissioner continued to set rates, the reduction might have been higher. Under the old system, premiums dropped 8.7 percent in 2006 and 1.7 percent in 2005.

Indeed, the commissioner could have dropped rates however low she wanted to. Of course, an excessive drop would result in more carriers abandoning Massachusetts, as they have in past years.

Currently, consumers in other states have an average of more than 100 auto insurance carriers to choose from, while Massachusetts consumers have 19, down from 53 in 1990.

When only a few companies control an industry, they can wield a great deal of power, especially when they sell a product everyone is required by law to buy. Without competition, they could pressure the commissioner to raise rates higher than ever.

Another problem is that not everyone's premiums will decrease. That's because insurers will now use valid underwriting standards, rather than government dictate, to set rates. As a result, high-risk drivers will pay higher premiums.

Commissioner Burnes has attempted to balance the concerns of high-risk drivers with changes dictated by a competitive market. Her "managed competition" system restricts some practices used in other states, which should help prevent massive premium increases. She also imposed a temporary cap that prevents rates for any drivers from increasing by more than 10 percent.

Yet if the government plays too strong a role in setting underwriting standards, it will be no different than having the government set rates.

The need to educate consumers about auto insurance presents another challenge.

Consumers are already being conditioned to think that all they have to do is shop on the Internet for the lowest priced policy. When competition is introduced, consumers will find that not all auto insurance is alike.

Some insurers may cut rates to gain market share, but will the low-cost insurers really provide the same level of protection? Will they pay claims promptly? Even more important, will they get to know consumers so they can match them with policies that best meet their needs?

Consumers who follow the advice of Internet-based insurers to spend a few minutes online and then buy the lowest priced policy will likely find that they get what they pay for. In a free market, consumers will need to spend more time comparing policies, or having their agents compare them.

In spite of these roadblocks, the new system should benefit consumers - as long as the free market is truly allowed to operate freely.

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"Auto insurers rip rules on high-risk drivers: 3-year break for newcomers writing polices called unfair"
By Jeffrey Krasner, (Boston) Globe Staff, April 17, 2008

Many of the state's auto insurers say competition rules that took effect April 1 give an unfair advantage to companies just entering the Massachusetts market.

Under the state's revamped auto insurance system, insurance companies new to Massachusetts do not have to take on its riskiest and least desirable drivers for about three years. That could give them a financial boost compared with insurers already established in Massachusetts, which will automatically be assigned high-risk drivers based on their market share.

"Those that are in the market are seeking equity and fairness and those that are just entering the market are seeking any advantage they can get," said James T. Harrington, executive director of the Massachusetts Insurance Federation, an industry group that supported the new system, called managed competition.

Progressive Corp. of Ohio, the only insurance company that so far has firm plans to enter the Massachusetts auto market, said it supports the rules exempting it from having to insure high-risk drivers.

"The plan as written is fair, equitable, and consistent with plans in other states," said Emily A. Vlasich, corporate counsel for Progressive, in written testimony to the Division of Insurance.

The Patrick administration last year undertook an ambitious overhaul of the Massachusetts auto insurance market, which was the last one in the country where rates were set by regulators. Under the new system, companies set their own rates and have greater flexibility to introduce innovative product features and discounts for different drivers. The overhaul was also intended to address problems with how high-risk drivers were assigned to companies. Some insurers claimed their competitors were able to manipulate the old sys tem to avoid paying their fair share for undesirable drivers, who typically generate more claims, causing losses for insurers.

Since auto policies only started renewing this month, relatively few motorists have signed up for policies under the new rates, which are expected to be lower for most drivers.

At the center of the current dispute are rules enacted this year by Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes that control the so-called residual market for bad drivers, such as those with numerous moving violations. A public comment period on the rules ends tomorrow, and they must eventually be finalized by Burnes. Under the new system, insurance companies will be assigned high-risk drivers randomly, and are expected to cover such drivers commensurate with their share of the market.

But companies just entering Massachusetts will receive an exemption for almost three years.

"This result is patently unfair to existing companies, especially when one considers how quickly a large company with significant resources can gain market share when entering a new state," wrote Paula W. Gold, vice president and chief regulatory counsel for Plymouth Rock Assurance Corp. of Boston, in testimony to the Division of Insurance. "There should be no free ride for any carrier."

John F. Kittel, executive vice president of Arbella Insurance Group, said in written testimony that with the three-year wait in place, "the rest of the market is subsidizing the new entrant."

He said insurers should be able to provide timely market share data to the state, so there's no practical reason why new entrants could not take on their share of undesirable drivers quickly.

Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, which is based in New Jersey and does not sell auto policies in Massachusetts, disagreed. Michael W. O'Malley, senior vice president of state government affairs for the company, wrote in testimony that an insurer needs to be selling for at least a year before accurate market share numbers can be compiled. He said the rules giving new entrants in Massachusetts three years without high-risk driver assignments are similar to the "tried and true" methods used in about 40 other states.

Progressive, which will begin Internet-only sales May 1, acknowledged in its testimony that it is viewed by some as getting a "free ride" under the new system. But the insurer disagreed with the characterization and said it would voluntarily write policies for high-risk drivers, and thereby avoid random assignment of such customers.
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Jeffrey Krasner can be reached at krasner@globe.com.
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(A Boston) Globe Editorial - Short fuse, April 21, 2008

Auto insurance: Unfair advantage

The Patrick administration is putting out the welcome mat for national auto insurers while trampling on loyal Massachusetts firms. Under the state's new auto insurance system, new companies will not have to cover the riskiest drivers for three years. Some competitive model this is turning out to be. Attorney General Martha Coakley, meanwhile, has panned the Division of Insurance website for giving inaccurate rate comparisons. And a recent study by the nonprofit Center for Insurance Research charges that the new system has plenty of loopholes in the prohibition against insurers using a driver's socioeconomic status to set premiums. Auto insurance reform got underway less than a month ago and already the brakes need work.

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Berkshire Brigades: The Countywide Democratic Organization
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To join us, or for more information, call 413-499-3520, or e-mail us at "Victory2008@BerkshireBrigades.org".
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Mark Your Calendars!
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Thursday, May 15th, 2008, Reception for Andrea Nuciforo, Central Berkshire Register of Deeds, Special Guest Lt. Governor Timothy P. Murray, 6 to 8 pm, The Italian-American Club, 203 Newell Street, Pittsfield, suggested donation: $25 - $50 - $100. RSVP to 413-281-3302 or nuciforocommittee@yahoo.com
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Lt. Govenor Tim Murray
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The Worcester Phoenix
May 3 - 10, 2001
Clerical privilege
"There's plenty of support for two bills that would require clergy to report suspected child abuse - and scarcely any public opposition. But no one expects either bill to pass."
BY KRISTEN LOMBARDI

TWO BILLS RECENTLY filed on Beacon Hill would close a loophole in a state law that governs reporting of child abuse. During an emotional hearing April 2, victims of child sexual abuse expressed their ardent support for the bills. Not a single person or group has publicly expressed opposition to either measure. Yet few people believe the bills have any chance of success. "No one on Beacon Hill wants to get into trouble with the Catholic Church. Period," says one veteran legislator, explaining why State House insiders believe the bills will go nowhere.

Both measures - currently before the legislature's Joint Committee on Human Services and Elderly Affairs, which has until June 27 to act on them - would amend a 1973 state law requiring professionals who work with children to report suspected instances of child abuse to the Department of Social Services. The list of such professionals has expanded over the years and currently includes doctors, teachers, psychologists, dentists, bus drivers, and guidance counselors. Both bills would add clergy members - rabbis, ministers, pastors, nuns, and priests - to the roster of those covered by the law.

Both bills are sponsored by Senator James Jajuga. The first, Senate Bill 674, was submitted by Jajuga at the request of Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents 86 alleged sex-abuse victims of former priest John Geoghan (see "Cardinal Law, the Church, and Pedophilia," News and Features, March 23). Garabedian's measure would make any person responsible for "the welfare, guidance, direction, supervision, or education of a child, and any supervisor of [such] a person" a mandated reporter of child abuse - thus obviating the need to add to the list ever again. The second measure, Senate Bill 675, would simply add clergy members to the list. This is the third time Jajuga has filed the bill. (Jajuga's chief of staff, Paul Fahey, notes that Jajuga submitted the Bill 674 "as a courtesy" to Garabedian.)

Almost everyone agrees that if clergy members had a legal obligation to report suspected child abuse, Geoghan, who's been accused of molesting more than 100 children throughout his 31-year career with the Boston archdiocese, would have been stopped much, much earlier than he was. Many of Geoghan's alleged victims claim in court documents that their parents had complained to his superiors about his misconduct as far back as 1973 - the same year Massachusetts enacted the mandatory-reporting law. One mother, formerly of Melrose, says she approached her neighborhood pastor at St. Mary's Parish in 1973 to voice suspicions that Geoghan was molesting her four sons. According to court records, the pastor reassured her that Geoghan would never harm another child. Evidently, however, he did not go to state authorities. Seven years later, after Geoghan was moved to his fourth parish in 18 years, another mother - this time, from Jamaica Plain - made the same complaint to Church officials. But Geoghan continued to have daily contact with children until he retired from active service in 1993.

The proposed legislation wouldn't simply address instances of abuse by members of the clergy, which represent only a fraction of child-abuse incidents. Caren Kaplan of the Washington, DC-based Child Welfare League of America notes that the Massachusetts proposals would also apply when, in the course their everyday relationships with families, clergy members come to suspect abuse. Families often turn to the clergy when seeking advice about domestic trouble, she says. Clergy come into contact with families much the way teachers do - for example, by heading a charitable project. In these circumstances, Kaplan says, "religious leaders are in a unique position to learn of abuse and get help. One of the best ways to [do so] is to report suspected abuse."

Twenty-eight states already have laws on reporting child abuse that apply to clergy members, according to the Child Welfare League. Twenty-five of these laws make exemptions for what Kaplan calls the "clergy-penitent" privilege (Connecticut, Mississippi, and West Virginia don't offer such exemptions). Both of the proposed Massachusetts bills would also exempt clergy members from revealing information deemed "privileged" - that is, information received when they act as spiritual advisers, or, as the Jajuga bill expressly states, "in their professional characters."

That means that a clergy member who hears about possible child abuse while administering the sacramental tenets of a religious faith - such as confession - does not have to contact the DSS. But a clergy member who hears the same information while performing typical pastoral duties does. As Boston University theology professor Carrie Doehring explains, "Privileged communication does not cover every act [of spiritual guidance] by the clergy. It refers to the sacrament of confession only" - a rite recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, and some Lutheran sects.

The bill authored by Garabedian attempts to avoid the constitutional issue of separation of church and state by not specifying the clergy at all. "A law that singles out clergy as mandated reporters is like the state telling the church what to do," he says, and that could be construed as violating the Constitution. Instead, his bill simply makes the blanket statement that anyone responsible for children must report abuse. It then goes on to specify that because "a person is a priest, rabbi, or ordained and licensed minister of any church . . . does not exempt such a person" from the legal requirement.

Given the careful wording of Garabedian's measure, as well as the exemption included in Jajuga's, each bill offers what Kaplan calls "a modest, conservative proposal."

LEGISLATION SIMILAR to Senate Bills 674 and 675 has been filed at the State House during every legislative session since 1988. The measures go to the legislature's Joint Committee on Human Services and Elderly Affairs, where they almost always die. Once, in 1997, the committee ruled favorably on a bill to amend the mandatory-reporting law - only to see it advance to another committee for a second reading, where it languished.

In 1988, Representative Marie Parenti filed the first bill that would have added clergy to the mandated-reporter list. Then the chair of the foster-care committee, Parenti noticed that "we had left out an important category [of professionals] in our law." She saw the measure as an attempt to correct a legal oversight but admits, "I realized we were breaking new ground, and we'd be subject to criticism."

Still, Parenti did not anticipate the extent of the criticism. One State House insider, who helped research the 1988 bill and has tracked its successors, cannot forget the heated, closed-door discussions between legislators, church leaders, and DSS officials as they hashed out concerns. "I remember these exhaustive meetings," the insider says. The controversy centered on the question of clergy-parishioner privilege. People wondered what "privileged communication" meant. Would the term refer only to the sacrament of confession? What if several private conversations took place? At what point would these talks become non-privileged? But these issues were never resolved, the insider explains: "Nothing happened. The meetings ended."

Similar scenarios have played out each time such a bill surfaces. In 1992, Representative Paul Caron filed comparable legislation to pay homage to the memory of 13-year-old Danny Croteau, an alleged victim of clergy abuse who was killed in 1972. After his measure died in the human-services committee, Caron refiled it in 1994. Again, the committee sat on it. Three years later, Senator Mark Montigny sponsored an identical bill that received a favorable report from the committee, only to die in another committee reviewing its legality. The last version, filed by Jajuga in 1997 and 1999, also went nowhere.

Legislators attribute these repeated failures to one thing: church opposition. Montigny believes organized religion has proven itself just as obstructive as any other interest group. "People get antsy when you call the church a 'special interest,' " he adds, "but this is an example of common sense being suppressed by politics." The long-standing objection among clergy, legislators say, comes down to territory. By forcing clergy to go to civil authorities, the state would encroach on the domain of religious institutions, which enjoys constitutional protection. Other laws mandating that clergy report possible child abuse have been challenged on constitutional grounds. To date, however, all of them have been upheld by the state courts. Garabedian, who is researching the question, says: "I don't know of any state in which the law has been overturned because of constitutionality. But I have not exhausted my research yet."

The Reverend Joyce Scherer-Hoock, the associate rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Topsfield, admits she would have a hard time with the proposed legislation because of her role as a counselor. If a congregant confided that her husband might be abusing her daughter, Scherer-Hoock says, "I'd want to nurture the relationship so the woman could act for herself." She might suggest that the woman report the abuse, or offer to escort her to police. But if the woman refused, Scherer-Hoock says, "I could not in good conscience go behind her back and report what she said. That would violate her trust."

Bill supporters, however, point out that a counseling session by a clergy member resembles one by a psychologist, counselor, or therapist - all of whom enjoy confidentiality privileges yet are obligated to contact DSS as soon as they believe a child might be in harm's way. Other professionals - such as doctors and dentists - are also mandated reporters with confidentiality privileges. In all these instances, the mandatory-reporting law supersedes the privilege.

It's difficult to determine the extent to which official religious bodies actually oppose - or support - the proposed changes to the mandatory-reporting law. The Massachusetts Council of Churches, the lobbying arm for various Christian denominations, won't comment on the legislation. Rabbi Michael Meninhoff, the New England president of the Rabbinical Assembly, did not return the Phoenix's repeated phone calls. Rabbi Abraham Halbfinger of the Rabbinical Council of Massachusetts says he hasn't heard of the proposals. Explains Halbfinger, "This would require consideration from our board."

The Catholic Church - despite recent accusations that its officials have failed to report abuse - has also kept silent about its stance so far. Boston archdiocese spokesperson John Walsh declined to answer a list of questions about whether the Church would support the current bills. No one from the Church appeared before the human-services committee April 2 to speak about them. And neither Senator Susan Tucker nor Representative Antonio Cabral, the committee's co-chairs, claims to have received one letter or phone call from the Church in opposition.

"To my knowledge," Tucker adds, "no one has taken a stance opposing this bill."

THE PHOENIX contacted all six senators and 11 representatives who serve on the Joint Committee on Human Services to get a sense of what chance the bills have of passing. Four of those members - Senators Therese Murray and Richard Tisei, and Representatives Anne Paulsen and Bruce Ayers - declined to comment.

Five of their colleagues - Tucker, Cabral, Senator David Magnani, and Representatives Carol Cleven and Geraldine Creedon - have yet to make up their minds about the bills. Some hold their cards close to the vest. Both committee heads, for example, stress that they are weighing the research before making a decision (although Tucker says she supports "some mechanism for reporting child abuse within the clergy"). Others - like Magnani, who has served on the committee since 1993 - worry that such a requirement would prevent families from seeking out the clergy. "Are we making it more difficult for clergy to do their work by mandating this?" he asks. "Would they be more or less effective at helping children?" Though Magnani recognizes that clergy-abuse cases have legitimized the issue, he says he still has "questions" about the constitutional issues. Meanwhile, Cleven and Creedon say they are leaning in favor of the legislation.

If so, Creedon and Cleven would join eight fellow members who say they support the current bills: Senators Andrea Nuciforo and Robert O'Leary, and Representatives Christine Canavan, Shirley Gomes, Patricia Haddad, Kay Khan, Ellen Story, and David Sullivan. Some legislators suggest that their support was sealed the moment they heard the April 2 testimony, during which several victims broke down in tears or erupted in anger. "The testimony shocked me," Sullivan recalls. "I feel we have a responsibility to respond to the concerns expressed at that hearing."

Ultimately, though, most supporters say their position is based in one thing: common sense. The clergy enjoy as much contact with children as any other mandated reporter. Why not add them to the list, especially since the current legislation honors the sanctity of confession? As Nuciforo puts it: "I would put these bills in the category of housekeeping. They clear up a wrinkle in the law."

With more than half the human-services committee inclined in their favor, the bills may make it out of committee for the first time in years. This is the result of two factors, observers say. One, the committee's composition has changed since the last session. Not only are there two new chairs - who schedule bills for consideration - but there are also 10 female committee members. They are part of the women's legislative caucus, which has fought diligently for abuse-prevention initiatives in recent years. have sat on this committee when women weren't a dominant force," says Cleven, a member for seven years. "Our majority could help." Second, and more significantly, politicians outside Beacon Hill are speaking out in favor of the clergy mandate. Three Boston city councilors - Chuck Turner, Mickey Roache, and Brian Honan - have taken an interest by putting forth their own, soon-to-be-voted-on council resolution that would urge passage of the bills.

But that doesn't guarantee success. And many observers are pessimistic. If it turns out that the churches oppose the measures, people would need to unite around these bills - and not just abuse victims. Except for the Boston city councilors, no one has come forward to champion the legislation - no child-welfare advocates, no law-enforcement officials. Compare this with what happened in Maine in 1997, when victims filed a similar bill with that state's legislature. Former Maine attorney general Andrew Ketterer made the measure his pet project after revealing that he'd been abused as a child by a Catholic nun. Recalls Cynthia Yerrick, a former Southbridge resident who now lives in Maine and helped pass its 1997 law, "People in high places were open to the idea that abuse happens within church walls." Yet in Massachusetts, she says, political leaders exhibit "such a blind faith in the Catholic Church."

Even if the proposed bills make it out of the human-services committee, they still must navigate the House and Senate. From human services, the legislation will probably go to a Senate committee that would decide whether to bring it up for debate. It would then move to the House. But some State House insiders remain convinced the matter will never get far while House Speaker Tom Finneran stays at the helm. One observer says Finneran is "too chummy" with Bernard Cardinal Law to support the changes.

Finneran spokesperson, Charles Rasmussen, maintains that the Speaker has never heard of the proposals. "This is a new issue for him," Rasmussen says. "He hasn't formed an opinion."

Meanwhile, nothing new has surfaced to help move these bills along. Given that such measures did not pass at the height of the Geoghan case, Nuciforo says, "I really don't know what it will take."
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Kristen Lombardi can be reached at klombardi@phx.com
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www.worcesterphoenix.com/archive/features/01/05/04/REFORM.html
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"Do the "right" thing?"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Monday, June 02, 2008

Thank goodness that Dawn Taylor-Thompson discovered the scientific-liberal conspiracy before it was too late for her children ("Gore propaganda wrong for schools." letter, May 30). I did not!

I was educated in science and mathematics and had no idea that what I was learning was wrong. I was so naive that I actually brought up my children with liberal ideas. To my horror they all grew up to be adults who are concerned about others and the health of the planet.

If I as a parent had done the "right" thing and shielded them from "wrong" ideas, they could be happy, conservative thinkers with nothing to bother their minds but the threat of a liberal conspiracy.

BRIAN LOBDELL
Williamstown, Massachusetts

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"Gore propaganda wrong for schools"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Friday, May 30, 2008

Scholastic Books is now promoting propaganda. Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," an alleged scientific, factual piece, subtitled "the Crisis of Global Warming," is being marketed on page 3 of my 10-year-old daughter's April 2008 Arrow Book Club school advertisement. It sits beside suitable children's works like "The Giving Tree," "The Spiderwick Chronicles," and "Indiana Jones."

Gore's unscientific work, awkwardly situated there under the Scholastic guise of "Earth Day," is highly debated in the political world and, more importantly, in the scientific one. Such hotly debated, controversial material should not be the subject matter for tender, easily swayed, impressionable minds. But I guess that's the very reason it's there.

Actual scientists have noted that methane emissions from cow flatulence in India, alone, have negated emissions reduction in the U.S. Thousands of scientists are banding together against the truths alleged as science.

The Weather Channel has been talking about the past year being among the coldest years in (recorded weather) history, yet left-wing political pundits keep touting the earth is getting hotter! According to RSS MSU (remss.com) satellite data, the year 2007 was the coldest year this century, even though mainstream media predicted it would break records as the warmest. According to the World Meteorological Association, 2006 was colder than the previous four years.

I would have bought "Avatar" for my 6-year-old son and "Dora The Explorer" for my 5-year-old daughter. Instead, I am proposing a boycott on Scholastic Books until it retreats from indoctrinating children into the world of liberal politics and goes back to marketing Dr. Seuss!

DAWN TAYLOR-THOMPSON
Dalton, Massachusetts
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The writer is a Republican State committeewoman.
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NOTE: The author also challenged "Luciforo" for the Berkshire County seat in the Massachusetts State Senate in 2004. She lived in Richmond back then.
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"Who is guilty of indoctrination?"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Tuesday, June 03, 2008

I must respond to Dawn Taylor-Thompson's May 30 letter condemning the inclusion of Al Gore's book "An Inconvenient Truth" in a catalog put out by Scholastic Books as "indoctrination." First, let met state that I do not know anything about global warming nor have I read the book or seen the movie "An Inconvenient Truth'. However, I can read my American Heritage Dictionary.

My dictionary defines indoctrinate as: "To teach to accept a system of thought uncritically." Listing a book in a catalog is not indoctrination, but denying her children open discourse and study of all sides of any issue is. Scientists disagree constantly on new research, they always have and always will, but they still study and explore.

Our entire civilization is built on scientific exploration and research, and science is not "liberal politics." But there is something I will call "conservative ignorance."

SANDY MCNAY
Adams, Massachusetts

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Photo by Nancy Lane
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"State senator pleads not guilty to alleged assault"
Associated Press - (via The Berkshire Eagle Online)
Wednesday, June 04, 2008

LOWELL, Mass. (AP) — A longtime state lawmaker is a "danger to the community" and "out of control," a prosecutor said today after another woman came forward to accuse state Sen. James Marzilli of making lewd comments to her.

Marzilli, 50, pleaded not guilty today to charges he tried to grab a woman sexually at a park in Lowell, then fled police, and to charges he made lewd remarks to another woman.

Lowell District Court Judge Neil Walker denied a prosecution motion to hold him without bail for three days, rejecting an argument that Marzilli was dangerous.

"The commonwealth feels that the defendant is a danger to the community," Prosecutor Richard Mucci said, adding Marzilli was "out of control at this point."

Mucci said the second woman called authorities after seeing media coverage of Marzilli's arrest yesterday. She later picked the Arlington Democrat from a photo lineup.

"Oh baby. You're so beautiful. Your body is so perfect," Mucci said Marzilli told the woman.

Marzilli, 50, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges for both incidents, including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, assault and battery and obstruction of justice.

Marzilli was arrested yesterday, after a woman told police Marzilli approached her while she was sitting on a park bench and tried to grab her crotch. When confronted by police, he said they were only flirting.

Then when asked for identification, Marzilli said it was in his car and identified himself as Martin Walsh — the same name of a longtime House colleague. He then fled before being arrested in a parking garage.

"He stated his life was over, that they were destroying him," Mucci said.

He was released on $1,500 cash bail last night.

Marzilli's lawyer, Terrence Kennedy, has said his client "completely and totally denies" the allegations. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for July 3.

Last month, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone declined to charge Marzilli after a woman claimed he had touched her inappropriately in April, saying there was insufficient evidence.

Marzilli spent 17 years in the House before winning a special election in December to fill a vacant seat in the Senate. His district includes Arlington, Billerica, Burlington and parts of Lexington and Woburn.

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"No touching end to hands-on pol’s fall from grace"
By Howie Carr, Thursday, June 5, 2008, www.bostonherald.com, Columnists

The moonbats are in mourning. Their hero, a sanctimonious twit named Sen. Jim Marzilli, is now accused of being the Middlesex masher, the runaway perv, the butt of a million jokes among people who actually have jobs and don’t live off trust funds.

What’s Marzilli’s favorite John Steinbeck novel? The Gropes of Wrath.

His favorite Charles Dickens novel? David Cop-a-feel.

They always said he was a hands-on pol. We didn’t just know how hands-on. Talk about touchy-feely. The squirrelly socialist is just lucky he wasn’t charged with impersonating Bill Clinton. And by the way, I guess he missed the recent GQ story, Lose the Goatee.

Good job by District Attorney Gerry Leone, brooming the first case against Sen. Grope-Zilla. Isn’t it wonderful to live in a one-party state, where all the pols take care of one another, although I doubt Leone will make the same mistake twice.

You know what they say, there’s a lot to like about Lowell. Sen. Marzilli, aka Martin Walsh, might disagree. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but Lowell ain’t Vegas. It didn’t take long for word to get out that Sen. Show-and-Tell had been busted, after giving a false name to the cops and running away.

As one old-time Arlington pol put it yesterday from Florida, strange things happen to strange people.

According to the police reports, this canal Casanova was bagged while trying to, well, you know his alleged m.o. by now. He inquires about women’s, uh, shaving habits, and then attempts to steal third base while still standing at the plate. Lewd and lascivious in Lowell.

That was bad enough, but now another woman stepped forward, picked him out of a lineup and said Sen. Show-and-Tell had done the same things to her. The usual extra-suave come-on lines like, “If I told you you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?” - except of course Mitts Marzilli isn’t even quick enough to come up with something that ancient.

He said, “Ohhh baby, you’re so beautiful, your body is so perfect.”

To which the woman responded: Take $20 out of your pocket and go to Merrimack Street after 5 o’clock and get yourself a hooker.

Sen. Marzilli’s lawyer, who is named Kennedy, described this as flirting.

The P.C. crowd is absolutely crushed by the downfall of their idol. You have to remember, Arlington moonbats have an inferiority complex. Their parents didn’t give them trust funds big enough to buy them one-families off Mass. Ave. in North Cambridge for a million-two. So they slink across the line into Arlington pretending they are still in the People’s Republic.

Soon the blow-ins had displaced large elements of the native Arlington population, as well as the native pols.

As my old Arlington friend from the State House said, “We drank, we played cards, we got things done.” And they didn’t get arrested.

Hey, Marzilli was just looking for a little sex in Middlesex.

All the sad, middle-aged Arlington moonbats were spinning alibis for him yesterday. His mother just died. Maybe he’s bipolar. It’s a Greek tragedy. He raises nice flowers.

You read the moonbats’ pathetic postings online and you can’t help but start singing Marzilli’s favorite Jethro Tull tune: “Aqualung.”

Sitting on the park bench, eyeing little girls with bad intent. Snot is running down his nose, greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.

That’s our Jim. His favorite Doors song? “Touch Me.”

His top Georgia Satellites tune? “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.”

It looks grim for Sen. McFeel, but there is one way out, and it always works in this state, at least if you’re a guy. When they sentence you, show up at the courthouse wearing a dress and the judge’ll let you go for sure.
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Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/opinion/columnists/view.bg?articleid=1098759
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"Foreclosure court pitched for state"
By Matt Murphy, Berkshire Eagle Boston Bureau
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

BOSTON — With no end to the home foreclosure crisis in sight, Beacon Hill lawmakers are pushing to strengthen laws that will offer increased protections to those on the verge of losing their homes.

A series of bills making their way through the Legislature would, among other reforms, mandate a judicial review process in either the state Supreme Court or in Land Court, giving homeowners at risk of foreclosure the option of appealing to the courts.

As many as 29 other states already have adopted judicial review, including Maine and Connecticut, according to supporters of the legislation. But the idea has been proposed before and backed away from because of workload concerns.

"We considered judicial review. The problems are still the same problems. The courts are swamped, and there is no structure in place to deal with this," said Sen. Susan Tucker, D-Andover, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Housing.

Joan Kenney, a spokeswoman for the Supreme Judicial Court, said the court is not taking a position on the legislation.

The Legislature last year passed a bill aimed at protecting current and future homeowners by requiring lenders to be licensed, making mortgage fraud a felony and giving homeowners 90 days to make overdue mortgage payments, with fees and penalties accruing.

Sen. Diane Wilkerson, D-Boston, has introduced three new bills that, besides judicial review, would create a six-month moratorium on foreclosures involving subprime mortgages and would prevent tenants from being evicted if their landlord's property is foreclosed on.

The bill received a hearing before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary earlier this month, and Wilkerson's staff said the senator hopes to see action on it before the end of the legislative session.

Tucker said she supports the effort to offer relief to homeowners, but acknowledged that there is a lot of resistance to the idea of a wholesale bailout for borrowers who made bad decisions by entering into subprime loans they could not afford once the higher interest rates kick in.

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(A Boston) GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Ensuring fair insurance"
July 22, 2008

WOMEN AND men aren't treated equally when it comes to some insurance products. State legislators should fix the inequity.

Terms vary, but a $100,000 annuity can pay a 65-year-old woman $50 less a month than a man of the same age, according to published quotes. Companies justify the difference by arguing that women on average live longer than men.

The US Supreme Court has a fairer interpretation. The court ruled in 1978 and 1983 that gender differences in employment-based retirement plans violate federal civil rights law. The justices concluded that it's unfair to pin group traits on individuals.

This legal reasoning should also apply to companies that sell annuities. To achieve this, Representative Ruth Balser, a Newton Democrat, has filed a bill that would require these sales to be gender-neutral.

The bill is supported by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley. Last year, her insurance chief, Glenn Kaplan, wrote in a letter to the Legislature: "It is simply not fair that women, who often earn less, must pay more than men for annuities in order to receive the same annuity payments for life."

Passed by the Senate, the bill deserves similar action in the House.

Another bill on a related issue would be a step backward. This bill would release the state-regulated Savings Bank Life Insurance Co. of Massachusetts from gender-neutrality rules. SBLI officials say they need the help so they can compete against companies that don't face such rules, and some women could end up paying lower rates.

But Massachusetts should stay committed to fairness. Lawmakers should pass Balser's bill, and leave the rules for SBLI as is.

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"[Berkshire] County's latest liquid desert"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pontoosuc Lake now joins a long list of public lakes being turned into liquid deserts.

Diane McCluskey (letter, July 29) and the other residents on the lake must feel great that they can sail, swim and water ski weed-free. Someday, people will realize that weeds are an important part of a lake's marine life. Small fish and the young of the year need weeds for oxygen and protection from predators.

Ms, McCluskey and some of her friends should have come with me as I launched my boat at Cheshire Lake to do a little fishing recently. They could have helped me count all of the dead fanfish floating on the surface and lying on the bottom. There were hundreds. Why? Because there were no weeds to provide food, oxygen and protection.

The old, out of date machines they used at Pontoosuc were horrible. They now make machines that cut, harvest and package weeds very well. More expensive than chemicals? Yes. But at least the marine life has a better chance.

PAUL DURFER
Dalton, Massachusetts

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"Pontoosuc is a healthy, thriving lake"
The Berkshire Eagle - Letters
Thursday, August 14, 2008

Paul Durfer's letter of August 10 characterized Pontoosuc Lake as a "liquid desert" devoid of aquatic vegetation. This is far from the case. There is a healthy growth of native vegetation in the lake now, after the treatment this spring. The treatment program was designed to attack primarily the two non-native invasive species which had dominated the lake for many years and had choked out the native plants which are needed to maintain a healthy lake. The program succeeded beyond our expectations.

The Friends of Pontoosuc conducts surveys of aquatic vegetation several times per year. The results from our June and July surveys identified native species populations which were thriving after the treatment, and found almost no trace of the two targeted invasive species. We expect that continuation of the treatment program will return the lake to a more natural state wherein the native plants can thrive and not be eliminated by the invasive species. There have been no observations of any unusual fish kill.

Management of the lake is a complicated process, and must be adapted based on solid data. There are many threats to our lake, and the weeds may be the most visible, but not the only, or even the most serious. The Friends of Pontoosuc is dedicated to gathering data on lake conditions, and working with the city of Pittsfield, the town of Lanesborough, and the local and state agencies to achieve our goal of a lake which can be enjoyed by all users today and preserved for future generations.

LEE HAUGE
Lanesborough, Massachusetts
The writer is president, Friends of Pontoosuc Lake.

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"BMC Eyes Major Expansion / BMC Planning Major Expansion Project"
By Larry Kratka -Berkshire News Network- September 12, 2008

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Medical Center is planning a major expansion for a surgical unit and to nearly triple its parking availability.

The Pittsfield Gazette reports that plans are in the works for a five-level garage that would precede the eventual development of a new 54,000-square-foot outpatient surgery facility. The new medical facility would replace the Crane Day Surgery facility.

A formal request has been submitted to the Pittsfield Community Development Board, which will review the proposal on Oct. 7. The new parking garage would be build on a 2.24-acre parcel that borders Wahconah, Park and Seymour streets and will contain 618 parking spaces. The current parking garage has 224 spaces.

If all goes according to plan, the new parking garage could open next year. Berkshire Medical Center is operated by Berkshire Health Systems.

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The Boston Globe, Op-Ed: MARTHA COAKLEY
"Modifying some of those loans"
By Martha Coakley, October 2, 2008

AS THE Bush administration and Congress try to untangle the fallout from the defeat of the Wall Street bailout, foreclosures continue to climb, financial companies fail, and the middle class economic squeeze worsens by the day.

One significant action doesn't need congressional approval and can make a big difference. Effective and wide-scale loan modification programs by lenders and mortgage holders can stop the freefall and begin the long way back to a sustainable economy.

Some are frustrated that Congress cannot agree on what to do. The investment banks, subprime lenders, and other creators of unduly risky investment products wait for Washington to do something. Wall Street firms and lenders, however, should ask themselves whether they have done enough to get their own act together; they need not wait to take action to help themselves, homeowners, and our economy.

At the state level, we have tried to stop the bleeding. Last year, the Legislature enacted a 90-day "right-to-cure" provision giving homeowners more time to seek loan workouts before foreclosure. Our office has worked closely with Governor Patrick to urge mortgage lenders and servicers to use that time to offer loan modifications to distressed homeowners. Because a foreclosure costs the lender tens of thousands of dollars in expenses and devalued real estate, preventing foreclosure is in everyone's best interests.

Some banks may have modified some terms in some loans, but most lenders have failed to offer loan modifications in meaningful numbers. In the last three months, lenders issued 4,721 new foreclosure notices in Massachusetts. During that time, only 144 loan modifications were filed in the Registry of Deeds. We have reviewed those 144 modified mortgages and found that virtually none reduced the monthly payment owed by the homeowner. The latest report of the Multi-State Foreclosure Prevention Group for the period January through May 2008 confirms this dismal record.

Many families struggling to hold onto their homes and savings are not looking for charity or a bailout, and that is not what loan modifications are about. Real loan modification programs by lenders, servicers, and investors are necessary to stop foreclosures, stabilize cash-flow on the mortgages owned by failing financial instruments, and help put a floor under the downward asset spiral that exacerbates the crisis in the credit markets.

The Bush administration's original plan of simply throwing $700 billion into the hole without putting a floor on the bottom would have wasted money and would not have worked. Representative Barney Frank and others in Congress have improved that proposal, and should be applauded for incorporating homeowners' interests. The proposal rejected by the US House of Representatives this week, however, did not do enough to require the scope of loan modifications necessary, and misplaced the cost of modifications on the taxpayers, rather than on the creators of the unsustainable loans.

An effective rescue package should require, as a condition of participation, that current mortgage holders and servicers rewrite delinquent loans to avoid foreclosure when the borrower's current ability to pay, although it may not satisfy the payment schedule, still provides an income stream preferable to expected losses at foreclosure. The government should not accept the transfer of toxic products from the books of financial firms to taxpayers' books without systemic loan modifications first.

Congress should also take another look at authorizing bankruptcy courts to modify distressed mortgage loans. This is a critical protection for both homeowners and taxpayers. It is an efficient mechanism to avoid foreclosures because it is tailored to the circumstances of each homeowner and overseen by a federal Bankruptcy Court.

In the end, we will have fewer bankruptcies if responsible financial companies act now to save themselves and our economy. Even if we assume that a multibillion-dollar rescue plan is necessary, there is no reason for those who created, packaged, invested in, and profited from securitized subprime loans to delay fixing their own problems. Indeed, doing so should be mandatory for those who want to participate in a taxpayer-funded rescue plan.
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Martha Coakley is the attorney general of Massachusetts.
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State Senator Dianne Wilkerson denies claim.
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"Wilkerson faces disbarment for testimony: Accused of lying in nephew's court case"
By Jonathan Saltzman and Andrea Estes, Boston Globe Staff, October 4, 2008

State Senator Dianne Wilkerson, who has been dogged by legal troubles for years and lost the Democratic primary for her seat last month, now faces the possibility of disbarment.

The state Office of the Bar Counsel filed a complaint yesterday accusing Wilkerson of violating the rules of professional conduct by lying under oath at a 2005 court hearing at which her nephew, Jermaine Berry, requested a new trial on a manslaughter conviction.

Wilkerson, who joined the bar in 1981 but has not practiced in a decade, gave "intentionally false, misleading, and deceptive testimony" at the Suffolk Superior Court hearing and in a sworn affidavit, according to the eight-page petition for discipline.

In both the court appearance and the affidavit, the complaint said, Wilkerson falsely claimed that she was present at a Boston police station when two homicide detectives interviewed another nephew, Isaac Wilkerson, about the 1994 stabbing death of Hazel Mack. Berry was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in Mack's death, but the senator testified that Isaac Wilkerson made statements that implicated himself during the interview.

Wilkerson also lied when she testified that the detectives repeatedly turned a tape recorder off and on during the interview, the disciplinary complaint said.

The Bar Counsel, which acts like a prosecutor in claims of violations of the professional code, also accused Wilkerson of lying to the office in a 2006 letter responding to allegations that she gave false testimony in court. The complaint also said she lied to the Bar Counsel during testimony at the office on Feb. 29 this year.

Wilkerson, who last month vowed to run a sticker campaign as a Democrat to reclaim the Boston seat she has held for 15 years, was out of state and could not be reached for comment yesterday. Her lawyer, Max D. Stern, called the allegations "nonsense" and said his client had no reason to fabricate a claim that could have helped one of her nephews by incriminating the other.

"There's nothing in it for her to be making this up," said Stern, who added that the disciplinary complaint "is going nowhere."

Detective Jack Parlon, former president of the Boston Police Detectives Benevolent Society, which filed a complaint with the Bar Counsel about Wilkerson's court testimony, was pleased to hear about the petition for discipline and said he hoped she is disbarred.

"If she lied - and we allege that she did - and there's an agency that found that she did lie, then c'est la vie," said the 39-year veteran of the force. "No one is above the law."

The state's highest court suspended Wilkerson from practicing law for a year in 1999 as a result of another complaint, stemming from her 1997 conviction for tax evasion and a parole violation in which she twice failed to return home before a 9 p.m. curfew. She never applied to be reinstated and still has a suspended license.

Constance V. Vecchione, the Bar Counsel, declined to comment yesterday because the matter is pending.

The Board of Bar Overseers, which investigates complaints against lawyers, is expected to appoint a hearing officer or committee to examine the allegations and recommend discipline, if warranted. Sanctions issued by the board range from a private admonition to disbarment. The most serious sanctions, such as suspension or disbarment, are reviewed by the state's highest court.

Sonia Chang-Díaz, the former policy analyst from Jamaica Plain who defeated Wilkerson for the Democratic nomination, was unavailable for comment, according to her spokeswoman, Deborah Shah.

Wilkerson has commanded strong support from top politicians, including Governor Deval Patrick and Mayor Thomas M. Menino, but her history of legal woes has made her one of the most controversial figures on Beacon Hill.

Just two months ago, she paid a $10,000 fine to the state attorney general's office and acknowledged campaign finance violations dating back to 2000. The violations related to improper reimbursements of campaign contributions to herself and failing to report some contributions.

In the income tax case more than a decade ago, she pleaded guilty to four misdemeanors and served 30 days in a halfway house.

"I think the voters of her district have been overly forgiving over the years," said state Senator Richard Tisei, the Republican minority leader. "It's sad to see her troubles continuing to mount. There's nobody in the Senate who had more potential than Dianne Wilkerson. It seems as though she's had self- inflicted problem after problem after problem."

Barney Keller, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, called it "amazing and kind of sad" that Democrats "still validate her behavior by pledging to support her in her write-in campaign."

Patrick, who recorded phone messages of support for Wilkerson before the primary but now backs Chang-Díaz, declined to comment.

Wilkerson's lawyer acknowledged his client's history of legal problems but said they hardly bolster the credibility of the disciplinary complaint.

"She had trouble with her taxes, she had trouble with campaign finance," he said. "But nobody ever said she's dishonest, that she made up things."

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Senate President Therese Murray told reporters after the vote that Democratic Senator Dianne Wilkerson should resign today if she "values the integrity of the Senate." (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)
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"Senate asks Wilkerson to immediately resign"
The Boston Globe Online, October 30, 2008, 4:20 PM
By Matt Viser, Frank Phillips, and Andrew Ryan, Boston Globe Staff

The state Senate passed a unanimous resolution this afternoon asking Democratic Senator Dianne Wilkerson to resign immediately following her arrest on charges she accepted eight bribes worth $23,500.

Lawmakers also stripped Wilkerson of her chairmanship of the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight and her committee assignments and asked the Senate Ethics Committee to explore the accusations made by the FBI after an 18-month corruption probe.

This morning before the vote, Wilkerson sent a letter to Senate President Therese Murray saying, "I will respect whatever decision you make."

"I apologize to you and the members for being drawn into the madness that has become my life," Wilkerson wrote in the one-page letter on her Senate stationary.

Echoing a statement issued Wednesday when she vowed to continue her reelection campaign, Wilkerson wrote that the charges were "the ultimate test of the principle of innocent until proven guilty."

Wilkerson's campaign manager, Boyce Slayman, did not immediately return calls this afternoon seeking comment, and a campaign worker at her Roxbury headquarters said the campaign had not formulated a response to the resolution.

After the vote, Murray said that she hope Wilkerson will resign today.

"I think if she values the integrity of the Senate, if she values her colleagues' work, she’ll go," Murray said. "Do I look angry? Yes I am."

The Senate president also reminded reporters that US Attorney Michael Sullivan has "stated very clearly that there is no evidence that other lawmakers on Beacon Hill are implicated. The charges against Senator Wilkerson are an affront, and they are insulting to the Senate. And any implication that myself or others have been involved in the alleged wrongful conduct or backroom deals is simply wrong."

Wilkerson was not present when her colleagues took the vote, which occurred after a two-hour caucus by Democrats behind closed doors.

"People in the Senate are disgusted," said Democratic Senator Brian Joyce after the vote. “We’ve asked her to resign and begun the process to expel her. Enough’s enough.”

Wilkerson's alleged crime "casts a shadow on everyone” in the Senate, said the Republican minority leader, Senator Richard Tisei.

“People were disappointed and angry," Tisei said. "Not only the actions that were taken by Senator Wilkerson that caused this problem but also that it’s reflected so badly on the entire Senate and the institution.”

Reading a 30-second statement, Democratic Senator Michael Morrissey offered a vociferous defense of his role in the case.

“First, I nor any members of the committee had any idea what Dianne Wilkerson was about," Morrissey said, declining to take any questions. "Second, anything we did was by the book, and I’ll stand by those actions at any time.”

"I’ve been advised not to comment on the particulars of the investigation, but I can assure you that I will cooperate in any way that I can," he added. "And finally, from what I have learned over the last 48 hours -- realizing that we have been misled and lied to -- I’ve asked my colleagues to take immediate steps to expel her from the Senate.”

Wilkerson was spotted in a car on Bowdoin Street outside the State House at 10:30 a.m., but she did not enter the building. The Roxbury lawmaker was not present when her colleagues took the vote asking her to resign.

It is highly unusual for a lawmaker to be expelled from a legislative body before they have been convicted of a crime. No one has been ousted from the state Senate for corruption since the 1970s, when two members were convicted of extortion for accepting kickbacks from a construction firm building the campus of the University of Massachusetts at Boston. In what became known as the MBM scandal, after the McKee-Berger-Mansueto construction firm, Joseph J.C. DiCarlo, a Democrat from Revere, and Ronald C. MacKenzie, a Republican from Burlington, were both expelled from the Senate after their convictions.

Morrissey was one of several lawmakers whose records were subpoenaed in the FBI probe of Wilkerson. The subpoena asks for all records reflecting the daily activities from May 15, 2007, through June 1, 2008, of Morrissey, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He is cochairman of the Consumer Protection Committee and is alleged to be among the politicians Wilkerson persuaded to help her secure a liquor license for a Roxbury nightclub.

A motion of expulsion has not been filed against Senator J. James Marzilli Jr., an Arlington Democrat who pleaded not guilty in June to accusations that he sexually harassed a number of women. The allegations against Marzilli, however, did not involve his official duties as a legislator. Wilkerson is accused of accepting eight bribes to secure a liquor license and file land development legislation. Marzilli is not running for reelection.

Wilkerson vowed on Wednesday to remain in her reelection fight despite her arrest this week and accused US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan of engaging in a "political calculus" to derail her campaign.

Wilkerson remained out of public view on Wednesday, but in a brief statement handed out by campaign volunteers at her headquarters in Roxbury, the Democrat urged voters to stick with her in Tuesday's election after 15 years in office.

"Not only does this represent the biggest challenge in my personal and political life, but it will test to the limit the notion of innocent until proven guilty," Wilkerson said in the statement.

Yet even as she sought to salvage her political career, the investigation into her activities blossomed into a much broader investigation as federal authorities blanketed the State House and City Hall with subpoenas yesterday. Agents also delivered a subpoena to the developers of Columbus Center, a major project Wilkerson supported.

A subpoena obtained yesterday by the Globe cast a wide net for records related to a liquor license deal and land development legislation that Wilkerson allegedly helped orchestrate. The documents were requested for a federal grand jury hearing Nov. 11.

The subpoena, which went to the Legislature's Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, asks for records of communications the committee has had since March 1, 2007, with Wilkerson and anyone on her staff; Mayor Thomas M. Menino; Councilor Chuck Turner; Eddie Jenkins Jr., chairman of the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission; Daniel Pokaski, chairman of the Boston Licensing Board; Senator Anthony Petruccelli, an East Boston Democrat; former councilor at large Felix Arroyo; developer Arthur Winn; and Stephen V. Miller, a lawyer who frequently appears before the Boston Licensing Board.

Senate President Therese Murray also received a subpoena, and the state's technology division was told to preserve all e-mail records pertaining to Wilkerson, Murray, and Morrissey, according to State House officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Murray refused to comment on Wednesday. Most other officials and individuals who received subpoenas or were named in subpoenas either could not be reached or declined to comment.
Aside from Wilkerson, no one has been accused of wrongdoing, but the FBI has not ruled out further investigations.

Another State House official said a subpoena was sent to the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, and the agency was visited by FBI agents Tuesday. In addition, agents sought to talk with Jenkins, the commission's chairman, on Tuesday. Jenkins, who was not there at the time, had prior dealings with Wilkerson on the licensing issue involved in the alleged bribes, said the State House official.

At City Hall this week, federal investigators interviewed Turner in his office. City Council President Maureen Feeney was ordered to turn over her calendar and telephone records for a period of "several months."

Menino confirmed on Wednesday that he had also received a subpoena for records in the case.
"We're all shocked," he said.

The explosion of activity originated 18 months ago, when the FBI began an investigation into whether Wilkerson was taking cash payments from constituents and others with business before the state Senate. Federal authorities charged her Tuesday with accepting eight bribes totaling $23,500 to secure a liquor license that can sell for $300,000 on the open market and legislation to pave the way for a towering Roxbury development.

Wilkerson remained elusive through most of Wednesday.

The lights were on, but the doors were locked for most of the day at her campaign headquarters. No one answered at her stately lime-green and yellow-trim home near Franklin Park, and she did not answer a cellphone that had a full voice mailbox. Her attorney, Max Stern, declined to comment.

Just before 4 p.m., a campaign worker cracked open the door of Wilkerson's headquarters and handed out a brief statement.

"While there is great curiosity about the particulars of my case I am not at liberty to discuss them for obvious reasons," her statement said. "For those of you who must be thinking, 'There has to be more to this story,' of course there is. But it is not a story that I am able or willing to lay out in the press."

In addition to announcing her plans to continue her campaign, Wilkerson attacked Sullivan.
"From a purely political perspective, it seems a lot of people, including myself, have seriously underestimated US Attorney Sullivan's political calculus," Wilkerson said. "In one fell swoop and even before an indictment had been returned, he's sought to imperil my reelection campaign, and has set much of the state's Democratic Leadership back on its heels. He brought this issue forward at this time knowing full well that I would never have an opportunity to have my day in court prior to November 4."

Sullivan, a former Republican state legislator and Plymouth County district attorney, would not comment yesterday in response to Wilkerson's statement, said his spokeswoman. At a press conference Tuesday announcing the charges against Wilkerson, he denied any link between the timing of the arrest and the election.

"It's coincidental that this happened one week before the election," Sullivan said.

Some residents in Wilkerson's district did not seem eager to send her back to office.

"I think she's looking for the pity vote," said Jimmy McNeill, a 63-year-old retired MBTA worker from Roxbury. "She's like a boxer. When does he quit? When he can't think for himself."

Still, several people said the allegations leveled against her were politically motivated.

"I've given her staunch support and I'm going to stay loyal," said Dave Goodman, a 43-year-old Roxbury resident who said even photos and audio can be doctored.

Deborah Shah, the campaign manager for Sonia Chang-Díaz, who beat Wilkerson in the Democratic primary and has been trying to fend off a vigorous write-in campaign by Wilkerson, said, "We are now, as we've always been, focused on our own campaign rather than Senator Wilkerson's campaign."

In addition to subpoenas of multiple government officials and agencies, federal authorities have also subpoenaed information from WinnCompanies, a development firm owned by Arthur Winn, a longtime political benefactor of Wilkerson's, according to a source with knowledge of the subpoena.

Arthur Winn declined a request to be interviewed through a spokesman. WinnCompanies also declined to comment. The source, who described the subpoena as a broad request for information, said it does not request any records or communications relating to Columbus Center, an $800 million development Winn is trying to build over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Boston.
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Donovan Slack, Casey Ross, Andrea Estes, Jonathan Saltzman, and John C. Drake of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Matt Viser can be reached at MaViser@globe.com.
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Sen. Dianne Wilkerson after her appearance in federal court Tuesday, October 28, 2008.
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CAUGHT IN THE ACT: In this image from video, state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson is seen at a Fill-A-Buster restaurant prior to allegedly accepting money from the feds.
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"Now foes, many pols were recently friend$"
By Dave Wedge, Friday, October 31, 2008, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics

Many of the same senators who voted to push Sen. Dianne Wilkerson out the State House door yesterday were ponying up campaign cash to her just weeks ago as the Roxbury Democrat struggled to save her fading re-election bid.

Ten senators donated a combined $1,050 to Wilkerson in the days before the senator lost the Democratic primary to Sonia Chang-Diaz while Sen. Joan Menard (D-Fall River) gave $100 just three weeks ago, records show.

Even before this week’s bribery scandal, Wilkerson was on the ropes politically because of campaign missteps and her long history of legal and financial woes. Yet many pols continued to back her, including Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick, both of whom recorded automated calls supporting Wilkerson that were blasted out to voters before the September primary.

Other pols who donated before the primary include:

• City Councilors John Connolly ($500) and Michael Ross ($100)

• Suffolk Court Clerk and former City Councilor Maura Hennigan ($400)

• Berkshire Register of Deeds and former state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo ($200)

Wilkerson also received a $200 campaign donation Sept. 12 from Felix Arroyo Jr., the son of former City Councilor Felix Arroyo. The elder Arroyo is among those named in a grand jury subpoena sent to the state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission, sources said.

The ABCC received the federal subpoena as part of the probe into bribes Wilkerson allegedly took to get a liquor license for a bar owner. The subpoena seeks ABCC records and all communications between agency officials and several people, including Arroyo, Senate President Therese Murray and City Council President Maureen Feeney, a source with direct knowledge of the subpoena said.

Also supporting Wilkerson in her primary race were ABCC chairman Eddie Jenkins and ABCC board member Suzanne Iannella, both of whom gave $250, records show.
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Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1129018
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10/30/2008

Re: Dianne Wilkerson
http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&q=%22Dianne+Wilkerson%22

Well, what about former State Senator Andrea F Nuciforo Jr (LUCIFORO!)?

www.jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2008/01/nuciforos-corruption.html

&

www.jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2008/01/andrea-nuciforo-strong-armed-two-women.html

&

www.jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2007/10/andrea-f-nuciforo-jr-luciforo-devilish.html

&

http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&q=luciforo+blogurl:http://jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/&sa=N&start=10

Massachusetts is full of CORRUPTION! I just wonder why "Luciforo" is still collecting a large public sector state government income & benefits, while others are brought to court? "Luciforo is the most corrupt Pol in Massachusetts!

In Dissent!
Jonathan A. Melle

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10/31/2008

I am a former lifelong resident of Berkshire County, Massachusetts, who was and still is the victim of "Luciforo's" many years of layered bullying and persecution of me. In the Spring of 1998, "Luciforo" tried to jail me while at the same time launching multiple "ethics" complaints against my dad. Fortunately for both my father and I, "Luciforo" was unsuccessful in jailing me and ruining my dad's career and life. "Ha ha ha"...the joke is on you, Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. -- you no good son of a "blank"! - Jonathan Melle
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www.jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2008/05/andrea-nuciforo-jonathan-melle-month-of.html
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http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=%22nuciforo%22+%22melle%22+%22jimmy+ruberto%22
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SECOND SUFFOLK DISTRICT
"Foe's troubles tinge Chang-Diaz triumph"
By Donovan Slack, Boston Globe Staff, November 5, 2008

Sonia Chang-Díaz sailed to an easy but bittersweet victory yesterday in her campaign for state Senate, after Boston incumbent Dianne Wilkerson dropped out of the race last week following her arrest on federal bribery charges.

Strictly by the numbers, it was a big win for Chang-Díaz. With 93 percent of precincts reporting, she had won roughly 80 percent of the vote. Of the remainder, 16 percent had either write-in, sticker votes or votes unreadable by ballot-counting machines, indicating they could be Wilkerson votes. Final results from a hand-count of the ballots were expected today.

Still, Chang-Díaz, a former schoolteacher from Jamaica Plain, faces a challenge to win over Wilkerson's core supporters. Some voters going to the polls yesterday said they believed that Wilkerson was victimized by authorities, and they voted for her despite the stunning FBI images of her allegedly accepting bribes.

Some Wilkerson supporters were distributing stickers at polls yesterday to affix to ballots for Wilkerson's write-in campaign, even though Wilkerson terminated her campaign Friday. Chang-Díaz, campaigning yesterday in Wilkerson's strongholds, repeatedly told voters that she wants to heal a deepy divided district.

At a victory rally last night at The Alchemist Restaurant and Lounge in Jamaica Plain, Chang-Díaz again touched on the need to develop unity.

"All of us have been shocked and saddened by the allegations that have emerged about Senator Wilkerson," she said. She pledged to push for more open government.

Wilkerson, who did not return calls seeking comment yesterday and did not hold a public event last night, has so far resisted pressure to resign from her Senate seat amidst the federal corruption probe. But she has promised to make an announcement regarding her future this morning. Chang-Díaz will not take over the seat until January.

Chang-Díaz spent much of the day visiting polling places in Roxbury and Dorchester, the heart of Wilkerson's former base of support in the district, which also encompasses parts of downtown Boston, Jamaica Plain, Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Chinatown, the South End, and the Fenway.

Chang-Díaz, slight and soft-spoken, said while campaigning earlier in the day that she knows she has an uphill climb ahead, with a district divided and still reeling from the federal allegations that Wilkerson, a senator for 15 years, accepted cash bribes totaling $23,500 in exchange for a liquor license for a Roxbury night club and development rights for a parcel of land in the neighborhood.

"I think it's been a real challenge for the community," Chang-Díaz said yesterday in Roxbury. "It's hard on the community and it makes it harder for any elected official."

There were signs at some voting stations that Wilkerson's supporters had not given up.

At one Roxbury polling place, someone had taped a Wilkerson flier over the blue signs of Chang-Díaz. The flier asked, "What happened to innocent until proven guilty?"

At the George A. Lewis Middle School, two former Wilkerson campaign volunteers with "Dianne delivers" stickers on their lapels were observed slipping stickers with Wilkerson's name to voters.

"She's always looked out for the community," said one of the workers, Dorchester resident Lesa Canty. "You can't always believe what you see."

It was a sentiment echoed by some voters, too. Machine tallies from 93 percent of the district's precincts indicated 1,267 were cast with write-in votes and another 8,816 had blank or unreadable votes. Wilkerson had waged a write-in campaign until dropping out.

Outside the Orchard Gardens Community Center in Roxbury, Irwin Capers, a 49-year-old unemployed electrician, said he voted for Wilkerson with a sticker.

"We've got politicians stealing all the time," Capers said. "That's why they talk about campaign reform. They do it all the time, and they don't get whacked. She did a lot for the community."

Chang-Díaz said she is eager to begin tackling the issues she believes are most pressing in her district, including protecting vital programs in the face of deep state budget cuts, curbing youth violence, and reforming criminal record information laws.

Chang-Díaz supporters said yesterday that she represents new energy in a district that desperately needs it.
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Michael Levenson and Andrew Ryan of the Globe staff and correspondent John M. Guilfoil contributed to this report. Donovan Slack can be reached at dslack@globe.com.
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(picture)
John Bohn / Globe StaffState Senate candidate Sonia Chang-Diaz walked into a victory party in Jamaica Plain last night (11/4/2008). (John Bohn / Globe Staff)
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www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/11/05/foes_troubles_tinge_chang_diaz_triumph/
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"Wilkerson again balks at resigning"
By Hillary Chabot, Wednesday, November 5, 2008, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics

Sen. Dianne Wilkerson stalled for time yesterday, defying her colleagues and a coalition of neighborhood ministers again as she insisted she won’t resign until she addresses constituent concerns and finds new jobs for her staffers.

Wilkerson - who suspended her re-election campaign Friday, three days after her her arrest on bribery charges - had promised to announce whether she would leave office by today.

“I am committed to resigning my office as soon as I can do so consistent with my need to effectuate an orderly transition,” Wilkerson wrote in a statement released late this afternoon. “At this moment, it is not possible to set the date on which this process will be complete, other than to say it will be as soon as humanly and responsibly possible.”

Wilkerson, who lost to Sonia Chang-Diaz in yesterday’s election, was charged with taking $23,500 in bribes for creating and steering legislation. Shocking surveillance photos released by federal agents purport to show her stuffing cash into her bra. The state Senate, the Black Ministerial Alliance and the Ten Point Coalition all asked her to resign.

The Senate cannot vote Wilkerson out of office until after a Senate Ethics Committee investigates. Committee members are currently investigating the charges against Wilkerson and pledged to work quickly after the Senate asked Wilkerson to leave last week.

Members of the Ten Point Coalition and the Black Ministerial Alliance unanimously asked Wilkerson to leave office last week. Wilkerson has received support from other clergy in her community, however.

“Dianne Wilkerson did a lot of positive things. Everyone makes mistakes in life,” said Minister Rodney Muhammad from the Nation of Islam today. “I think this is a decision she needs to grapple with and I don’t think anyone should pressure her to do something she hasn’t given good thought to.”
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Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1130343
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BEACON HILL [BLUES: State House Politics!]
"Democrats try to build on their majority in State House"
By Andrea Estes, Boston Globe Staff, November 5, 2008

Despite the turmoil that has engulfed Beacon Hill in recent weeks, Democrats yesterday were poised to increase their overwhelming majority in the state Legislature, grabbing at least two seats from the already scant Republican ranks.

As of 1 a.m., Democrats had won a seat previously held by a retiring Republican, John A. Lepper of Attleboro. Democrat Bill Bowles defeated Republican George Ross in the race for that open seat. They also won the seat vacated by Paul J.P. Loscocco of Holliston. Carolyn Dykema, a Democrat, defeated Republican opponent Dan Haley.

Democrats were also ahead in the race to succeed one other Republican who gave up her seat this year - Mary S. Rogeness of Longmeadow.

Republicans, who currently hold 19 seats in the 160-member House and five seats in the 40-member Senate, had not recorded a net gain in 18 years.

"We're disappointed," said state GOP spokesman Barney Keller. "Clearly a wave hit us. But when a wave hits you, you have to get back up and keep fighting. People deserve to know their corrupt Democratic Party's dismal record on both the economy and job-killing tax hikes. That's what we have to do."

But there will be few major changes in the makeup of the Legislature come January.

Most incumbent state lawmakers, Democrat and Republican alike, had no challenger and were assured of victory before the first vote was cast. Twenty others did not run for reelection or were ousted in the primaries.

Five senators, all Democrats, are leaving office, including two who have been criminally indicted. Senator Dianne Wilkerson of Roxbury is accused of accepting bribes, and Arlington Senator J. James Marzilli Jr. allegedly accosted four women last summer in Lowell. Edward M. Augustus Jr. of Worcester, Pamela Resor of Acton, and Robert S. Creedon Jr. of Brockton did not run for reelection.

Of the remaining 35 senators, only five had opponents, and insiders predicted all would win reelection.

In the House, there will also be few changes when the new session begins in January.

Two incumbents, Representative Patrick M. Natale, Democrat of Woburn, and Representative Anthony J. Verga, Democrat of Gloucester, lost their September primaries, but the overwhelming majority survived that month and 114 had no opposition yesterday. Just 31 faced opponents and 15 seats were being vacated.

Three Democratic incumbents - Tom Conroy of Wayland, Geraldo Alicea of Charlton, and Paul Kujawski of Webster - appeared to have fended off aggressive challenges.

Conroy won a rematch with Republican Susan W. Pope, who held the seat before Conroy narrowly beat her in 2006.

The GOP yesterday had hoped not only to keep the seats held by Lepper, Loscocco, and Rogeness, but they were also looking to flip seats held by departing Democrats including Augustus and Representatives Stephen P. LeDuc of Marlborough, who left earlier this year, and Geoffrey D. Hall of Littleton.

Democrats were winning the races to succeed Augustus and LeDuc. As of 11 p.m. Republican Paul Avella was slightly ahead of Democrat James Arciero in the fight to succeed Hall.

Democratic Party chairman John Walsh said Democratic candidates won because they were the better choices. "Voters compared the candidates and found that Democratic candidates were better and worked harder district by district, town by town, voter by voter," he said. "The Democratic enthusiasm out there came from having good candidates."
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(picture)
Governor Deval Patrick and Senator Brian A. Joyce, a neighbor, arrived to vote at St. Mary of the Hills School in Milton. (Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)
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www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/11/05/democrats_try_to_build_on_their_majority_in_state_house/
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Possible successors to Senator John Kerry (from left): Attorney General Martha Coakley, US Representative Stephen F. Lynch, state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, and former governor William F. Weld.
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"Political scramble if Kerry joins Cabinet"
By Matt Viser and Frank Phillips, Boston Globe Staff, November 6, 2008

US Senator John F. Kerry's widely reported place on Barack Obama's short list for secretary of state raises the possibility of dramatic changes in the Massachusetts political landscape, just days after Kerry won easy election to a fifth term.

Kerry's leap to a federal Cabinet post would spur what strategists and even potential candidates are already describing as a mad scramble among a dozen or more Massachusetts political figures over a tantalizing opportunity, a rare open seat in Washington's most exclusive club.

"These Senate seats come up once in a lifetime," said Dan Payne, a Democratic media consultant who has worked for Kerry's campaigns. "Anybody who has ever thought they wanted to be a senator will assemble the kitchen cabinet and take a good, careful look at it."

A special election to fill an open US Senate seat would probably attract a huge crowd, from Attorney General Martha Coakley and Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill to US representatives including Michael E. Capuano, Stephen F. Lynch, and the dean of the delegation, Edward J. Markey.

"I certainly would be interested in looking at any vacancy that may occur," Lynch, who has $1.2 million in his campaign account, said in an interview yesterday. "As would probably a dozen other people. And that's probably a minimum."

Said Coakley, confirming her interest last night: "Certainly any politician in Massachusetts would be interested in that seat. They don't open that often."

In fact, there has not been an open Senate seat in Massachusetts since 1984, and the result has been considerable pent-up political ambition that strategists believe will be unleashed in any sort of campaign.

On the Republican side, US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, former governor William F. Weld, and former lieutenant governor Kerry Healey are among the names being discussed by party leaders and consultants.

Kerry stoked speculation on election night, indicating he was open to offers from Obama rather than giving the pat political answer that he was not going to indulge in the hypothetical.

"If the president calls me and asks me to talk to him about something, I'm going to talk to him," he said. "Whatever I am going to do, I am going to keep faith in what I've been fighting for."

Kerry declined requests for an interview yesterday. His spokeswoman sought to tamp down notions of Kerry leaving, saying "This is the political silly season when media speculation is rampant about the new administration.

"John Kerry just won an overwhelming victory for his fifth term in the United States Senate, and he's not looking for any job other than the one he already has," said the spokeswoman, Brigid O'Rourke. "Any assertion otherwise is simply ridiculous and flat out untrue."

Kerry, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who is fluent in French, has devoted himself to foreign affairs. Obama's campaign, which already tendered an offer to a high-profile congressman for the White House chief of staff job yesterday, could make an announcement as early as next week on the secretary of state position.

During his reelection bid, Kerry repeatedly rebuffed notions that he would seek another position, saying in a September debate with his Democratic primary challenger, "I intend to serve my term. If I'm elected, that's what I'm doing."

Among the few others mentioned for the job of secretary of state in Obama's administration include Bill Richardson, the New Mexico governor and former United Nations ambassador, and Senator Richard Lugar, a Republican from Indiana.

Kerry was one of the key early endorsers of Obama, backing him just after his Democratic primary loss in New Hampshire. Kerry also gave Obama strategic foreign policy advice before the presidential debates and advised Obama to opt out of the public financing system, a move that dramatically enriched Obama's coffers and allowed him to make a play in states normally safely carried by Republicans.

Kerry also tapped Obama to deliver the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, which helped catapult a relatively unknown Illinois state senator to the national stage.

Obama could pluck other officials for key posts in local federal government, including the US marshall's office in Massachusetts, the US attorney, and New England directors of the US departments of Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor.

Governor Deval Patrick has also been widely discussed as a possible appointment in an Obama administration, including attorney general or Supreme Court nominee. But yesterday Patrick said that he did not want to return to Washington.

"Are you asking me if I am going to Washington, again?" Patrick asked at a State House press conference. "No, I am not. I intend to stay in my job; we have a lot of work to do. We have an ambitious agenda, and, frankly, if the people will have me, I intend to be here for a second term."

The political landscape is further clouded by the health of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who was diagnosed this spring with a malignant brain tumor. After undergoing surgery, he spoke at the Democratic National Convention, has returned to Washington, and is preparing to push forward healthcare legislation once Obama takes office.

Unlike most states that allow the governor to appoint a replacement, Massachusetts law says that a vacant US Senate seat would have to be filled by a special election within 140 to 160 days of the resignation. The Democrat-controlled Legislature approved the law when Kerry was running for president in 2004, to prevent Governor Mitt Romney, a Republican, from appointing a possible successor.

Democrats could try to change the law back to ensure Republicans don't pull off a surprise victory. Patrick indicated yesterday he was open to the idea of reverting to the old system of appointments, but said he was "not pushing a change."

The current rules would benefit well-known candidates with easy access to campaign money. Congressional members would have an advantage because they could use money from current campaign accounts. Statewide officeholders are not able to transfer money to another account to fund a run for federal office.

Capuano, a Somerville Democrat who has $921,550 in his campaign account, said through a spokeswoman that he would "strongly consider seeking the open seat."

Markey, who has $2.7 million, declined to comment last night. A Senate candidacy for Markey is not as naturally attractive because he has taken on a more powerful House role under a Democrat-controlled Congress.

Other possible Republican candidates include Chris Egan, a top Republican fund-raiser who is serving in Paris as ambassador to the Organization for Cooperation and Development; former acting governor Jane Swift, who has been a surrogate for Republican presidential nominee John McCain; and Andrew Card, a Holbrook resident and former White House chief of staff under President Bush.
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Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com. Frank Phillips can be reached at phillips@globe.com.
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ON THE SIXTH AMENDMENT
Requiring forensic scientists to testify at criminal trials would burden Massachusetts' system, AG Martha Coakley said.
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"Coakley: Forensics testimony a burden"
By Jenny Paul, Boston Globe Correspondent, November 11, 2008

WASHINGTON - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley told the Supreme Court yesterday that requiring forensic scientists to testify at criminal trials where their reports are presented as evidence would place an undue burden on the state's already-backlogged drug testing system.

Misdemeanor drug prosecutions in Massachusetts "would grind to a halt," said Coakley, who was arguing before the Supreme Court for the first time.

The case centers on whether a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him applies to the admission of drug analysis certificates as evidence at criminal trials. If it does, the analysts who prepare the reports could be required to provide live testimony in court.

The case involves Luis Melendez-Diaz, who was convicted in 2004 of trafficking cocaine and sentenced to three years in prison. Boston police arrested Melendez-Diaz in 2001 and seized bags filled with powdery substances, later determined to be cocaine by chemists at the state Department of Public Health's drug analysis laboratory. The drug analysis certificates were presented as evidence at Melendez-Diaz's trial, but the analysts who prepared the reports did not testify. He is now appealing the verdict to the Supreme Court.

The justices acknowledged that their decision could have far-reaching effects on the backlog and workload at crime labs nationally.

"This is a very, very substantial burden" if the court rules that states must have analysts testify at trials, Justice Anthony Kennedy said.

Requiring chemists to testify at trials would "dramatically" increase the backlog at Massachusetts' laboratories, said Emily LaGrassa, a spokeswoman in the attorney general's office. The office could not provide a more specific estimate. The Department of Public Health employs 15 chemists to analyze substances and has a 600-case backlog, LaGrassa said.

The justices pointed to California's system, in which drug analysis certificates can be admitted as evidence only if the analyst who prepares the report testifies, or if the defense stipulates that the reports can be admitted without testimony. When asked why Massachusetts couldn't function under a similar system, Coakley said she was not familiar enough with the California system.

Jeffrey Fisher, a Stanford Law School professor arguing for Melendez-Diaz, said requiring analysts to testify would allow defendants to question them about the methods used to test the substance, the accuracy rate of the test, and the credentials of the lab employees who perform the tests, Fisher said.

Coakley argued that the drug analysis certificates are nontestimonial - and therefore not governed by the Sixth Amendment clause in question - because they do not accuse anyone of anything criminal on their own. "It's really a report of a scientific test," she said.

The certificates can incriminate a defendant, Coakley argued in the state's brief, only when a witness, such as a police officer, testifies about facts and circumstances that link the substance tested in the lab to the defendant.

Fisher argued that the reports are testimonial because analysts must interpret the results of the scientific test performed and because the reports are prepared specifically to prosecute cases.

Coakley argued that even if the court deems drug analysis certificates to be testimonial the state provides alternative methods that should satisfy the constitutional requirement. She said Melendez-Diaz had opportunities before the trial began to question the validity of the drug test results.

He could have petitioned the state for money to hire an independent specialist to test the substance or subpoenaed the chemist as part of his defense at trial, she argued.

But Fisher argued that prosecutors, not defendants, must bring witnesses who are against the defense to court. He said the state could also enact a notice-and-demand statute, requiring the defense to make an advance demand that the prosecution call as a witness the analyst who prepared the report.

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A BOSTON GLOBE EDITORIAL
"Warning: hard season ahead"
November 11, 2008

WINTER is on its way, and this year, Massachusetts has to get ready for a perilous mix: freezing temperatures and a skidding economy. Because of the national foreclosure crisis, job losses, and high food and fuel prices, it will be a tight season for many. But it could be devastating for elderly residents, low-wage workers, single mothers, and other vulnerable residents.

This misery could be mitigated if the state can mount a campaign to provide help quickly. It would not only spare families but save taxpayer dollars by addressing problems before they become expensive crises.

The need is substantial. In September, a resource-strapped Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston was unable to serve more than 1,000 families seeking help with food, utility, or housing costs.

State help is available, but not for struggling residents who don't meet eligibility rules. And given this year's unprecedented economic woes, many who have never before needed help may need it now, as Attorney General Martha Coakley warned recently at a Boston Foundation forum. Coakley is the state's consumer advocate in the regulatory process that sets natural gas and electric rates.

City and state governments, community organizations, foundations, and private donors are trying to protect vulnerable residents. Mayor Menino has a food and fuel campaign to help residents and small businesses deal with rising costs. At least 18 of the state's United Ways have set up an emergency assistance fund. The Boston Foundation is directly investing some $500,000 in a range of efforts, including the United Way fund, food pantries, and fuel and utility programs. And Coakley's office has set up an energy blog where agencies and communities can share strategies for warding off the worst winter problems. She hopes good ideas will benefit from the viral nature of the Internet.

It will take outreach to help all these efforts succeed. More should be done to publicize the state's 211 phone number, which offers help finding basic and urgently needed health and human services. New partners from community colleges to fast-food restaurants could help spread the word about the availability of winter assistance. If Massachusetts can weave a stronger safety net for this taxing winter, it would be poised to provide better, faster help all year long.

The coming months will test how well Massachusetts can face the predictable demands of an economically grueling winter. With hard work, the public and private efforts should ensure that all of this state's residents can withstand the cold.

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"Disgraced solons still on Senate payroll"
By Howie Carr, Friday, November 14, 2008, www.bostonherald.com, Columnists

And Jim Marzilli of Arlington, the perv in the Prius, makes two.

I thought Terry Murray, the Senate president, was bent out of shape about this latest crime wave in the hallowed chambers where such ethical titans as Bulger, Owens, Bolling, Rogers, DiCarlo, McKenzie, MacLean, Sheehy, Tully and Kelly, among so many others, once trod.

Some things never change, and one of them is the motto of the state Senate: “If you’re indicted, you’re invited.”

But why have the 38 unindicted solons been told for weeks now that they couldn’t dump Marzilli, because he is, after all, mentally ill and still at McLean Hospital. Now it turns out, while awaiting trial in Lowell on charges of groping four women, he’s actually been globetrotting - to Germany.

Under the terms of his release, Sen. Perv has to stay out of Lowell. But he can fly to Germany for a conference on “green” buildings.

Even by State House standards, this is a disgrace. Marzilli should have been expelled months ago, as soon as he was arrested. Actually, in a same society, the Menotony moonbat would have been kicked to the curb after the earlier groping charges, the ones that D.A. Gerry Leone broomed.

In case you’ve forgotten, Marzilli was lugged as he ran up to women, allegedly asking them obscene questions. He’s charged with attempted indecent assault and battery, lewd and lascivious behavior and resisting arrest.

Marzilli was also hit with a superseding “Finneran” count - obstruction of justice. Obviously, the depraved Democrat has a great future in bad talk radio.

Meantime, not only has Marzilli continued to draw a state paycheck, he’s never even been, ahem, stripped of his chairmanship or the extra $15,000 that comes with it.

Let’s see. Black female senator accused of crime - loses chairmanship. White male senator accused of crime - keeps chairmanship. Double standard, anyone?

The solons have discussed maybe tossing Dianne in three weeks, on Dec. 4. That’s the day when all the departing statesmen make their farewell speeches.

It’s bad enough that Wilkerson and Marzilli are still getting paid. What’s even worse is that the people who turned them in are the ones under attack. Say anything about Marzilli and you’re accused of “stigmatizing” the mentally ill. No, actually we’re stigmatizing a dirty perv, albeit an alleged one.

As for Ron Wilburn, the “cooperating witness” against Wilkerson, he’s taking an unprecedented beating for performing a long-overdue public service. In the other paper this week, he was dismissed as a minor entrepreneur.

Minor? No living person ever gets called minor in a newspaper unless he’s either a member of the Pawtucket Red Sox [team stats] or an underage teenager caught with beer in Plainville.

Meanwhile, Wilkerson and Marzilli are still in the Senate. That’s a scandal, and not a minor one either. It’s major.
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Article URL: www.bostonherald.com/news/columnists/view.bg?articleid=1132274
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"Sen. Wilkerson indicted on corruption charges"
November 18, 2008, 5:06 PM, By Boston Globe Staff

A federal grand jury indicted state Senator Dianne Wilkerson today on eight counts of accepting bribes, exactly three weeks after the FBI arrested the longtime lawmaker in an undercover corruption probe.

The Roxbury Democrat is accused of accepting more than $20,000 to help secure a liquor license and steer legislation to benefit a developer. Under federal law, prosecutors must file an indictment or a charging document called an information within 30 days of a defendant's arrest.

"This remains an active investigation," US Attorney Michael Sullivan said. "We intend to aggressively pursue all leads in this case, more fully digest the evidence we have gathered to date, and bring additional charges as called for by the evidence."

Wilkerson faces eight charges of attempted extortion under color of official right -- essentially, using her office to illegally get payments.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. The indictment also seeks the return of the $23,500 paid to Wilkerson by undercover agents and a cooperating witness as part of the investigation, the US Attorney's office said in a joint statement with the FBI and Boston Police.

The 18-month federal probe of Wilkerson was outlined in detail in a 32-page affidavit filed Oct. 28 by an FBI agent in US District Court. Wilkerson has denied any wrongdoing and resisted pressure to resign despite losing re-election and receiving a formal rebuke from her Senate colleagues.

On Oct. 30, the Senate passed a unanimous resolution asking her to resign immediately, a call that she rejected because she said it was "unreasonable." The measure passed by her colleagues also referred her case to the Senate Ethics Committee, which could be the first step in expelling Wilkerson from the chamber. It was not immediately clear how long that process would take.

Wilkerson's term ends in early January. She lost her bid for re-election to Democrat Sonia Chang-Diaz.

"With this news, I once again urge Dianne Wilkerson to resign from the Senate immediately," Senate President Therese Murray said.

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"Murray to clear air with city clergy"
By Matt Viser, Boston Globe Staff, December 3, 2008

Senate President Therese Murray has invited Boston ministers to her office this morning to discuss political fallout left by the federal indictment and resignation of state Senator Dianne Wilkerson, who was the only black member of the Senate.

"It's a meeting she's called with clergy, I guess to talk about the Second Suffolk District and concerns from constituents and maybe to let folks know that, despite what's happened in recent days, she understands the concerns of the district," said the Rev. Gregory G. Groover, pastor of Charles Street AME Church in Roxbury.

The Roxbury, Dorchester, and Jamaica Plain district Wilkerson represented, which is home to the largest concentration of blacks in the city, now lacks representation in the Senate, and Murray wants to assure community leaders that their constituents will still have access to Beacon Hill. Sonia Chang-Díaz, who easily won the seat last month, will take Wilkerson's place in January.

Murray aides began placing calls last week to individual ministers using an outdated phone list. Several calls were made to pastors who have left the state, an indication that without Wilkerson the links between Boston's black community and the Senate have grown weaker. Several ministers said they did not even know Murray, a Democrat from Plymouth, before she requested their presence at her office.

"Out of respect for those attending this private meeting, the Senate president will reserve comment until after it is completed, except to say that the intention of the meeting is to let the ministers know that the lights are on and the door is open," David Falcone, her spokesman, said in an e-mail.

In another development, US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan has also sought to meet with clergy members, according to a source briefed on the discussions. Sullivan has been criticized by some black leaders because his investigation so far has resulted in the arrest of two influential black politicians, Wilkerson and Boston city councilor Chuck Turner.

It is extraordinary for a prosecutor to try to respond to such criticisms.

The US attorney's office declined comment on the issue. "We don't discuss meetings that happen or don't happen," said Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for the office.

Several clergy members said that they were suspicious of the reasons for the meeting with Murray.

"When people really want guidance, they'll pick up the phone and call me to talk one on one," said the Rev. Bruce H. Wall, senior pastor of Global Ministries Christian Church in Dorchester, who was invited to the meeting but does not plan to attend. "I've been invited to other meetings of this nature . . . and I end up walking in and walking out feeling used. I cannot lend my credibility or my integrity to political circuses. I'm not saying that's what this is going to be, but every other one like this that I've been to has been that way."

But another was positive.

"We feel it's important to meet with the Senate president, to have the voices of our communities and of the district heard," said the Rev. Jeffrey Brown, the political chairman of the Black Ministerial Alliance.

He said the ministers plan to ask Murray to help preserve funding for antiviolence, youth, and community police programs.

Wilkerson resigned two weeks ago from the office she held for nearly 16 years, and last week Murray ordered Wilkerson's office locked.

The former senator's five-member staff has remained on the payroll and is working out of a basement office on district issues until Chang-Díaz assumes office.
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Matt Viser can be reached at maviser@globe.com.
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A Boston Globe Editorial - Short Fuse, December 28, 2008

"Pensions: Marzilli works the system"

In addition to his other problems, former state senator James Marzilli has now become the poster child for a messed-up public pension system. In June, after he was accused of trying to grope one woman and harassing another, the 50-year-old Arlington Democrat stopped performing his duties and dropped his reelection campaign. Now he wants to increase his pension from $14,000 to $27,000, under a law that allows longtime officials under age 55 to claim more retirement money if they fail to win re-election. Whether this perk is even relevant in Marzilli's case is debatable; he resigned his seat in November, after he purported to represent the Massachusetts Senate at an environmental conference in Germany. But why should any officials be eligible for a bigger pension because voters decline to reelect them?

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John Walsh contributed money to former state senator Dianne Wilkerson to help her pay personal debts.
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"More donors to Wilkerson had business with state: CEO, contractors said to write her big checks"
By Donovan Slack and Frank Phillips, Boston Globe Staff, February 8, 2009

Cosmetics executive John Walsh and public works contractor Jay M. Cashman were among the members of Boston's business elite who gave former state senator Dianne Wilkerson contributions to help her pay off personal debts, according to people who have been briefed on the transactions or questioned by federal authorities.

Wilkerson had previously said that any financial help she had received to pay off federal tax debts came from personal friends. But in the case of Walsh, Cashman, and some others previously identified, the donors also had major financial interests in the workings of state government, raising questions about their motives for giving checks as large as $10,000 to the powerful senator.

Walsh, in particular, received key help from Wilkerson when he found himself in a high-profile battle to gain entry into an exclusive Beacon Hill co-op. When residents of the building blocked him from buying an apartment, Wilkerson added her name to Walsh's cause - adding some credence to his allegation that he was the victim of discrimination.

With large Big Dig, MBTA, and other state contracts, Cashman's business has long depended heavily on state money, including bond issues approved by the Legislature.

Also writing a check to Wilkerson was Shelley I. Hoon, a construction executive who won a state contract to renovate a housing development in Wilkerson's district and whose husband, John W. Keith, also is a large contractor who has built state-subsidized housing, said the people, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity.

Walsh, Cashman, and Hoon declined to comment. Representatives of Cashman and Hoon said they did nothing improper.

The Globe has previously reported that another major developer, Arthur Winn, contributed $10,000 to Wilkerson's personal fund-raising drive. Winn spearheaded the planned Columbus Center project that would be built, with state subsidies, over the Massachusetts Turnpike in Boston. Winn has said he contributed to Wilkerson because she was a close friend and that he did not expect anything in return.

Wilkerson, in a Globe interview in January, previously said she and her contributors were acting within the guidelines of Ethics Commission rules that permit personal gifts to politicians. As long as she did not let a contribution influence her vote, she said, she did nothing wrong.

Wilkerson has already been indicted by the grand jury on bribery and conspiracy charges in a corruption case involving a Roxbury liquor license, an indictment that prompted Wilkerson to resign late last year. She has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial as the investigation continues.

The Globe reported last month that Wilkerson, in the interview, described how she had engaged in personal fund-raising to pay more than $70,000 in tax and mortgage debt. She said she accepted individual monetary gifts from a number of unnamed business executives.

In 1997 and 2003, the Ethics Commission issued Wilkerson written rulings saying she could engage in such fund-raising, but warned her against exchanging official actions in return. It also said she would have to disclose the payments if the contributors had financial interests in the workings of the Legislature. Wilkerson has never made any such disclosures.

Winn told the Globe in an interview last week that his decision to donate to Wilkerson in 2004 was based on their friendship and had nothing to do with his quest to develop Columbus Center or other projects. Wilkerson voted in November 2005 to award the controversial Back Bay project $4.3 million in state grant funding; the measure ultimately died before passage.

Wilkerson has denied ever taking any official actions in exchange for the gifts. But she has repeatedly declined to be interviewed about specific contributions, or her relationships with specific supporters.

In the case of Walsh, the chief executive of the Elizabeth Grady chain of skin care salons, the federal grand jury investigating Wilkerson has obtained several checks that he made out to Wilkerson during the same time she sought to help Walsh get into the Beacon Hill co-op, according to a person who was shown the documents.

Walsh, when asked about the contributions, said, "I don't know what you're talking about." He referred further questions to his attorney, William A. Zucker, who did not respond to calls seeking comment.

The Walsh contribution marks yet another tantalizing turn in the case, which smacked of old-school Boston classism pitting old-money bluebloods against a new-moneyed entreprenuer of Irish descent. When Wilkerson jumped into the public uproar over the Beacon Street cooperative to support Walsh, she caught even Walsh's Beacon Hill's supporters by surprise.

She lobbied heavily at the State House, appeared at an April 2007 press conference, and wrote an article supporting Walsh in the Beacon Hill Times. She testified on behalf of a bill that would have allowed co-op boards to disqualify prospective owners only on the basis of personal finances, even urging her colleagues to take immediate action. It passed the Legislature in the summer during so-called "informal sessions," when no roll-calls are taken.

But it was ultimately vetoed by Governor Deval Patrick, who argued that it would prohibit the creation of cooperative housing for such groups as the elderly and artists.

A legislative source said that in mid-December, the US Attorney's office subpoenaed e-mails, personal calendars, and meeting notes kept by the chief sponsors of the legislation requiring the Beacon Hill co-op to accept Walsh - state Representative Barry Finegold and state Senator Susan Tucker, Democrats from Andover. The subpoenas particularly cited Walsh and the 68 Beacon St. cooperative. Neither Finegold nor Tucker would comment on the prosecutors' requests.

The US attorney's office also would not comment.

"This remains an ongoing investigation," office spokeswoman Christina Diorio-Sterling said. "We're not going to comment any further."

Cashman has reaped millions from state construction contracts, including from the massive $532 million Greenbush state commuter rail expansion. A spokesman for Cashman declined to discuss the contribution, saying only that he has "always complied with every legal requirement relating to campaign contributions."

Cashman previously has worked on projects for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, Turnpike Authority, Convention Center Authority, Highway Department, Division of Capital and Asset Management, and Department of Environmental Management.

More recently, in 2007, Cashman lobbied the Legislature to amend state law so he could build a wind farm in Buzzard's Bay. The Legislature did not change the law but in early 2008, it passed a measure appointing a task force to review it. Wilkerson voted in favor of that bill on Jan. 9, 2008, records show.

Hoon, with two partners, received a $58.3 million contract from the state to renovate a housing development in Wilkerson's district in 2001. She gave Wilkerson a check for $10,000 in 2004, the same year as Winn, said a source who was briefed on the details of the transaction.

Hoon's husband, Keith, owns a construction company that built several state-subsidized projects, including an apartment complex in Malden that received approval for $16.4 million in financing from Mass Housing in July 2005. Another project, a housing development in New Bedford, secured roughly $2.9 million in low-income housing tax credits and housing stabilization funds from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development in June 2004.

Hoon's lawyer said the contribution was deemed legal by Hoon's lawyers and given without expectation of anything in return for her or her husband's businesses.

"She never thought about it benefiting anybody's business," the lawyer, Tracy Miner, said.
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Donovan Slack can be reached at dslack@globe.com.
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John A. Brennan Jr.
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"Increasingly light library board duty doubled pension of former senator"
By Sean P. Murphy, Boston Globe Staff, February 11, 2009

John A. Brennan Jr. won plaudits when he resigned after 19 years of service as a member of the Malden Public Library Board of Trustees, a volunteer seat he held despite his busy career as one of Beacon Hill's most influential lobbyists.

But a closer look at the record shows that Brennan, a 63-year-old former state senator who departed the Legislature in 1990, barely attended monthly library board meetings during the last four years, missing 30 out of 36 meetings.

His application for retirement benefits last December may explain why he hung onto the post for so long. An obscure 1998 legislative amendment that originated among Brennan's former Senate colleagues allowed him to fold the years he volunteered on the Malden library board into his pension calculation, doubling his taxpayer-supported pension.

Instead of receiving $19,097 a year in retirement based on 16 years as a full-time legislator in the 1970s and 1980s, he will receive a $41,088 annual pension for the combination of his legislative and library service, according to estimates based on his retirement application.

If Brennan collects his pension for 18 years, as actuarial tables predict he will, his pension receipts will total about $740,000. The cost of almost all of that pension, according to state law, must be split proportionately between the state and Malden, a city often strapped for cash, including a $1.5 million cut in state aid for the current year. Brennan himself has contributed about $70,000 toward his pension, mostly through a payroll deduction during his years in Legislature.

Brennan declined to comment. "I am not inclined to discuss my private matters with you," he said.

He is scheduled to begin drawing his pension at the end of this month, state officials said.

Brennan's case is a prime example of pension practices on Beacon Hill in which obscure amendments and bills that fly through the Legislature with little attention are often worth thousands of dollars for certain retirees.

Lawmakers frequently submit bills to pad the pensions of individual municipal or state workers, and occasionally these measures pass. For example, the Legislature has passed special bills in recent years giving dozens of police officers and firefighters increases in their disability pensions, with no formal medical scrutiny required.

When the amendment that Brennan capitalized upon was passed in 1998, it baffled the few who noticed it, not least because library trustees typically spend only a couple of hours a month helping to set library policy and budgets at board meetings.

"I was a bit perplexed when library trustees were singled out, because there are dozens of other public servants in a municipality who do not get this benefit," said Michael Sacco, a lawyer who represents dozens of municipal retirement boards statewide.

The law's enactment was a surprise even to the group that represents the state's library trustees.

"We only found out about it after it passed," said Robert C. Maier, director of the Board of Library Commissioners, the state agency that advises local libraries. "We didn't propose it, and we didn't work on it in any way."

Maier said he didn't know what possible rationale the Legislature had in mind for including library trustees in the state pension law. Library board members rarely, if ever, get any financial gain from the job, he said.

"All the library trustees I know and have dealt with over the years freely give their time to serve their communities, without expectations of pay or pensions," he said.

In theory, the law made all of the state's 2,500 volunteer library trustees eligible. But the law limits the pension benefit to trustees in municipalities where local officials have voted to adopt it. And only Malden has put it to use. The law is also limited to trustees with public sector service before or after their terms on the library board, which, coincidentally or not, applies to Brennan.

Moreover, Brennan is the only library trustee in the state to have benefited from the law in 10 years, according to a survey of officials in the handful of municipalities that inadvertently adopted the library trustees measure as part of a legislative change in cost-of-living increases for municipal retirees.

After the measure passed, it meant that for every year that Brennan remained on the board after 1998, he would add an estimated $1,220 to his eventual annual pension. It also credited him with an instant boost of $9,775 in his annual pension for the eight years he had served on the board through 1998.

Brennan stunned the Beacon Hill political world in 1990 by announcing he was leaving the Senate. At the time, he was Senate whip, the third-ranking position, and considered a favorite to succeed his mentor, Senate President William M. Bulger.

Brennan now heads The Brennan Group, a lobbying firm that says on its website that it has the "knowledge and know-how to influence important constituencies and generate positive regulatory results." The firm has an enviable list of clients, including Boston University, Boston Properties, Fidelity Investments, Ameriquest Mortgage Co., and the city of Boston, according to the firm's website.

Brennan declined to answer when asked in a brief interview whether he played a behind-the-scenes role in getting the law passed.

But Malden Library Board meeting minutes showed that he raised the idea of pension benefits for trustees in 1998. Later that year, Brennan volunteered at a board meeting to write a letter seeking the support of the Malden City Council, according to meeting minutes, copies of which were obtained by the Globe under the state public records law.

There is no evidence in meeting minutes that the nine-member Malden board ever followed up on Brennan's offer.

The Legislature passed the library trustee provision later that year, but public records provide few clues to who was involved. The 141-word measure was a last-minute amendment to a bill relating to cost-of-living increases for certain pensions. Legislators passed the amendment by voice vote in the final days of the legislative session. It was never publicly discussed.

Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg, Democrat of Amherst, is listed in official documents as bringing the amendment to the floor. But Rosenberg said in an interview that he did not author the amendment and does not know who did. The amendment originated in the Ways and Means Committee, and he merely fulfilled his duties as committee chairman by forwarding it to the full Senate.

"If I had made the amendment, I would remember it, and I have no memory of it," said Rosenberg. It could have come from any member of the committee or from the Senate leadership, he said.

"There is just no way of knowing," he said.

At Malden City Hall, Mayor Richard C. Howard recommended the City Council pass what he described in official documents as "Provisions of Chapter 456 of 1998," with no details on the law's ramifications. The council passed it on May 18, 1999, without discussion, and Howard signed it, records show.

The council's action was unusual because it came without the matter having gone to a committee for study and without Howard's administration having presented an analysis of its potential cost, said Joan Chiasson, the former council president who was absent for that meeting and who recently reviewed city records on the matter.

Howard, in an interview, said that Brennan was a close friend and former law partner. Brennan grew up in Malden and was first elected to the House of Representatives as a law student at Suffolk University.

"I'm sure he probably called me and said, 'Hey, Richard, this thing is coming and would you mind signing in?' " Howard said. "And I signed it."

In his letter stepping down from the library board of trustees in November 2008, Brennan cited "the increasing demands of work and other board memberships."

There might have been another explanation for the timing. By November, Brennan had logged 34 years and 10 months of public service, according to the retirement application. That was precisely the amount of time he needed to get the maximum possible pension under state law.

It signaled the end of Brennan's public service.
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Sean Murphy can be reached at smurphy@globe.com.
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"Attorney General Martha Coakley launches blog, Twitter account"

By Associated Press, Tuesday, March 3, 2009, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics

BOSTON - Attorney General Martha Coakley has joined the blogosphere.

Coakley launched her blog, “At Issue & In Focus,” on Tuesday - in the midst of National Consumer Protection Week - along with a Twitter account.

The attorney general’s office says the blog will cover a variety of topics, including energy and utilities, consumer protection, charitable giving and cyber safety.

The Twitter account will publicize press releases, blog posts, public events and media appearances.

During the week, Coakley’s office says there will be presentations throughout Massachusetts on topics ranging from how to avoid a scam to how to choose health insurance.

-- On the Net:

http://blog.ago.state.ma.us/blog/

http://twitter.com/MassAGO

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Photo by AP
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In this July 9, 2008, file photo, Massachusetts State Senator James Marzilli, left, stands during his arraignment at Lowell Superior Court, in Lowell, Mass., where he pleaded not guilty to lewdness against four women.
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"Abuse-of-power cases upset Mass. pension system"
By Associated Press, March 7, 2009, www.bostonherald.com, Local Politics

BOSTON — James Marzilli abandoned his duties as a state senator and left the Statehouse after he was arrested last June on charges of trying to grope four women in broad daylight while visiting suburban Lowell on official business.

Still, the embarrassment didn’t keep Marzilli from trying to make his resignation effective Jan. 6, which would have allowed him to qualify for an extra year in his state pension because he technically held the post a few days in 2009.

That plan backfired when he was forced from office in November, when colleagues learned he had represented the Senate on a speaking panel in Germany. But he still wasn’t through.

He has asked the state to double his pension, citing a clause in public employee retirement law allowing for enhanced pensions of longtime lawmakers who lose re-election.

Quirks such as those — and an economic crisis that has left the state with a $1.1 billion budget deficit this year and $3.5 billion in anticipated cuts to start its next fiscal year — have prompted the state’s governor and House speaker to vow that Massachusetts will reform its pension system this year.

"People are outraged when anybody cheats," said Barbara Anderson, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Citizens for Limited Taxation. "It’s adding insult to injury when public employees are getting things the average citizen can’t even hope for."

Marzilli isn’t alone.

— Jeffrey Simon, tapped by Gov. Deval Patrick to oversee state spending of federal stimulus money, more than doubled his annual pension for prior state service by seeking credit for five years on a school committee board when he hadn’t paid into the retirement system.

Simon has collected more than $400,000 in enhanced pension payments under the same provision Marzilli is attempting to use, which includes a clause for state employees with more than 20 years’ experience who are fired, resign, or lose re-election. The purpose of the provision is to protect state workers whose jobs are "politically sensitive positions."

— John Brennan, a 16-year senator, worked as a volunteer local library trustee for 19 years and got that time as credit toward doubling his state pension, even as he missed 30 out of 36 meetings during his last four years on the board.

— Retired Senate president and former UMass president William Bulger — brother of the FBI’s most wanted mobster Whitey Bulger — got his yearly $29,000 housing allowance to count as compensation, raising his annual pension from $179,000 to $196,000. Bulger has the highest state pension in Massachusetts.

Bulger’s lawyer, Thomas Kiley, said the court simply decided what was "obvious" — the definition of regular compensation includes contracted-for payments beyond salary.

Marzilli’s lawyer, Terrence Kennedy, also said his client is seeking what he is entitled to by law. The state retirement board has postponed a decision until Marzilli’s criminal case is resolved.

"It’s what he worked for for 24 years, which isn’t much money," Kennedy said. "Don’t blame him because the law is what it is."

Messages left at Simon’s and Brennan’s homes seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Gov. Deval Patrick said this week that pension reform, in the wake of abuses and the state’s fiscal crisis, is essential.

"It’s the outliers — that year and a day stuff, the 23-years-and-out rule at the T — that just makes the public mad as heck," Patrick said, referring to the provision Marzilli hopes to use and a perk in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority pension system that gives all employees a full pension after 23 years of service.

Patrick proposed eliminating the MBTA perk as part of his transportation reform package. He has also said he supports the overall structure of the state’s benefit system, but says rules must be tightened to eliminate abuses and remove benefits for a select few.

Keith Brainard, research director of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, said a typical pension model is that an employee must work a certain number of hours a year to qualify for a pension raise. In most other state systems, Brainard said, Massachusetts’ policies would never work.

Still, Brainard pointed out that Massachusetts isn’t the only state with pension abuses. New Jersey had similar problems with people sitting on state consumer affairs boards — meeting as infrequently as once a month — to pad their pensions, and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating whether political consultants used their connections to guide state pension business to their financial firms.

Rep. Jay Kaufman, a Lexington Democrat who chaired a temporary committee on pension reform, said public outrage over high-profile cases and declines in private pensions may make comprehensive change more viable, even though the average state pension is $23,000 with no Social Security benefits.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he plans to address pension reform alongside ethics reform in the coming weeks.

"We have to regain the public trust, and I think the way we regain that is through addressing those two issues," DeLeo said. "It’s important that we do something, and we do something as quickly as we can."
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Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1156934
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In this Aug. 29, 2003, file photo, then-outgoing University of Massachusetts president William Bulger speaks at a convocation in Amherst, Mass. Bulger got his yearly $29,000 housing allowance to count as compensation, helping provide him with the state's highest pension, even though he has lived in same South Boston house, which was less than 10 miles from his office, for decades. (AP Photo/Nathan Martin, File)
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"Abuse-of-power cases upset Mass. pension system"
By KELSEY ABBRUZZESE, Associated Press (AP), March 7, 2009

BOSTON (AP) — James Marzilli abandoned his duties as a state senator and left the Statehouse after he was arrested last June on charges of trying to grope four women in broad daylight while visiting suburban Lowell on official business.

Still, the embarrassment didn't keep Marzilli from trying to make his resignation effective Jan. 6, which would have allowed him to qualify for an extra year in his state pension because he technically held the post a few days in 2009.

That plan backfired when he was forced from office in November, when colleagues learned he had represented the Senate on a speaking panel in Germany. But he still wasn't through.

He has asked the state to double his pension, citing a clause in public employee retirement law allowing for enhanced pensions of longtime lawmakers who lose re-election.

Quirks such as those — and an economic crisis that has left the state with a $1.1 billion budget deficit this year and $3.5 billion in anticipated cuts to start its next fiscal year — have prompted the state's governor and House speaker to vow that Massachusetts will reform its pension system this year.

"People are outraged when anybody cheats," said Barbara Anderson, executive director of the Massachusetts-based Citizens for Limited Taxation. "It's adding insult to injury when public employees are getting things the average citizen can't even hope for."

Marzilli isn't alone.

_ Jeffrey Simon, tapped by Gov. Deval Patrick to oversee state spending of federal stimulus money, more than doubled his annual pension for prior state service by seeking credit for five years on a school committee board when he hadn't paid into the retirement system.

Simon has collected more than $400,000 in enhanced pension payments under the same provision Marzilli is attempting to use, which includes a clause for state employees with more than 20 years' experience who are fired, resign, or lose re-election. The purpose of the provision is to protect state workers whose jobs are "politically sensitive positions."

_ John Brennan, a 16-year senator, worked as a volunteer local library trustee for 19 years and got that time as credit toward doubling his state pension, even as he missed 30 out of 36 meetings during his last four years on the board.

_ Retired Senate president and former UMass president William Bulger — brother of the FBI's most wanted mobster Whitey Bulger — got his yearly $29,000 housing allowance to count as compensation, raising his annual pension from $179,000 to $196,000. Bulger has the highest state pension in Massachusetts.

Bulger's lawyer, Thomas Kiley, said the court simply decided what was "obvious" — the definition of regular compensation includes contracted-for payments beyond salary.

Marzilli's lawyer, Terrence Kennedy, also said his client is seeking what he is entitled to by law. The state retirement board has postponed a decision until Marzilli's criminal case is resolved.

"It's what he worked for for 24 years, which isn't much money," Kennedy said. "Don't blame him because the law is what it is."

Messages left at Simon's and Brennan's homes seeking comment were not immediately returned.

Gov. Deval Patrick said this week that pension reform, in the wake of abuses and the state's fiscal crisis, is essential.

"It's the outliers — that year and a day stuff, the 23-years-and-out rule at the T — that just makes the public mad as heck," Patrick said, referring to the provision Marzilli hopes to use and a perk in the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority pension system that gives all employees a full pension after 23 years of service.

Patrick proposed eliminating the MBTA perk as part of his transportation reform package. He has also said he supports the overall structure of the state's benefit system, but says rules must be tightened to eliminate abuses and remove benefits for a select few.

Keith Brainard, research director of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, said a typical pension model is that an employee must work a certain number of hours a year to qualify for a pension raise. In most other state systems, Brainard said, Massachusetts' policies would never work.

Still, Brainard pointed out that Massachusetts isn't the only state with pension abuses. New Jersey had similar problems with people sitting on state consumer affairs boards — meeting as infrequently as once a month — to pad their pensions, and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is investigating whether political consultants used their connections to guide state pension business to their financial firms.

Rep. Jay Kaufman, a Lexington Democrat who chaired a temporary committee on pension reform, said public outrage over high-profile cases and declines in private pensions may make comprehensive change more viable, even though the average state pension is $23,000 with no Social Security benefits.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said he plans to address pension reform alongside ethics reform in the coming weeks.

"We have to regain the public trust, and I think the way we regain that is through addressing those two issues," DeLeo said. "It's important that we do something, and we do something as quickly as we can."

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"Coakley says don't abolish appeals board: AG contests insurance commissioner's decision"
By Jeffrey Krasner, Boston Globe Staff, March 13, 2009

Calling an independent appeals board a crucial tool for drivers unfairly blamed by insurers for accidents, Attorney General Martha Coakley yesterday urged Insurance Commissioner Nonnie S. Burnes to preserve the board, scheduled to be phased out in April.

Burnes says insurance companies should review their own decisions regarding accident responsibility. Her plan to scrap the appeals board has previously been criticized by legislators and consumer advocates.

"Given the incentives insurance companies have to uphold their own determinations of fault, it is important for Massachusetts consumers to have a simple, accessible, independent third party of insurer 'at fault' determinations," Coakley wrote in a letter to Burnes.

The attorney general also disputed Burnes's contention that consumers will be protected because they can shop for another insurance company that won't assess the surcharges.

The "real impact that surcharge determinations have on consumers . . . cannot be erased by subsequent shopping for a new insurance carrier," Coakley said. "Removing an independent third-party review of surcharges is an anticonsumer policy that is not required by law and has no corresponding benefit to competition, policyholders, or the public."

Burnes did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The board hears about 50,000 cases a year and overturns 50 percent of insurance company rulings. It costs $50 to file an appeal and can take six months for a case to be heard.

Bills to preserve the board have many sponsors in both the House and Senate. Given the likely passage, Coakley urged the commissioner to put off dismantling the board. To shut it down and then restart it would "create consumer confusion," she wrote. "It would be better to allow the Legislature time to resolve the issue, and in the interim keep the board's role in place."

She also disputed Burnes's contention that she didn't have the power to maintain the appeals board.

"In our view, you have ample regulatory authority to continue to require such review," Coakley wrote.

Last year, a "managed competition" auto insurance system replaced a longstanding arrangement in which the state oversaw insurance rates and the types of policies offered. The new process is designed to spur product innovation and competition among insurers, leading to lower prices and more choices.

But Burnes's plan has caused concern and anger among consumers and some agents, who claim their business will suffer because of the changes.

Last year, early in the transition to managed competition, Burnes and Coakley battled over maintaining consumer protection and oversight of insurance company policies.

Burnes has said she is developing additional regulations that would govern her proposed system of company reviews of accident findings. Such findings can lead to thousands of dollars in higher premiums. Surcharges resulting from an at-fault accident can last for six years.
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Jeffrey Krasner can be reached at krasner@globe.com.
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Dan Harris moderated a debate on the existence of the devil in the third Nightline Face-Off: Does Satan Exist? Participating in the debate were Pastor Mark Driscoll of the Mars Hill Church, Annie Lobert of the ministry Hookers for Jesus, spiritual leader and physician Deepak Chopra and Bishop Carlton Pearson. (ABC News Photo Illustration)
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"Tempers Flare at Debate on the Devil: Does Satan Exist? Sides Square Off During 'Nightline Face-Off'"
By DAN HARRIS, Twitter: @danbharris, and ELY BROWN, ABC News, March 26, 2009—

The concept of Satan provokes strong emotions, and sparks a series of fundamental questions about good and evil, about human nature, and about the nature of God.

The question of whether Satan exists is one of the most contentious theological debates possible, and last week four fascinating, polarizing people from around the country convened in Seattle to tackle that topic in the third "Nightline" Face-Off.

According to one poll, 70 percent of Americans believe Satan is real. Some believe he -- and almost all believers say Satan is a "he" -- is a fallen angel. Others believe Satan is a shapeless, malevolent force; the enemy of God. But there are also many people who believe that Satan is a myth, and a dangerous one, because his name is often invoked to justify unspeakable acts of violence.

The Face-Off was hosted at Mars Hill Church, and the church's pastor, Mark Driscoll, argued that Satan does exist. Driscoll is a hip yet hard-line preacher with a young, often tattooed following to whom he preaches a strict doctrine, in which the devil figures prominently.

"It could get intense," Driscoll said of the debate. "It could get passionate. But as long as it doesn't become personal then I think it's OK."

Driscoll's teammate for the evening was Annie Lobert, who arrived in Seattle from her home in Las Vegas -- otherwise known as Sin City.

"I don't have a theologian background, but I have 16 years of experience of walking with the Devil so I know he's real for sure," she said.

Lobert is a former prostitute who says she used to see the Devil in the eyes of her johns. Her organization, Hookers for Jesus, ministers to sex workers.

"When people don't believe the devil is real, I feel, my opinion is, they are deceived," she said.

Lobert felt she could "definitely" change minds by "talking from the heart, from experience."

On the other side of the debate was Bishop Carlton Pearson, a former fundamentalist preacher who says he used to cast demons out of his followers.

"What's interesting about this thing tonight is that I've been on both sides," he said. "I was a staunch 'believe it my way or go to hell' kind of preacher for the first half of my life. And I never liked it."

After watching a video of the Rwandan genocide, Pearson said he realized all those people would not be going to hell just because they weren't saved. He declared he no longer believed in the devil or hell, and was called a heretic and lost his church.

He said his views are seen in the evangelical community as "treasonous is some ways. It breaks people's hearts."

Arguing alongside bishop was Dr. Deepak Chopra, a physician and best-selling author of dozens of books and videos on health and spirituality.

"My position is that we have a huge problem with what people call evil in the world and they need a good rational explanation and not an irrational mythical explanation," he said.

"I am not going to do anything to offend [the other side]," he said. But I still have to speak my own truth."

'Healthy People Do Not Need Satan'
At the church, volunteers and security guards prepared for a crowd of more than a thousand people.

"Nobody in the Bible talks about hell or Satan more than Jesus," said audience member Mike Garcia. "If Jesus talks about Satan and the reality of hell, then it has to be true."

"I guess if Satan himself shows up, then I will say well, I guess you are right," countered Danielle Wilken. "But otherwise I don't think you can convince me that you can go to hell and there would be Satan."

The debate quickly turned contentious as all four participants presented uncompromising positions.

Driscoll opened by saying that the dichotomy between Satan and God "is the essential belief of Christianity, that Satan is real but so is Jesus, and he works out all things for good and ultimately he will redeem all that has been lost through Satan, sin and death."

Chopra, on the other hand, said that "Healthy people do not have any need for Satan. Healthy people need to confront their own issues, understand themselves and move towards the direction of compassion, creativity, understanding, context, insight, inspiration, revelation and understanding that we are part of an ineffable mystery. &So I would say be done with Satan and confront your own issues."

Lobert began with her personal story: "I am a former escort, prostitute, stripper, what have you...and I lived this lifestyle for 16 years. I saw 10 of my friends die. A night came in my life where I faced death. I OD'd on cocaine because I hated myself and I kept hearing voices to tell me to kill myself," she explained.

And then Lobert said she realized," that [it] wasn't coming from inside of me. There was a diabolical force speaking to me and I truly believe it was the Devil and his demons, and the Devil almost got my life. You know, that night I made myself real to God and I asked him to come into my heart and save me. Save me from him, myself and the bad decisions I had made, and he did."

"I'm from four generations of Demon caster-outers," Pearson countered. "I had tremendous faith in the Devil and his power and his omnipresence & I have reassessed all of that and I think that the best way to get people free is to get them to stop believing so much in this hairy, horny, freaky, scary, omnipresent entity and it will not manifest the way we have believed it to. And that will bring an element of peace."

Belief vs. Experience
"I don't think of him as the man with the horns or the weird gargoyle face or anything like that," Lobert said. "My experience personally I never saw his face. I saw demons and I don't even want to tell you what they look like. I was held down by demons at night, raped by them. I know this might sound crazy to some of you but it really happened and it happens to a lot of the women in the sex industry."

When asked why a loving God would create Satan, Driscoll said it comes back to the concept of free will.

"For there to be virtue, there must be the possibility of vice and that's what distinguishes those of us, people and angels, from other forms of creation, trees, animals and the like," he said. "I think if you don't allow choice, the theologians will say you don't have love."

Chopra found that philiosophy to be "in contradiction to what we know about the physical universe that began about 13.8 billion years ago in something called the Big Bang. I've been hearing all this terminology. How come you're all so convinced that God is a He and Satan is a He?" Chopra asked the panel.

"The point is how come we have these ideas that are so mythical, that are so primitive?" Chopra continued. "Why don't we understand that so-called evil is a part of ourselves? Annie said it so elegantly when she said, 'I was full of guilt... of shame.' That's what she's confronted. Now you want to put that guilt and shame to some mythical identity out there, and yet you did that, but then you took responsibility for your own self. Why don't you give the credit to you, rather than, you know, to some mythical figures out there that came from the outside as forces?"

"I truly believe that the Devil was in my life because God wanted to show me how much He really loved me. And I can't explain it any other way," she replied.

Well, what convinces you that God is a He?" Chopra asked again. "My God is not a sexist God. Thank God."

There are numerous references to Satan and demons in the Bible, but Pearson said that you can believe parts of the Bible while turning away from others.

"The Bible is a several-thousand-year-old document and we have none of the original letters, none of the original manuscripts," he said. "And I do not believe it is the inspired word of God as much as I believe the inspired word of man about God as best as man can perceive."

"All I have to say is belief is a cover-up for insecurity," Chopra said. "If something is real, you don't have to believe in it. You should be able to experience it. And the most fervent believers in the world are the cause of all the problems in the world right now, OK?"

"Unfortunately there are religious institutions that have actually idealized guilt and shame and made it into a virtue," Chopra went on. "They have created institutions around guilt and sin and shame and disgust with our own self. And when we obsess over these things and we collectively create this obsession then we project it out there as this mythical figure that we call Satan."

Audience Questions the Panel
As the debate progressed, Chopra tangled not only with his fellow panelists but also with the crowd. One audience member suggested that one cannot believe in God without believing in Satan.

The "problem, my friend, is as soon as you define God you limit God," Chopra replied. "Any image of God is a limitation because if God is infinite then God is beyond your imagination because you cannot imagine the infinite. For you to define God and give him these simple qualities is to actually limit God. God is beyond good and evil. God is transcendent."

Another audience member pressed Chopra his own experience and interpretation of God.

"God is our highest instinct to understand ourselves," Chopra said. "It's my interpretation. I can only express my experience. I'm not denying you your experience. &mine is more consistent with our understanding of biology and our understanding of evolution and our understanding of the laws of Nature, in my opinion."

When it came time for closing statements, Lobert became emotional.

"God's love, it's not about arguing and the Devil -- and they're both real and you can't have one without the other. In my personal experience I believe this to be true. I can't say this for everyone in this audience or for the entire world, but I know that God's in my heart and I love people and the only way I could see God was to know that the Devil was real and that's my truth that God showed me."

For Driscoll, the experience was fun.

"That was great fun," he said. I loved it."

"My hope would be just that people would reexamine their beliefs. Particularly if they are not Christian. To go back to considering some of the issues of Christianity and Jesus. You are not going to change someone's mind with one debate or one television show. But you can set them on a course of action whereby they study and maybe come to some new conclusions."

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Lee, Massachusetts
"New leader sees update for Chamber of Commerce: Improved Web site key to drawing dollars"
By Trevor Jones, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Thursday, April 9, 2009

LEE — The Lee Chamber of Commerce has hired Danielle Mullen as its new executive director.

Mullen, 35, was most recently the executive director of Berkshire Grown, a nonprofit organization that supports locally owned farms, and also spent seven years working for former state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.

Mullen said her first priority will be to make the chamber more prominent, particularly by reshaping and modernizing their Web site in order to attract more people to the town.

She would also like to get away from Lee being known as a gateway town to the Berkshires, wanting it to be seen instead as a reason visitors come to the Berkshires.

"I'd like to make Lee known as a destination, and not a gateway," she said.

Chamber members said her work on the Berkshire Grown's Web site, her fundraising skills and her marketing savvy made her the best candidate for the job.

"What really attracted us to her was her youth and enthusiasm," said Carolyn Edwards, a member of the executive director search committee.

Mullen was hired on March 17, but won't formally begin the job until May 13, as she is currently on maternity leave after having her second child.

By coming to her interview nine-months pregnant, Mullen showed a lot of dedication to getting the job, according to Edwards.

"She clearly felt that this was the right opportunity for her," said Edwards.

Mullen said the timing wasn't ideal, but the position was what she was looking for, and was worth a shot given the current job market.

"I thought the timing is ether going to be right or not right," said Mullen. "I'm either the candidate or not, (my pregnancy) shouldn't impact it."

Lisa Shields-Ciejek, chamber president, said Mullen is coming in at a difficult time, as the chamber faces declining fundraising and volunteer efforts.

"We need to work with her to make the changes needed in these difficult times, to make it the best chamber it can be, because it's definitely different than it was three years ago," she said.

At the same time, members say the town has several major improvements projects ahead, including the Eagle Mill and the downtown area.

"The town is kind of on the cusp of some really big things, and I think Danielle will be one of those people who will help us bring that forward," said Edwards.
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To reach Trevor Jones: tjones@berkshireeagle.com, or (413) 528-3660.
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www.topix.net/forum/source/berkshire-eagle/T853UA5JC0E1O8QFJ
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As of June 18, 2009...

Welcome to Nuciforo.com

The site is currently under construction.

Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. is an attorney in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and serves as the Register of Deeds of the Berkshire Middle District.

Nuciforo served with distinction in the Massachusetts State Senate, representing the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts from 1997 to 2007. Over the course of that ten-year period, he served as chair of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, the Joint Committee on Banks & Banking, and as a member of the budget-writing Senate Ways & Means Committee.

As a member of the Massachusetts Legislature, Senator Nuciforo was honored to be chosen legislator of the Year by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, the Massachusetts Association of Jewish Federations, and the Environmental League of Massachusetts.

Other groups such as the Massachusetts Equal Justice Coalition, the Massachusetts Library Association, the Affordable Care Today Coalition, the YMCA of Western Massachusetts, the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, the Western Massachusetts Camp Directors Association, the Berkshire Central Labor Council and the Massachusetts Alliance Education Collaborative have recognized and honored him for his leadership and accomplishments in the legislature.

While chair of Financial Services, Nuciforo gained a comprehensive understanding of some of Massachusetts’s most heavily-regulated industries, including mortgage lending, state-chartered savings banks and auto insurance. As a member of the Senate Way & Means committee for seven years, Nuciforo has worked on dozens of appropriation and bond measures, including those relating to transportation, school buildings, and the Commonwealth’s annual operating budgets.

Nuciforo has considerable international experience, having worked or traveled in twenty countries, including China, Russia, Taiwan, Japan, Cuba, Switzerland, and various nations throughout Europe.

Nuciforo graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst (1986), and from the Boston University School of Law (1989). He served as a law clerk to Chief Judge Frank H. Freedman of the United State District Court, District of Massachusetts, from 1989 to 1992.

He is a member of the board of trustees of the Colonial Theatre Inc. in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and is active in numerous non-profit organizations.

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UMASS - Extended Family
IN NURSES HALL with '80s era-alumni from left, state representatives JOHN STEFANNI '86, D-Framingham and NANCY FLAVIN '87, D-Easthampton, joined by senators ANDREA F. NUCIFORO JR. '86, D-Pittsfield, and MARC R. PACHECO '73S, D-Taunton. (Here in spirit, though other obligations called, are representatives CHRISTOPHER J. HODGKINS '80, D-Lee, JIM MARZILLI, JR D-Arlington, and JOSEPH F. WAGNER '88, D-CHICOPEE.)
Source: www.umass.edu/umassmag/archives/1999/spring_99/sp99_extfam.html
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As of 7/24/2009

Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.
Lawyer - Greater Boston Area & Pittsfield Area
. Current Register of Deeds at Commonwealth of Massachusetts
. Current Lawyer at Cianflone Law Offices P.C. - www.cianflonelaw.com
- www.cianflonelaw.com/page.php?PageID=2024&PageName=Andrea+Nuciforo
. Past State Senator at Commonwealth of Massachusetts
. Past Lawyer at Berman & Dowell
Education
. Boston University School of Law
. University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Industry
. Government Administration
Websites
. www.parksquarecg.com
. www.parksquarecg.com/contact.html
. nuciforo.com
. www.berkshiremiddledeeds.com

Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.’s Summary
Member, Massachusetts State Senate (1997-2007). Represented the Berkshire, Hamphire & Franklin district; Chair, Joint Committee on Financial Services; Member, Senate Ways & Means Committee.

Register of Deeds, Berkshire Middle District, Massachusetts (2007-present). Elected to serve as the keeper of real estate records for the central Berkshire region.

Practicing Attorney (1992-present). Member, Massachusett bar (1989), New York bar (1991-present), and bar of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts (1992).

Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.’s Experience
Register of Deeds - Commonwealth of Massachusetts
(Government Agency; 10,001 or more employees; Government Administration industry)
January 2007 — Present (2 years 7 months)
. "Elected" to a six-year term in November 2006. Serves as the keeper of all real estate documents for the central region of Berkshire County.

Lawyer - Cianflone Law Offices P.C.
(Law Practice industry)
January 1997 — Present (12 years 7 months)
. "Of Counsel" to a Pittsfield Massachusetts-based law firm.

Berkshire State Senator - Commonwealth of Massachusetts
(Government Agency; 1-10 employees; Government Administration industry)
January 1997 — January 2007 (10 years 1 month)
. Member, Massachusetts State Senate, representing the Berkshire, Hampshire & Franklin District. Chair, Joint Committee on Financial Services; 1998-2007. Member, Senate Ways & Means Committee; 1998-2005.

Lawyer - Berman & Dowell
(Law Practice industry)
January 1999 — September 2006 (7 years 9 months)
. Served "Of Counsel" to a Boston-based litigation practice

Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.’s Education
Boston University School of Law
Juris Doctor, Law, 1986 — 1989

University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Bachelor of Arts, English, Political Science, 1982 — 1986

Additional Information
Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.’s Interests:
Substantial international experience, including work and/or travel in England (1989, 2000, 2003), France (1989), Belgium (1989, 2000), Holland (1989, 2000), Australia (1992), Cuba (2001), Japan (2002), Germany (2003), Italy (2003), Taiwan (2003), Switzerland (2004), People's Republic of China (2005), Ireland (2006) Russia (2006, 2007), and throughout the United States.

Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.’s Groups:
. Colonial Theatre, Inc., 111 South Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201 (Member; Board of Trustees)
. UNICO National (Member; Pittsfield Chapter)
. Boston University Law School Executive Committee (Member)
. University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst Alumni
. Federal Law Clerk Alumni Group
. American Swiss Young Leaders Alumni
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Source: www.linkedin.com/pub/andrea-f-nuciforo-jr/6/1b/982
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"AG urges changes in auto insurance: Report faults way firms set rates under new system"
By Robert Weisman, Boston Globe Staff, December 24, 2009

The state attorney general’s office yesterday issued a report contending that the managed competition auto insurance system introduced in 2007 so far has failed to bring down rates and protect the interests of consumers.

While the new system has attracted more insurance companies to the market, the report said, some have begun rating customers on factors linked to socio-economic status rather than driving records, with drivers who are young, senior citizens, lower-income, urban, or who don’t own a home often paying more.

It also faults the state Division of Insurance for not providing comparison data that would make it easier for drivers to shop around and save money on policies.

In a statement yesterday, Attorney General Martha Coakley said her office “is concerned that consumers may not, in fact, be getting the best rates and the protections they deserve.’’ She proposed several improvements, such as requiring insurers to justify the use of discount rating factors not related to driving records and creating an insurance website that provides side-by-side rate quotes for all carriers.

Coakley was not available yesterday to discuss the 58-page report or the recommendations, her spokeswoman said.

Barbara Anthony, undersecretary of the state Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, which oversees the Division of Insurance, sharply criticized the report, maintaining that statistics show auto insurance rates have dropped for the average Massachusetts driver. “We respectfully disagree with the findings and the assumptions in the report,’’ Anthony said.

The head of a trade group representing new and longtime carriers that write auto insurance policies in Massachusetts suggested the report, coming a month before the special election to fill the Senate seat of the late Edward M. Kennedy, may be an effort to boost Coakley’s campaign. “The timing of this certainly increases my curiosity,’’ said James T. Harrington, executive director of the Massachusetts Insurance Federation in Boston, which represents insurers such as Liberty Mutual Group, Geico, and Progressive Insurance.

Until 2007, Massachusetts insurance rates long had been set by state regulators, with policyholders charged based on driving records and where they registered their vehicles. Insurers were required to write policies for almost everyone, causing some companies to avoid doing business in Massachusetts, and there was little variation in prices from one insurer to the next. The new system allows insurers to set their own rates, use different criteria to formulate them, and reject more applicants.

The results have been at best, mixed for consumers, according to the report released by Coakley’s office.

“While prices have dropped overall,’’ it said, “consumers are currently paying more than they would have had the market not been deregulated. A variety of new insurance carriers have entered the market, but most of the new entrants have not offered lower rates overall. Moreover, the new insurers have not caused incumbent carriers to lower statewide prices.’’ Instead, it said, many insurance companies began boosting their auto rates in the state this year.

Frank Mancini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents, a Milford-based trade group representing independent agents who write policies for various insurers, agreed that the results of deregulation have been mixed.

The insurance division’s website has been inadequate for consumers, he said, but many consumers have gotten lower rates through agents, who write about 80 percent of state auto policies.

“The jury’s still out,’’ Mancini said. “Rates are probably going to go up because the business is cyclical, and that would have happened under the system we had.’’

Anthony, who oversees the insurance division, said “it’s not the job’’ of the division to provide comparison shopping. She noted that its website contains links to agents and insurers doing business in Massachusetts. She also cited a study of managed competition that concluded auto rates fell by an average of 8.2 percent for the year ending last April, a savings of $271 million for policyholders.

“Some people probably got rate increases,’’ Anthony acknowledged. “They may have been bad drivers, I don’t know. But a lot of people had decreases. . . . Thirty companies are competing for business in Massachusetts. Unless there’s some mega-conspiracy going on, I find it hard to believe’’ that greater competition has increased rates.

Anthony also said it was impossible to know whether rates would have dropped more if they still were set by the state.

Harrington, at the Massachusetts Insurance Federation, suggested Coakley was an opponent of managed competition who instead favored dual regulation, with her office having a voice in setting insurance rates along with the division of insurance. Some members of his trade group echoed that view in separate statements yesterday.

“The flawed report issued today by Attorney General Martha Coakley ignores the real and demonstrable benefits of managed competition to Massachusetts drivers and to the Massachusetts economy,’’ said Edmund F. Kelly, chief executive of Liberty Mutual Group in Boston.

“Liberty Mutual’s experience is that people do not want the government making decisions for them. They want to choose for themselves the company they do business with - based on the quality of the product, service, and price.’’
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Robert Weisman can be reached at weisman@globe.com.
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www.boston.com/business/personalfinance/articles/2009/12/24/ag_report_claiming_faults_in_new_auto_insurance_system/?comments=all
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PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts
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Berkshire Hematology Oncology -- the county’s largest private medical practice -- is refusing to go along with ‘brown bagging,’ a drug practice that requires cancer patients to purchase some of their medications on their own. (Darren Vanden Berge / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
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"Drug policy criticized"
By Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle Staff, January 4, 2009

Imagine you're undergoing chemotherapy as part of your cancer treatment. But when you arrive at your local oncologist's office, you're told that the practice can no longer directly provide you with some of the medications you need.

Rather, you must contact your health insurance provider to learn how to get the drugs. Once the medications are obtained, you bring them to your cancer doctor, who then prepares them for your treatment.

This process, in which the patient -- not the doctor -- is responsible for purchasing the medications directly from predetermined venues, is known in the health care field as "brown bagging." And local cancer specialists say it's a lousy, potentially dangerous way to treat ill patients, which is why Berkshire Hematology Oncology -- the county's largest private medical practice -- is refusing to go along with the plan.

"It's a slang term because, basically, patients come in with a brown bag with their drugs in it," said Fred Harrison, the practice administrator at BHO, the third-largest community oncology group in Massachusetts.

As of Jan. 1, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts now requires customers to purchase some cancer-related medications directly from predetermined retail or specialty pharmacies, because the company will no longer cover the costs of physicians who procure these medications on behalf of their patients.

Strong opposition

The unilateral move -- doctors claim Blue Cross has declined to discuss its decision -- has sparked outrage among oncologists whose patients are insured by Blue Cross, which serves about 70 percent of non-Medicare patients in Massachusetts.

The Massachusetts Hospital Association and the Massachusetts Society of Clinical Oncology are also opposed to the move, which is only expected to affect Blue Cross customers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island -- both high-density Blue Cross states.

Harrison said he learned of the proposed changes in late August, but multiple attempts to discuss the matter with Blue Cross since then have been unsuccessful.

"They ignored our first two letters," he said.

A third letter was sent via FedEx to Cleve Killingsworth Jr., the chairman, president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross in Massachusetts, who should have received it the day before the changes took effect, according to Harrison.

"The two biggest issues here are safety and reliability. It's a two-prong thing," said Harrison, adding that both prongs are compromised by the new policy.

BHO has long purchased cancer medications directly from the same, reliable drug wholesaler, which "buys directly from a manufacturer," Harrison said.

A list of some 60 drugs -- including a half-dozen common cancer medications -- are no longer directly available from physician practices, but instead must be procured through specific retail or specialty pharmacies, according to the new Blue Cross policy.

"We were confident with our chain of custody in obtaining the drug," Harrison said. "We have no confidence in Blue Cross Blue Shield's chain of custody."

Doctors upset

The scheduled changes have backed BHO doctors into a corner. And when you back oncologists into a corner, they tend to get angry.

"I am furious," said Dr. Harvey Zimbler, a BHO partner.

Zimbler and his physician colleagues Michael DeLeo, Paul Rosenthal and Spyros Triantos recently issued a letter warning patients about the changes, which are causing consternation for many commonwealth oncologists.

"We strongly disagree with this new policy; we believe it is a short-sighted measure designed to cut costs at the potential expense of patient safety and convenience," the local doctors stated in their Dec. 16 letter to patients. "And because we cannot assume responsibility for medications over whose quality and storage conditions we have no control, we can no longer administer those drugs to our patients."

Blue Cross "has elected to implement its new policy regardless of strong opposition from physicians and patients," according to the BHO doctors.

"There wasn't a dialogue about this," said Zimbler, calling the new policy "unconscionable."

"It's pretty much beyond belief," said the doctor, who received his cancer training at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., and his hematology training at the National Institutes of Health, also in Bethesda.

"You can't do this to doctors who care about patients," said Zimbler, "and you can't do this to patients."

A Blue Cross spokesman couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Harrison noted that insurance companies are obviously hoping to "save some money" in this poor economy. But BHO is unwilling to handle sensitive cancer medications -- many of which require mixing and special preparation -- that come from outside sources because they can't trust the conditions under which the drugs were stored.

"Doctors won't know where this stuff is coming from," Harrison said. "We don't know if it was in patients' cars all afternoon while they were shopping. We don't know how this was handled, or where it was stored."

A fundamental change

Traditionally, outpatient chemotherapy has been administered in physician offices or hospital outpatient departments using drugs prepared by a doctor's staff or a hospital pharmacy, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which encourages in-house dispensation of cancer drugs to reduce the possibility of medication errors and other mishaps.

The term "brown bagging" was coined to describe a variety of scenarios, including situations in which insurance companies require customers to pick up their medications themselves, then bring the drugs to their oncologist's office in a "brown bag" for infusion. Other common scenarios include insurance companies switching to cheaper wholesale suppliers of oncology drugs, or requiring drug suppliers to ship medications to pharmacies near the insurance company's customers.

"No insurance company will sign a waiver saying, ‘OK, we'll take the onus on this,'" said Harrison, which is why BHO is resisting the move.

If Blue Cross fails to reconsider the policy switch, Harrison said, "we may have to reconsider our provider relationship with Blue Cross. They're basically backing us into a corner."

For Zimbler, it all comes down to quality control and patient safety.

"We have superb facilities and I think we do a high-quality job, and we're not going to let Blue Cross dictate the quality of care that we provide to our patients," Zimbler said.
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"Blue Cross, Berkshire Hematology Oncology spar"
By Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Friday, January 8, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- The war of words between a local cancer practice and a major health insurance company is heating up, with each accusing the other of putting financial concerns above all else.

Berkshire Hematology Oncology (BHO) officials claim drug coverage changes by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts will lead to diminished patient safety, while Blue Cross officials claim BHO doctors are using the safety issue as a "smokescreen" to cloak what really angers them -- diminished profits.

"This is not an issue of quality or safety. This is really about the money," said Dr. John Fallon, chief physician executive with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

Fallon levied that allegation after BHO, the Berkshires' largest private medical practice, lambasted Blue Cross for a Jan. 1 policy change requiring patients to purchase some cancer-related medications from specific retail or specialty pharmacies -- with Blue Cross determining the venues.

Because Blue Cross will no longer cover costs for doctors who procure those medications on behalf of their patients, cancer patients are now at risk, according to BHO officials.

Blue Cross executives readily acknowledge that saving money is the goal, adding that the insurance company can't afford to continue letting doctors overbill them for cancer medications they obtain for patients.

"These are absolutely unnecessary costs," Fallon said, pointing out that doctors make a "significant profit" when they bill insurance companies for medications.

Statewide, he said, hundreds of millions of dollars in marked-up drug costs are passed along to insurance companies, which can no longer absorb the hit.

Explanation questioned

Fred Harrison, BHO's practice administrator, took umbrage with Fallon's assessment.

"They provide us with a fee schedule," Harrison said. "We just sign the agreement."

BHO's objections aren't financially driven, Harrison said. The Blue Cross changes only amount to a 4 percent reduction in the insurance company's total revenue payment to BHO, according to Harrison.

"Now, is that enough to go to war over?" he mused. "Absolutely not."

"We can take lower payments. What we can't take is them making us compromise safety and also putting us in liability," Harrison said.

BHO doctors can no longer directly purchase about eight cancer-related medications for patients because those drugs -- and about 50 other non-cancer-related medications -- must now be procured through predetermined specialty pharmacies approved by Blue Cross.

Cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, often require the mixing of various medications. And BHO doctors say they don't trust the "chain of custody" of drugs purchased from other sources, which are then brought to them to give to patients.

Blue Cross officials claim that all of the drugs in question can be safely self-administered and can be sent directly to a patient's home, office or doctor. Fallon said Blue Cross will even dispatch nurses to patients' homes if patients are unable to dispense the drugs themselves.

None of the cancer drugs included on the list require any special preparation or mixing, according to Fallon, a claim which BHO disputes.

"We carefully looked at these drugs," said Fallon, noting that Blue Cross consulted with oncologists prior to compiling the list.

"Drugs not on that list will never be on the list," he said.

BHO officials don't believe the insurance company.

"My response to that would be, ‘Put it in writing,'" Harrison said. "And also, ‘Sign a waiver of liability that says any drug procured from your sources they will sign a waiver of liability.'"

Harrison said the apparent willingness by Blue Cross to send nurses to patients' homes is news to him.

"This is the first I've heard of it," he said Wednesday, after a reporter informed him of that option.

Part of the problem, Harrison said, is that Blue Cross hasn't communicated with BHO since the medical practice first raised concerns about the changes. Blue Cross has yet to respond to any of BHO's three letters, according to Harrison.

Blue Cross spokeswoman Tara Murray said the insurance company sent a Sept. 11 letter to Dr. Harvey Zimbler, a BHO partner who has been critical of Blue Cross, addressing some of the issues raised by the practice, whose offices are located in Pittsfield, Great Barrington and North Adams.

"I just wish they would establish a dialogue with us directly," Harrison said. "Why has there been no response until this ended up in the paper?"

On that note, he said, he would appreciate a phone call from Blue Cross.

BHOstands its ground

In the meantime, BHO physicians are "adamant" about not administering medications whose origins and storage methods are unknown.

"We have the ultimate responsibility for the patient, not the insurance company," Harrison said. "Again, it's not the financial hit. It's compromising safety and increasing liability."

Harrison said some of the cancer drugs on the list, including Fasodex and Nplate, do require mixing and come with strict handling guidelines. Aranesp, another cancer drug on the list, must never be frozen or shaken, he added.

Some of the oncology community's strongest objections have centered around a practice known as "brown bagging" -- when patients obtain drugs from one place, then bring them to their doctors for dispensation.

"It's only an option a practice would have if it wanted to do that," Murray said, emphasizing that Blue Cross doesn't explicitly endorse brown bagging.

Harrison said BHO doctors could embrace the idea of Berkshire Medical Center administering cancer drugs to BHO patients. "At least we would know that [the drugs] were handled correctly," he said.

The Massachusetts Society of Clinical Oncolgy (MASCO), the Massachusetts Hospital Association, and numerous other Massachusetts oncologists have also expressed concerns to Blue Cross, which has met with MASCO multiple times, according to Jay McQuade, another Blue Cross spokesman.

But BHO doctors are still waiting for a seat at that table.
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"Registry launches e-file site"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff, September 27, 2010

PITTSFIELD -- The Middle Berkshire Registry of Deeds has instituted an electronic recording system that will allow deeds and mortgages to be filed via the Internet.

Document filers won't have to visit the registry to record an item, and registry employees can reduce the amount of time they spend on recording deeds, said Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.

"We've had a number of requests from bankers and lawyers who want to record electronically," Nuciforo said.

The new system was installed three weeks ago.

"These systems have been tried in bigger [state] registries that have bigger budgets, bigger staff and more complex systems," Nuciforo said. "But I thought it was important to rely more on technology and less on human functions given the budget realities that we face here."

Prior to 2008, the filers of documents needed to visit the registry so that their deeds could be inspected by a clerk before they were placed in the computer/index system. Under that process, the documents had to remain at the registry for references purposes, before being sent back by mail.

Last year, the Middle Berkshire Registry began scanning documents to put them directly into the computer system, but they still had to be brought to the registry by hand.

"E-recording is the next step in that," Nuciforo said. "You don't even have to come here and give us the document. You can electronically record them, and let us observe them before they're recorded. It reduces the number of hours that our staff needs to put the record in place."

Although the system is new, Nuciforo said the recording fees and excise taxes for filing documents will remain the same.

"That's fixed by statute," he said.

Nuciforo and representatives of Simplifile, a Utah-based company that installed the electronic recording system, will hold a demonstration of the new process at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 at the Middle Berkshire Registry, which is located at 44 Bank Row. Simplifile will set up the new payment system.

"We'll walk people through the screens so they see how to do it," Nuciforo said.

Pamela Green, a real-estate attorney for the law firm of DeRosa & Dohoney, which has offices in Pittsfield and North Adams, said electronic recording saves her time because she has clients across the county.

"Even if I'm at my North Street office, it's more time effective," Green said. "Instead of standing at the Middle Berkshire Registry of Deeds, I can have a closing scheduled at 1 o'clock, send the documents at 1:30 and go on to my next client. It's going to make me more productive, and cause me to use less paper."

However, Green said she hopes that the new system contains safeguards to protect filers in case of problems transmitting documents.

"The only reservation I would have is if checks and balances will be in place in case I inadvertently scan a document, and some page in transit isn't fully readable," she said. "Attorneys will have to work with the registry to make sure the same quality product comes through."

The Southern Berkshire Registry of Deeds in Great Barrington is hoping to install a similar electronic recording system by the end of the year, according to Register of Deeds Wanda M. Beckwith. But the Northern Berkshire Registry in Adams has no such plans.

"Not at this point," said Register of Deeds Francis T. Brooks. "A lot of attorneys have said to me that they prefer to come down here and put it on record in person instead of paying a company to do that transaction for them."
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To reach Tony Dobrowolski: TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com or (413) 496-6224.
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"Nuciforo is interested in himself"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letter to the Editor, December 7, 2011

Reading Alan Chartock's column ("Nuciforo and Neal compare political notes," Dec. 3) I would like to say that Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. had a great opportunity to secure "liberal/progressive" support when he was state senator, by supporting his constituents in their effort to establish "clean elections" in our Commonwealth. He was for them before he was against them.

Nuciforo and I first met -- circa 1983-85 -- at the Senior Center in Great Barrington, where a young man named Jason Cohen gave a fiery talk on the benefit of clean elections -- what they mean, how they work, and why keeping money out of politics is a good thing.

By chance, Andrea and I talked at some length after the talk, and I was most impressed with his modesty, intelligence, open manner and mostly his enthusiastic support for clean elections. He wasn't running for office at that time, and there was certainly none of the familiar arrogance in him back then. When I learned in 1996 that he planned a run for state senator the following year, I supported him wholeheartedly. And gave what I could financially. When he won the primary against three other contenders and then the election, I was delighted.

Then came the clean elections issue. What a change in the man. Much confidence, much arrogance. He did, however, hold two well-attended meetings with our group -- at which we learned there had been a change of heart.

He no longer believed clean elections were a good thing. He now didn't believe in the use of taxpayer money to support elections. At one time, he knew how much time and how much taxpayer money would actually be saved if clean elections had come to pass. Once you're in office, you lose your memory, and clean elections, its luster. It's not as lucrative as what else is out there, which is, of course, its main point. How glad we voters would be, once the idea was publicized and understood, to contribute a bit (rather than more we can afford to individual campaigns) so that our legislators could legislate instead of being forced to besiege us with campaigns that go on forever, begging phone calls, horrid ads, pancake breakfasts and, what's worst, the danger of becoming beholden to "what else is out there." Andrea Nuciforo understood all that at one time.

After leaving the job in 2007, some years later he got the lucrative job of Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds to await, with some impatience I may add, John Olver's retirement from the U.S. Congress -- an event, to our misfortune, which has finally occurred.

Andrea has been the liberal on much, but I'm afraid after all is said and done, his main interest lies in the welfare of Andrea Nuciforo.

JOYCE SCHEFFEY
Great Barrington, Massachusetts

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"Democratic Congressional hopeful Andrea Nuciforo Jr. takes lessons from Martha Coakley's failed campaign against Scott Brown"
By Robert Rizzuto, The Republican, December 9, 2011

SPRINGFIELD - If a state politician working to make his name in the United States Congress doesn't learn from the failures of those who came before him, his campaign will be in trouble.

Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., a Democrat from Pittsfield, knows this cliche to be true. And he is taking notes from history as he crafts his campaign against Democratic Congressman Richard Neal.

Nuciforo served in the State Senate from 1997 to 2007. He said that he had accomplished many of his goals when he decided to step out of public service four years ago, but has since decided to take things to the next level.

In regards to Democrat Martha Coakley's failed attempt to defeat Republican Scott Brown in the 2010 special election fill the vacancy left by Edward Kennedy's death, Nuciforo said that Coakley was more influential in the outcome than Brown was.

"I know Scott Brown. I sat in the Senate chamber with him for ten years," Nuciforo said. "If you had to rank from 1-to-40 those that are most likely to least likely to get elected to the U.S. Senate, Scott Brown would have been number 40. And when he pulled it off, I don't think that said a lot about Scott, who is a great guy. It said a lot about Martha. Watching Martha was like watching a slow-motion train wreck. You could see every mistake she made along the way."

Nuciforo said that he plans on paying much more attention to voters across his district in contrast to Coakley, who was mostly absent in the western half of the state during her Senate bid.

He also said that even though he will likely be outspent by Neal, money doesn't change everything.

"(Coakley) had a boat-load of money too. She was really ringing the bell in Boston with the insurance and legal companies," Nuciforo said. "She was very aggressive about it and did well. But in the end, it wasn't enough."

Nuciforo believes that Brown will have a more difficult road to get back to the nation's capitol than when he was first elected in 2010.

"I think Elizabeth Warren is terrific. Scott is not going to face a challenger like (Coakley) this time," he said. "He is going to face someone who I think is a much more capable candidate and I think that is the difference."

The Pittsfield Democrat said he will run his campaign against Neal online and throughout the recently-recreated district.

"I guarantee you won't see me wasting time between now and September. You will see us work," he said. "This is going to be simply the best online and social media campaign that anybody has seen in Western Massachusetts."

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January 18, 2012

Re: Andrea Nuciforo is a political hack!

Nuciforo made it his first priority to abolish Berkshire County government. He and state Senator Stan Rosenberg led the effort to abolish county governments in central and western Massachusetts. My dad was a Berkshire County Commissioner from 1997 through mid-2000. He served with "Smitty" PIGnatelli, Ron Kitterman, and then Tom Stokes. Nuciforo and Rosenberg proposed to replace county governments with "CoGs" or voluntary "Council of Governments". Their argument was to make reinvent county government from and involuntary layer of government to a voluntary business model to provide regional services. Their proposal was to ask cities and towns to voluntary collect taxes for a "CoG" to receive regional services in return. It would have never worked, and it was voted down in the year 2000 in Berkshire County. When Berkshire County government was abolished, Nuciforo and Stan Rosenberg left a lake in Pittsfield and Lanesborough named Pontoosuc Lake in an accounting agency for about 2 years where the lake became neglected and weed infested. After several years of neglect, the lake was transferred to the state Department of Environmental Management, which is now the Department of Conservation and Recreation. The Berkshire Regional Retirement System was not taken over by the state government. That means that Nuciforo and Stan Rosenberg left the town governments with the retirement system's liabilities, which means that the towns still have to pay for county government without county government because the towns have to pay the retirement system's liabilities. The state goverment doesn't have to pay anything towards county government, while the towns are liable for a layer of government that no longer exists since July 1, 2000. That means that Nuciforo and Stan Rosenberg abolished Berkshire County government without ending property tax liability for Berkshire County government. That means that local property taxpayers (in the towns that are vested in the county retirement system) are still paying for Berkshire County government even though it was disbanded over a decade ago. My dad fought against Nuciforo and Stan Rosenberg in order to fight for the towns that still pay for county government without any elected representatives because their is no county government anymore. The towns are paying county property taxes without representation, which is why our Founding Fathers waged the American Revolution. When my dad fought for the Berkshire County and its towns, Nuciforo lodged multiple "ethics" complaints against him to try to get my dad fired from his then state government job and force his resignation from the Berkshire County Commission he was elected to by the people or voters of Berkshire County. When Nuciforo failed to fire my dad, he made secretive plans with the Pittsfield Police Department to have me arrested in the Spring and Summer of 1998 by falsely telling the Pittsfield Police Department that I was threatening him. The police told my dad what Nuciforo did and they stopped Nuciforo from getting me arrested and jailed. Stan Rosenberg also targetted me by using his 2 legislative interns to harass me for supporting Berkshire County government and my dad's advocacy for the county and local taxpayers. Nuciforo has also layered his conspiratorial bullying of me through a myriad of people connected to his political network. Because I oppose Nuciforo, he has used people to spread false, mean-spirited rumors against me to the people of the Pittsfield area. Nuciforo is powerful in Pittsfield, and he abuses his power to further himself and silence dissent. But, Nuciforo will never silence me. I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live. I will always speak the truth, and stand up to hack career politicians like Nuciforo and Stan Rosenberg. I oppose Andrea Nuciforo's candidacy for U.S. Congress against incumbent Congressman Richard Neal. I've experienced and seen too much of Nuciforo's corruption.

- Jonathan Melle

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August 26, 2013

Re: Nuciforo applied for pot permit

Is Andrea Nuciforo Jr. using his political connections to receive one of the 35 medical marijuana dispensary permits in Massachusetts? (There are 181 applicants). Nuciforo is one of five applicants in Hampshire County and hopes to open Kind Medical Inc. Nuciforo is quoted in the Boston Herald (8/24/2013): “We think that a dispensary should be patient-centered, it should be safe, secure and allow fair access to patients that need it,” Nuciforo said. “We think we can accomplish that for Western Mass.”

- Jonathan Melle

Notes: Former state senator Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. of Pittsfield, who ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Rep. Richard Neal in the last congressional race, is among a group seeking to open a dispensary in Hampshire County under Kind Medical Inc., according to state filings. Dr. Joseph P. Keenan of Westfield is listed as the group’s president.

Source: "Five groups seek medical marijuana dispensary licenses in Hampshire County" By By DAN CROWLEY, Staff Writer, Daily Hampshire Gazette, August 24, 2013.

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Andrea "Luciforo" is "delighted" that the state gave him preliminary approval of his application to sell pot to college kids in Amherst, Massachusetts. The following was published in the Springfield Republican newspaper:

The state also gave the OK to the Hampshire application of Kind Medical Inc., which includes former Pittsfield state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo as clerk and Dr. Joseph P. Keenan of Westfield as president.

Nuciforo said he was confident moving forward. He said he was delighted with state approval of the first phase for his nonprofit organization.

"We continue to work in Hampshire county," he said on Monday. "We haven't located a specific property."

Source: "22 medical marijuana applicants weeded out by Massachusetts Department of Public Health" By Dan Ring, The Springfield Republican, September 23, 2013.

Web-Link: http://www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2013/09/medical_marijuana_applicants_w.html

Related Web-Link: http://www.gazettenet.com/news/8645097-95/groups-who-want-to-open-marijuana-dispensaries-in-hampshire-county-clear-first-hurdle

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Andrea Nuciforo, Jr., who is running for 1st District Congressman, responds to a question during an interview Monday at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Photo by Jerrey Roberts.

Space at this building at 142 Pleasant St. in Easthampton could home to a medical marijuana dispensary in the future. Photo by Sarah Ganzhorn.

"Medical marijuana dispensary proposed for mill building on Pleasant Street in Easthampton"
By Rebecca Everett @GazetteRebecca - The Daily Hampshire Gazette - gazettenet.com - November 16, 2013

EASTHAMPTON — A medical marijuana dispensary could be the next new business to move into a Pleasant Street mill building if the project gets through the state’s competitive application process and conforms with zoning regulations the city has planned.

An application to launch a growing operation and dispensary in the former Yankee Plastics building at 142 Pleasant St. is one of five projects proposed for Hampshire County that are being reviewed by the state Department of Public Health.

Mayor Michael A. Tautznik supports the prospective reuse of the former mill, now known as The Brickyard.

“We’re supportive of all kinds of businesses,” Tautznik said.

The application was made by Kind Medical, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation based in Pittsfield. The corporation’s president is Dr. Joseph P. Keenan of Westfield and former state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. of Pittsfield serves as Kind Medical’s clerk, treasurer and counsel.

Reached Thursday, Nuciforo declined to reveal details about the dispensary, saying that he and Keenan would discuss them after submitting a second application to the Department of Public Health Nov. 21.

Kind Medical was among the 158 applicants that made it through the first round of the state’s application process and were invited to submit more detailed, second applications. The state plans to issue 35 dispensary licenses, with at least one dispensary in each of the state’s 13 counties.

Four other groups eyeing Hampshire County dispensaries also passed the state’s first round of scrutiny. New England Treatment Access Inc., led by Kevin Fisher of Steamboat Springs, Colo.; Hampshire Health Inc., led by Brian P. Foote, general manager and chief technology officer at Unite, a Northampton clothing store; Patriot Care Corp., led by Robert Mayerson of Harvard; and Farm House Compassionate Care, run by Susan Stubbs, the longtime president and chief executive officer of ServiceNet.

New England Treatment is seeking to open dispensaries in Northampton and Brookline, though officials decline to say where until the sites become public when they submit their application Thursday. The company would cultivate marijuana at a facility in Franklin.

Hampshire Health announced last week that, if approved, it would open a dispensary in Northampton at 118 Conz St. in space formerly occupied by the Pioneer Valley Family Medicine.

Patriot Care has also not publicly disclosed where it would like to open a dispensary, though it has signaled in a letter to the town of South Hadley its intention to open a cultivation and production facility in South Hadley and dispensaries in Northampton and other parts of the state.

Farm House officials are eying Northampton for a dispensary, but earlier this week said they were considering dropping out of the application process because it fears the possibility of federal prosecution, as the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal drug.

Two other companies have expressed written interest in opening production faculties in South Hadley. They include Baystate Compassion Center Inc. of Springfield, and Massachusetts Compassionate Patient Care Corp. of Chestnut Hill. The latter group has specified interest in locating at 28 Gaylord St, according to the company’s letter to the town.

In Easthampton, Nuciforo believes Kind Medical’s dispensary would be a terrific addition to the city and region.

“We want to meet this specific need that was identified by voters,” Nuciforo said. He said he and his partners, who formed the corporation in March, settled on the Easthampton mill building as a good location for a dispensary after an “exhaustive search” of the county.

“All the people involved are Pioneer Valley people,” he said. “The team members wanted it to be a local place.”

Nuciforo said Keenan is an ear, nose and throat surgeon who has worked at hospitals in Westfield, Holyoke and Springfield.

After they turn in the second application, Nuciforo said they will be “waiting on pins and needles for the department to make it’s decision.” Since a demonstration of local support is part of the application, Tautznik and City Council President Justin P. Cobb signed a letter of support for the project Nov. 6.

In the letter to DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, the city officials mention their efforts to revitalize the Pleasant Street mill area and their belief that the project could increase commercial traffic that will be good for mill owners and other businesses housed in the mills.

Kind Medical’s “proposed wellness center and dispensary will be a welcomed addition to this district,” the letter states.

Tautznik said the project also seems a good fit for Easthampton because 67 percent of voters supported the ballot question in November 2012 to legalize medical marijuana.

James R. Witmer II, owner of the 175,000-square-foot building at 142 Pleasant St., declined to comment on the possibility having a dispensary as a tenant. Other businesses in the building include Sonelab Recording Studio, Abandoned Building Brewery and light-industrial manufacturers, but much of the five floors are vacant.

Writers Chad Cain and Gena Mangiaratti contributed to this report.

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BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health on Friday released the names of 100 finalists for licenses to sell medical marijuana.

Two former elected officials in Western Massachusetts -- former Senate Minority Leader Brian P. Lees, of East Longmeadow, and former Pittsfield state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo -- are leaders in nonprofit organizations that filed final applications for dispensaries in Holyoke and Easthampton respectively.

Lees said he was impressed with the state process. Lees said the process was very open and all questions were thoroughly answered.

"I really have to tip my hat to Cheryl Bartlett, commissioner of the DPH, and her team," said Lees, a clerk in Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers Inc., which has Springfield businessman Heriberto Flores as president.

Kind Medical Inc., which includes Nuciforo as clerk and Dr. Joseph P. Keenan, of Westfield, as president, applied for a license to operate a dispensary and cultivation at a building at 142 Pleasant St. in Easthampton.

Under the medical marijuana law, approved a year ago by 63 percent of voters, the state, in the first year, can license up to 35 dispensaries, including at least one but no more than five in each county.

Applicants each paid a $30,000 application fee to enter the final round.

Source: "Massachusetts officials release names of companies proposing medical marijuana dispensaries, communities where they would operate" By Dan Ring, The (Springfield) Republican, November 22, 2013

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"William Delahunt, Thomas Finneran join a number of politicos involved in medical marijuana bids"
By Frank Phillips and Joshua Miller, Boston Globe Staff, November 26, 2013

Several former elected officials and politically connected figures have joined the sweepstakes to be part of the state’s potentially lucrative medical marijuana industry, partnering with applicants who need help navigating the regulatory process.

Former US representative William D. Delahunt, now a lobbyist, is the president of a nonprofit corporation that has applied for three marijuana dispensary licenses in southeastern Massachusetts.

Former House speaker Thomas M. Finneran, as well as at least three former state senators, an ex-sheriff, and two former top aides to powerful officeholders are also associated with dispensary applicants, either as investors or advisers, as they lobby for state and local support of their proposals.

A law approved last year by voters gives the state Department of Public Health authority to register up to 35 nonprofit dispensaries, with at least one — but not more than five — in each county.

The jockeying for those slots is extremely competitive, with 100 applications submitted on Thursday in the second and final round of the process.

State public health regulators have indicated that dispensaries with the support of the towns or cities where they are proposed will be seen more favorably, which is potentially an area where these political figures could be helpful.

Also involved in applications are former state senators Brian P. Lees, Andrea F. Nuciforo, Henri Rauschenbach, and Guy Glodis, who is also the former Worcester County sheriff.

David A. Passafaro, former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, is part of another group — Prime Wellness of MA — that has submitted three applications.

Finneran is a registered State House lobbyist for Avum, whose nonprofit subsidiary has proposed facilities in Northampton, Worcester, and Lowell.

“I’m a guide to Massachusetts,’’ Finneran explained in describing his work on Monday.

Since the ballot initiative passed, applicants have been hurrying to set up not-for-profit corporations that will be the backbone of the marijuana distribution system. Despite their names, non-profits can be highly lucrative for those involved.

“It’s an absolute gold rush,’’ said John Scheft, the attorney who represented the opponents to the 2012 voter-approved law that created the system. “You are an idiot if you are running a dispensary and you can’t make a couple of million dollars in profit.’’

Interviews with several of the participants and a Globe review of preliminary applications indicate some of the political figures who have joined the Massachusetts marijuana market are investors in the firms, while others say they are simply consultants.

Delahunt, who represented Cape Cod and much of the South Shore for 14 years, is part of a group — Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts — that has applied for marijuana facilities in Plymouth, Taunton and Mashpee.

Two weeks ago Delahunt, a former Norfolk district attorney, appeared before the Plymouth board of selectmen along with several competitors to plead the case for his group. The board initially hedged on taking action. But a week later, it endorsed Delahunt’s project.

Working with Delahunt is a political figure with connections in both the State House and the town: Kevin O’Reilly, who once served as a top aide to Senate President Therese Murray, a long-time Plymouth lawmaker, and has been her closest political adviser. He serves on the board of the Plymouth chamber of commerce. Former Barnstable county commissioner Mary J. LeClair, a popular veteran political figure on Cape Cod, is also working with Delahunt.

The initial financial backing for the group is coming from Jeffrey L. Feinberg, a California-based hedge fund manager, who, along with his wife Stacey, has pledged $1.3 million as part of the firm’s demonstration of financial viability to state public health regulators.

Delahunt, who said he has never met Feinberg, repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether he was looking to financially gain from his involvement with the project.

“That’s yet to be determined,’’ he said last week.

Analysts say medical marijuana dispensaries tend to be lucrative endeavors.

Luigi Zamarra, a certified public accountant who has overseen the books for medical marijuana businesses in a half-dozen states, said the markup in dispensaries is usually about 100 percent.

“If you buy a pound for $2,500, you can retail that, when you break it all down, for $5,000,” he said, explaining that the average-size dispensary brings in $4 million to 5 million in gross revenues per year.

Former US representative William D. Delahunt, now a lobbyist, is the president of a nonprofit corporation that has applied for three marijuana dispensary licenses in southeastern Massachusetts.

Former House speaker Thomas M. Finneran, as well as at least three former state senators, an ex-sheriff, and two former top aides to powerful officeholders are also associated with dispensary applicants, either as investors or advisers, as they lobby for state and local support of their proposals.

A law approved last year by voters gives the state Department of Public Health authority to register up to 35 nonprofit dispensaries, with at least one — but not more than five — in each county.

The jockeying for those slots is extremely competitive, with 100 applications submitted on Thursday in the second and final round of the process.

State public health regulators have indicated that dispensaries with the support of the towns or cities where they are proposed will be seen more favorably, which is potentially an area where these political figures could be helpful.

Also involved in applications are former state senators Brian P. Lees, Andrea F. Nuciforo, Henri Rauschenbach, and Guy Glodis, who is also the former Worcester County sheriff.

David A. Passafaro, former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, is part of another group — Prime Wellness of MA — that has submitted three applications.

Finneran is a registered State House lobbyist for Avum, whose nonprofit subsidiary has proposed facilities in Northampton, Worcester, and Lowell.

“I’m a guide to Massachusetts,’’ Finneran explained in describing his work on Monday.

Since the ballot initiative passed, applicants have been hurrying to set up not-for-profit corporations that will be the backbone of the marijuana distribution system. Despite their names, non-profits can be highly lucrative for those involved.

“It’s an absolute gold rush,’’ said John Scheft, the attorney who represented the opponents to the 2012 voter-approved law that created the system. “You are an idiot if you are running a dispensary and you can’t make a couple of million dollars in profit.’’

Interviews with several of the participants and a Globe review of preliminary applications indicate some of the political figures who have joined the Massachusetts marijuana market are investors in the firms, while others say they are simply consultants.

Delahunt, who represented Cape Cod and much of the South Shore for 14 years, is part of a group — Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts — that has applied for marijuana facilities in Plymouth, Taunton and Mashpee.

Two weeks ago Delahunt, a former Norfolk district attorney, appeared before the Plymouth board of selectmen along with several competitors to plead the case for his group. The board initially hedged on taking action. But a week later, it endorsed Delahunt’s project.

Working with Delahunt is a political figure with connections in both the State House and the town: Kevin O’Reilly, who once served as a top aide to Senate President Therese Murray, a long-time Plymouth lawmaker, and has been her closest political adviser. He serves on the board of the Plymouth chamber of commerce. Former Barnstable county commissioner Mary J. LeClair, a popular veteran political figure on Cape Cod, is also working with Delahunt.

The initial financial backing for the group is coming from Jeffrey L. Feinberg, a California-based hedge fund manager, who, along with his wife Stacey, has pledged $1.3 million as part of the firm’s demonstration of financial viability to state public health regulators.

Delahunt, who said he has never met Feinberg, repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether he was looking to financially gain from his involvement with the project.

“That’s yet to be determined,’’ he said last week.

Analysts say medical marijuana dispensaries tend to be lucrative endeavors.

Luigi Zamarra, a certified public accountant who has overseen the books for medical marijuana businesses in a half-dozen states, said the markup in dispensaries is usually about 100 percent.

“If you buy a pound for $2,500, you can retail that, when you break it all down, for $5,000,” he said, explaining that the average-size dispensary brings in $4 million to 5 million in gross revenues per year.

In Massachusetts, Zamarra said, the relatively limited number of dispensaries in the state indicates the potential for “strong profitability, depending on the size of the population of patients.”

But some proponents say the regulations and contours of the law will ensure that clinics will focus on patients not profits. Valerio Romano, an attorney who represents seven organizations applying for marijuana dispensary licenses in Massachusetts, scoffed at the idea that the facilities would be cash cows, saying his clients are involved to help patients.

“I think that that’s a contradiction on its face,” he said of the charges. “In the highly scrutinized medical marijuana industry, it would be unwise to try and extract profits from a nonprofit.”

Delahunt said his hope is that the dispensaries will ease the rising scourge of Oxycotin abuse and offer patients a chance to use high-quality medical marijuana instead of buying from unregulated sources.

“This is an alternative,’’ said Delahunt. “But it has to be done in a highly professional way.”

In western Massachusetts, Lees, the former Senate Republican minority leader, is an officer in a nonprofit looking to operate a dispensary in Holyoke. He said he had no interest profiting from the enteprise, adding that the revenues will be ploughed back into the community.

Nuciforo, also a western Massachusetts politico, is an investor in Kind Medical, which seeks to open a clinic in Easthampton. He served as the Democratic senator from Pittsfield through 2006, when he was elected to one term as register of deeds for Berkshire County’s middle division. He has committed more than $400,000 as financial backing, according to the group’s preliminary application.

Glodis is offering his law enforcement background as part of an outfit — Boston Wellness Association — that has its eye on opening a dispensary in Revere. He declined comment.

Passafaro, who serves on the board of Boston Medical Center, is part of a group that is applying to open dispensaries in Framingham, Roxbury, and Worcester. He is currently a vice president of Suffolk Construction. He said he will not receive any of the revenues, but will advise the group on how to use the profits in community programs.

Rauschenbach, a former Republican state senator from Cape Cod and now a State House lobbyist, is helping an outfit called the Kingsbury Group — founded by two Cape area businessmen — that is looking to convert a go kart site in Bourne for a medical marijuana dispensary. The group is also seeking to open marijuana facilities in Provincetown and on Martha’s Vineyard. He said he is merely serving as an adviser, but did not discount that in the future, he would reap some of the profits.

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The Department of Public Health has been seeking bids in order to select state-licensed dispensaries after Massachusetts voters approved medical marijuana in November of 2012. 100 finalists were announced Friday (11/22/2013), out of which 35 or fewer will be chosen to operate (the prior review only considered 159 applications). The dispensaries will be not-for-profit businesses and are required to have $500,000 in startup cash. Massachusetts counties can have between one and five dispensaries, according to state law. The finalists will be announced on January 31, 2014.

Source: "Ex-Congressman Wants To Open Medical Pot Dispensaries" The Huffington Post, By Luke Johnson, 11/26/2013.
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Top 10 stories of 2013: "Medical marijuana should be available for sale in Massachusetts in 2014"
Dan Ring, The (Springfield) Republican, December 24, 2013

As 2013 winds down, The Republican and MassLive.com recap each of the top 10 news stories of 2013 leading up to Dec. 31 when the complete list will appear. Today, Number 8:

BOSTON — After a year of planning, medical marijuana should finally be available to people in Massachusetts, maybe by the middle of 2014.

The state Department of Public Health is scheduled to award bids for non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries around Jan. 31. After that, it should take a minimum of four to six months for a dispensary to be up and operating, according to state officials and applicants.

In Western Massachusetts, some noted former elected officials lined up to seek dispensary licenses, including former Senate Minority Leader Brian P. Lees of East Longmeadow, who is an officer in a company that is planning a dispensary in Holyoke, and former Pittsfield state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo, who is an officer in a company planning a dispensary in Easthampton.

In all, 15 nonprofit companies filed applications for 16 dispensaries in the four counties of Western Massachusetts, including three in Northampton, one in Chicopee, two in Holyoke and one company that would operate in either Chicopee or Springfield.

Medical marijuana can't arrive soon enough for people with debilitating medical conditions who use the drug.

"It saved my life," said Allison F. Jones, 60, of Rutland, a registered nurse who suffered numerous bone fractures and other serious injuries in a car accident in 2010. "I want other people to have the option."

Right now, she said in a recent interview, people are at risk if they want to acquire marijuana for medical purposes. "The only option is the black market or not having your medicine," she said.

Only people with certain "debilitating medical conditions," including cancer, glaucoma, the virus that causes AIDS or "other conditions" determined by a doctor, can obtain a registration card and possess up to a 60-day supply of marijuana, under regulations approved by the department in May.

Medical marijuana in Massachusetts was legalized as of Jan. 1 after 63 percent of voters in November of 2012 approved a statewide ballot question on the issue.

Despite the vote, it was some rough sledding for medical marijuana in 2013.

Applicants faced significant barriers in choosing dispensary locations, largely because about 130 cities and towns enacted temporary moratoriums to give themselves time to plan for the new industry.

Nonetheless, the department in late November accepted bids from 100 finalists, with each submitting a $30,000 application fee, along with proof of access to at least $500,000 for developing a dispensary and growing operation.

The application fee and capital requirements were among a host of fees for medical marijuana approved by the department, including $50 annual patient registration fee and $50,000 yearly registration fee for a dispensary.

Under state law, the department can license up to 35 dispensaries including at least one but no more than five in each county. Department officials have declined comment on whether they would issue the licenses in phases.

Supporters should be grateful to Peter B. Lewis, of Mayfield Village, Ohio, the non-executive chairman of insurance giant Progressive Corp. and a longtime backer of medical pot, who contributed about $1.1 million, almost all the money raised by the campaign in support of the 2012 ballot effort.

Lewis died at 80 on Nov. 23, dealing a blow to the pro-marijuana movement in the nation.

Since the 1980s, he had donated an estimated $40 million to $60 million to marijuana law reform – including underwriting ballot campaigns, research, political polling and legal defense efforts.

Largely through Lewis' efforts, and those of several other billionaires, 20 states since 1996 have passed medical marijuana laws, 17 have decriminalized possession of small amounts of the drug, including Massachusetts, and two – Colorado and Washington – have passed legalization language, according to the Associated Press.

Medical marijuana is not expected to be cheap when it is available in Massachusetts. Generally, an ounce of medical marijuana is expected to cost about $300, the same as the current street value. If medical marijuana were less expensive, approved users might try to resell it for a profit on the black market, applicants have said.

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This building at 296 Nonotuck St. in Florence is the planned home of Hampshire County's first approved dispensary for medical marijuana. (CAROL LOLLIS).

"State OKs Northampton medical marijuana dispensary"
By Chad Cain, Staff Writer, Daily Hampshire Gazette, January 31, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — The company awarded a state license to operate Hampshire County’s only medical marijuana dispensary plans to begin selling pot to qualified patients in August.

The Department of Public Health on Friday awarded 20 licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries in 10 of the state’s 14 counties. Hampshire County’s license went to New England Treatment Access Inc., which will open a dispensary at the old Pro Corp. manufacturing plant at 296 Nonotuck St. in Florence, said Kevin Fisher, executive director and chief operating officer.

“We’re planning to hit the ground running as soon as possible,” Fisher said.

New England Treatment beat out three other companies that sought to open dispensaries in either Northampton or Easthampton. The company, which will grow marijuana at a facility in Franklin, also secured a license to open a dispensary in Brookline.

New England Treatment has the backing of the Kessler family, known in eastern Massachusetts for medical philanthropy, and the support of former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, according to its application.

Meanwhile, a Department of Public Health selection committee that reviewed 100 applications over the last several weeks ruled that four counties, including Franklin and Berkshire, will not get dispensaries at this time. Though the voter-approved law requires at least one dispensary in each county, the selection committee deemed that Berkshire, Dukes, Franklin and Nantucket counties did not have qualified applicants.

That leaves two dispensaries serving the 824,000 people who live in the four counties of western Massachusetts. The Hampden County dispensary will be in Holyoke and operated by Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers Inc., according to the state.

The selection committee has invited eight qualified applicants that were not granted licenses Friday for their original proposed locations to amend their bids to include a site in a county without a dispensary. Among those are Patriot Care Corp., which applied to open a dispensary in Northampton and a growing facility in South Hadley.

“These recommendations are based on objective benchmarks including geographic dispersion, patient access, security and readiness to operate,” John Carmichael Jr., Walpole’s deputy police chief and a selection committee member, said in a statement. “The citizens of the commonwealth can be assured that this process was thoroughly and accurately vetted.”

New England Treatment’s score of 155 points — out of a possible 163 — was the second-highest, behind the 160 score posted by Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts Inc. The scores were based on many factors, including public health, security and strength of the business plan. Other criteria the committee used to judge applications included local support, geographic diversity and the ability to meet patient needs.

“We’re pleased with the score we received,” Fisher said. “We worked hard in the two jurisdictions to engage the authorities throughout the process.”

Fisher said his group has a strong background in the industry, having operated similar facilities in Colorado. Fisher runs a medical marijuana center and a retail marijuana outlet in Colorado under the name Rocky Mountain Remedies. It also has secured leases and completed architectural drawings for its three Massachusetts locations in advance of Friday’s announcement.

New England Treatment will convert about 2,500 square feet of space in the old Pro Corp. building into a dispensary. The building also houses the headquarters of Tapestry Health, a Northampton community-based health care organization that runs eight health centers and needle exchange and nutrition programs throughout the region.

Leslie Tarr Laurie, Tapestry Health’s founder and leader for 40 years before her resignation in recent days, serves on the executive management team at New England Treatment. Fisher said Laurie’s expertise in successfully providing health services in Northampton is valuable for the group. He noted Laurie’s efforts to introduce controversial initiatives, such as a needle exchange, in the community.

“It’s symbiosis for us to be working with her,” Fisher said. “I couldn’t ask for someone better.”

New England Treatment’s dispensary, located near a Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus route, will be open 10 hours a day nearly every day of the year. The company expects to hire about 25 people to operate the dispensary, and between 100 and 150 people for its entire operation. Though not required to do so by the state, New England Treatment will require all employees to go through a “robust” training course and background check, Fisher said.

Fisher said the dispensary will be secure. Customers will enter through an outside door but will not have access to the interior of the site where the marijuana is kept. Initial plans do not call for a on-site security personnel.

“We’ll work closely with local law enforcement,” Fisher said. “If they think we need live law enforcement, we’ll do that.”

In its application to the state, the company said it anticipates 1,660 patients and some 2,000 pounds of inventory in its first year. The company predicts it will generate $9.8 million in revenue in its first year and spend $9.1 million, leaving a net profit of $702,000.

Other bidders

The selection panel favored New England Treatment over three other groups that wanted to open dispensaries in Hampshire County — two that eyed Northampton and one in Easthampton.

One of those groups was Hampshire Health Inc., a Northampton nonprofit led by Brian F. Foote. Hampshire Health applied to open a dispensary in the space formerly occupied by Pioneer Valley Family Medicine at 118 Conz St.

While disappointed at not being selected, Foote said Hampshire Health is “definitely interested” in pursuing a future license should the state open another round of applications. He said the four groups that applied for Hampshire County in the second phase all scored well.

“It was really a stiff competition,” Foote said. “We were up against some really big groups with expertise.”

In addition to New England Treatment and Hampshire Health, the other two companies that applied in Hampshire County were Patriot Care Corp., led by Robert Mayerson of Harvard, and Kind Medical Inc., a Pittsfield nonprofit headed by Dr. Joseph P. Keenan of Westfield and former state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.

Patriot Care sought to open a dispensary in Northampton and a growing facility in South Hadley, while Kind Medical applied for a growing operation and dispensary in the former Yankee Plastics building at 142 Pleasant St. in Easthampton.

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White Coat Notes: "First medical marijuana dispensary licenses awarded in Massachusetts"
By Kay Lazar and Jaclyn Reiss, Boston Globe Staff, 1/31/2014

After much anticipation, state health officials Friday revealed the names of the companies that will receive the first 20 licenses to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts, although it will likely be summertime before any open their doors for business.

Voters in November 2012 approved a ballot initiative that legalized marijuana for medical treatment, and the voter-approved law allowed the state health department to select up to 35 non-profit companies across the state to open dispensaries, with at least one but no more than five per county.

But the state Friday chose to approve just 20, spread across 10 of Massachusetts’ 14 counties. Left out were Berkshire, Franklin, Dukes and Nantucket counties, which did not receive a dispensary in this initial round.

“Eight highly qualified applicants who were not granted their proposed location will be invited to seek a change of location to a county without provisional approval for a Registered Marijuana Dispensary,” the state health department said in a statement. “This phase will allow the Selection Committee to review high-scoring applicants who wish to seek a change of location to an underserved county to maximize patient access.”

Karen van Unen, director of the state’s new medical marijuana program, said in a press conference that her agency expects in the next few weeks to launch an “abbreviated” review process for these eight applicants and announce the results in early June. She declined to say why the eight applicants, some of whom received higher scores from the expert review panel than companies awarded licenses, were not selected in the first round. But she said she expected the eight to fare better in the coming months because they already “have the nod” from her department.

“Most likely between now and August we will be opening up maybe 24 to 26 dispensaries,” van Unen said.

Among the companies invited to reapply for a license in one of the four counties that were left out in Friday’s selection is Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, Inc.

The company was turned down for its Salem application but was awarded licenses for a location in Boston’s Back Bay and in Worcester.

Jaime Lewis, Good Chemistry’s chief operating officer, said state officials did not indicate to Good Chemistry why a competitor—Alternative Therapies Group, Inc.—won the Salem license.

“I could only imagine that they [the state] made the best decision possible for whatever reason,” she said. “The competing company must have been the better candidate.”

Lewis said Good Chemistry will re-apply for a third dispensary license, but “we haven’t even had a chance to think about where.”

Meanwhile, Lewis said the company hopes to open their two other dispensaries—located at 364-368 Boylston St. in Boston and 9 Harrison St. in Worcester—within the next 8 months. The company’s facility to grow the marijuana is slated to be located at 9 Pullman St. in Worcester.

Leaders of Green Heart Holistic Health, who were awarded one of the two prized Boston dispensary licenses, said they hope to open their 3,000-square-foot dispensary across from Boston University Medical Center by late summer.

Andrew DeAngelo, executive director of Green Heart Holistic, said company officials are finalizing plans for their cultivation site in Amesbury.

The dispensary, which will be located at 70 Southampton St., will feature smokeable flowers as well as edibles, capsules, and tinctures—or drinkable liquid drops, DeAngelo said. The company will grow strains of marijuana with THC, as well as CBD strains, which would help patients with MS and epilepsy, DeAngelo said.

Also among those who received good news was former US representative William D. Delahunt, who successfully won all three of the licenses he sought to open dispensaries in Mashpee, Taunton and Plymouth. Delahunt, who represented Cape Cod and much of the South Shore for 14 years, is part of a company called Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts.

Competition was fierce, with 159 applications submitted last fall. State officials pared that down to 100 in November, which left 80 companies in the running, because several had submitted applications for multiple sites.

State officials scrutinized applicants’ proposals for a wide variety of factors, including business plans, finances, background of their chief executives, operations plans, and whether they had support from local leaders in the communities where they proposed to open their dispensaries and their facilities to grow marijuana.

Often companies proposed separate sites for each, and the state’s scoring system awarded the most points for issues involving the siting of the facilities, such as whether a company has the support of local officials in the communities where the facilities are proposed, and whether they have secured leases or purchased buildings for their places of business. The companies were also asked to provide detailed information about their proposed security plans and how those plans would “help deter and prevent unauthorized entrance.”

The companies awarded licenses will still have to pass a final inspection by the state health department and ensure they are complying with any local permitting requirements before they are allowed to open.

While the launch of dispensaries has been eagerly awaited by some, others are raising concerns about patient safety.

Dr. Ronald Dunlap, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said there is a lack of scientific information about the safety of marijuana when used for medicinal purposes, and he noted that the marijuana does not undergo the rigorous testing required for prescription medications by the Food and Drug Administration.

“Claims for its effectiveness have not been scientifically proven,” Dunlap said in a statement. “It poses health risks of toxins and cognitive impairment, the last condition being especially risky for young patients.”

In Amesbury, residents have expressed mixed feelings about two dispensaries hoping to grow their medical marijuana there, but local officials said they are starting to see the potential revenue benefits, said Councilor-At-Large Donna McClure.

Instead of fighting a “losing battle” with the state to keep the companies out, McClure said the mayor’s office is negotiating with Green Heart Holistic Health and Alternative Therapies Group on their grow sites to see what the companies can give back to the city. Alternative Therapies won a license for a Salem dispensary, while Green Heart was awarded one for Boston.

“Our taxpayers have been long overburdened,” McClure said by phone. “We didn’t recruit these businesses, but they represent opportunities for both long- and short-term revenue growth.”

www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/quality/drugcontrol/medical-marijuana/applications/results/approved-for-provisional-license.pdf

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February 4, 2014

Re: Nuciforo didn't get a pot permit

Andrea Nuciforo, Jr.'s application was not selected for a medical marijuana dispensary permit. But former Cape Cod Congressman Bill Delahunt won all three of the licenses he sought to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Mashpee, Taunton and Plymouth under the non-profit company called "Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts". One prediction for a non-profit medical marijuana dispensary in Northampaton will generate $9.8 million in revenue in its first year and spend $9.1 million, leaving a net profit of $702,000. There are going to be at least 20 pot clinics up and running in Massachusetts over the next year. That is about $200 million in revenues per year, and about $20 million in profit per year for the 20 non-profit companies. Nuciforo missed out on the pot-of-gold. Maybe Nuciforo doesn't have all the power he thought he had in Massachusetts politics. Nuciforo is a legend....in his own mind!

- Jonathan Melle

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White Coat Notes
"Former congressman’s unusual dealings with marijuana company detailed in lawsuit"
By Kay Lazar and Shelley Murphy, Boston Globe Staff, 02/25/2014

A non-profit company led by former Massachusetts Congressman William D. Delahunt, which received three coveted state licenses last month for medical marijuana dispensaries, intends to give 50 percent of the company’s revenue to a management firm that is controlled by Delahunt and his business partners in the marijuana dispensary.

In its license applications, Delahunt’s dispensary company, Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, projected it would earn revenue of roughly $49 million in the first three years from the dispensaries in Plymouth, Masphee, and Taunton, meaning the management company would get at least $24 million.

Delahunt is listed as a manager of Triple M Managment Company LLC, but the application does not spell out Delahunt’s share of income from the management company.

The agreement to give half of the marijuana company’s revenue to the management firm was described as “laughable” by the owner of an Andover-based consulting practice that focuses exclusively on non-profits. “It’s completely excessive,” said Thomas A. McLaughlin, who owns McLaughlin & Associates.

Delahunt also is supposed to receive a $250,000 annual salary as chief executive of the marijuana company, according to the applications—although he has said he doesn’t expect to be paid a salary for the first several years while the business is getting off the ground.

Delahunt’s business arrangement is cited in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court on behalf of a Needham company, 1 Relief Inc, which was unsuccessful in its bid for a marijuana license, and is seeking to block the state Department of Public Health from finalizing the 20 provisional licenses it awarded last month.

The suit contends that the department violated state procurement rules in awarding the licenses.

“Everything from beginning to end the Department of Public Health did wrong,” Robert Carp, a Newton attorney who is representing 1 Relief, said in an interview.

“The money has to be for the patients,” Carp said. “It’s hard to be patient-centric when you are collecting $250,000 a year in a job you have no training for, and then adding half of the revenue of the managed company that you also control.”

The Globe has reported that Delahunt and all the other top executives in his dispensary company are keeping their full-time jobs and will not be running the firm’s cultivation and dispensing operations.

Delahunt and his business partners could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

David Kibbe, a spokesman for the Department of Public Health, said in an e-mailed statement, “No provisional licenses have been handed to applicants. None will be until they clear our verification phase. We do have 20 applicants approved for provisional status, but they have not been given provisional certificates at this point.”

McLaughlin, the Andover consultant, said it’s very unusual for a non-profit to hire a management company, and unheard of that it would take 50 percent of revenues.

“Under no circumstances can I imagine that management would take 50 percent of every revenue dollar,” McLaughlin said. “What product do you buy or get where you are paying for mostly management?”

He compared the state’s fledgling medical marijuana industry to “the business equivalent of the wild, wild West.”

“If I were on the non-profit and somebody came in with that deal I would have laughed them out of the board room,” he added.

McLaughlin said that such an arrangement places officers of a non-proft at risk of being charged with violating their fiduciary duty to the organization.

In addition to the 50 percent of revenues Delahunt’s management company will receive, it also is slated to earn 8 percent annual interest on $2.47 million it loaned to the dispensary firm for its start-up costs, according to the applications filed with the state health department.

Since the department awarded the provisional licenses in late January, the Globe and other media have reported that a number of the companies awarded licenses made misstatements in their applications about local support and the agency has acknowledged it didn’t check the veracity of companies’ claims during the evaluation process. Questions also have been raised about possible conflicts of interest between the agency and some of the winning applicants. Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett held fund-raisers for Delahunt in the mid-2000s when he was still in Congress, though she said she was not involved in the final selection of winning companies.

The suit lists more than a dozen examples of what appear to be significant mistakes in projected budgets, cultivation plans, and federal tax calculations in applications of the winning companies. The suit contends these should have automatically disqualified the companies from receiving a license under the state’s procurement rules.

“We expect to have a ferocious fight on our hands,” Carp said. “But we believe if a judge understands the information before him, he will see there are too many mistakes to award something this valuable to people who have violated the guidelines.”

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"Probe involving BerkshireWorks director likely to take ‘weeks’"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff, 5/9/2014

PITTSFIELD -- Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi said he expects it will take a "couple of weeks" to conclude the city’s investigation into the employment situation involving the executive director of the BerkshireWorks Career Center, William Monterosso.

Monterosso, who was hired in January, was put on paid administrative leave by the city about a month ago.

Although BerkshireWorks is a quasi-public agency, Monterosso is a city employee. The mayor of Pittsfield is the appointing authority for the executive director’s position by virtue of being the leading elected official of the county’s largest municipality.

Bianchi has declined to comment on the situation involving Monterosso because it is a personnel matter. On Thursday, Bianchi said that last week he hoped the situation would be "wrapped up pretty quickly," then added, "these things take time."

He declined to say exactly what the city still needs to determine.

"We want to do a thorough, responsible job," Bianchi said.

The decision to temporarily remove Monterosso hasn’t affected the employment and job-training programs offered at the career center on 160 North St.

But the city’s role in the matter is beginning to receive some attention at the state level.

"It’s our understanding that there is an investigation underway by the city’s human resources department," said Ann Dufresne, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

"As soon as we are apprised of the results of that investigation, we will take any appropriate action as is necessary," she said.

Seven of the roughly 20 employees at BerkshireWorks are employed by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development, according to Dufresne. She said the state probably would not take formal action based on the results of the city’s investigation, but could make "announcements" or "assurances" to the employees it does supervise based on how the matter is decided.

"It could run the gamut," she said.

Dufresne said she could not be more specific.

"I don’t know the nature of the investigation," she said. "We know it’s an investigation into a personnel matter. That’s why we said it could run the gamut. We just don’t know."

Asked if the state was surprised that the city’s investigation was taking so long, Dufresne said, "the city is the one that is ascertaining all the facts."

"I don’t think you can characterize the investigation by the length of time that it is taking," she said. "I think the city is being very thorough."

Monterosso’s voice is still on the executive director’s voice mail at the BerkshireWorks Career Center.

Reached by telephone on Wednesday, Monterosso referred inquires to his attorney, Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. of Pittsfield. Citing the ethics of law pertaining to the representation of his client, Nuciforo said he couldn’t discuss the matter.

A Pittsfield native, Monterosso has 15 years of previous experience in the workforce development field, most recently serving as the executive director of the West Virginia Association of Rehabilitation Facilities.

BerkshireWorks is a quasi-public agency chartered by the Berkshire Regional Employment Board to provide job training, planning and assistance to county residents.

The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development operates 33 such agencies across the state, but a handful of these career centers, including BerkshireWorks, are nonprofits, which means the state is not involved in personnel matters, including the hiring of the executive directors.

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May 21, 2014

Re: William Monterosso resigns

Nuciforo is a Good Old Boy who has ran Pittsfield politics for the past 2 decades. He is my enemy #1. Over one decade ago, I tried to find a job - any job - in Pittsfield as a young man in my mid-20's, but no one would hire me for over one year of my life. Nuciforo blacklisted me from employment because I spoke out against him. In early-2004, when I was collecting nomination signatures to run against Nuciforo for State Senator, people told me they wouldn't sign my nomination papers because they feared losing their jobs if they supported me. Nuciforo rules Pittsfield politics by fear via his political network that screws people who oppose him. Nuciforo has made many enemies over the past 2 decades during his reign over Pittsfield politics. Nuciforo's Aunt, Anne E. Wojtkowski, was Mayor of Pittsfield when she hired Dan Bianchi to work for her administration. That is why Mayor Dan Bianchi hired one of Nuciforo's cronies to head Berkshire Works earlier this year. Bianchi is beholden to Nuciforo and his political network because they gave Bianchi his start in Pittsfield politics and supported him ever since.

- Jonathan Melle

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William Monterosso

“Emails point to concerns over ‘inappropriate behavior’ by former BerkshireWorks executive director William Monterosso: Exchanges point to concerns over ‘inappropriate behavior’ by former BerkshireWorks Executive Director Monterosso”
By Phil Demers, The Berkshire Eagle, November 1, 2014

PITTSFIELD – When William Monterosso departed earlier this year as executive director of the BerkshireWorks Career Center, city officials wouldn’t discuss why he had left just three months into the job.

But emails obtained by The Eagle reveal that a number of officials associated with BerkshireWorks at the local and state levels were concerned by the staff’s allegations of “inappropriate behavior” and “sexual harassment” against the man in charge of the agency that provides employment training, planning and assistance to Berkshire County residents.

“He is an embarrassment to all of us,” BerkshireWorks’ finance/human resources manager, Daniel L. Collins, wrote in an April 7 email to the city of Pittsfield’s personnel director, John DeAngelo.

Collins’ email followed his investigation of the allegations against Monterosso made by the staff he supervised at BerkshireWorks.

In that email to DeAngelo, Collins’ investigation revealed a picture of Monterosso that disturbed him to the point he threatened to contact “the State and Feds to file formal sexual harassment charges” if “immediate action is not taken.”

As a result, Monterosso was placed on paid leave April 9 and he resigned on May 19. An agreement between the city of Pittsfield and Monterosso let him receive financial payment and remain on the position’s health insurance plan through July 31. The agreement totaled at least $20,000 — Monterosso’s salary was $88,600 — but sources within the agency tell The Eagle it topped $50,000.

Though city officials have repeatedly refused to discuss the Monterosso situation, citing a confidentiality agreement, The Eagle obtained a cache of email exchanges between officials from the state agency that oversees BerkshireWorks, those within BerkshireWorks, and from Pittsfield’s Personnel Department that shed light on what happened.

The Eagle received the emails after it filed a public records request with the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

Meanwhile, a representative of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination last week confirmed “two active cases against William Monterosso and the BerkshireWorks Career Center” filed in September by BerkshireWorks employees. The Pittsfield law firm Cohen, Kinne, Valicenti & Cook LLP told The Eagle it has been engaged to represent BerkshireWorks in the ongoing litigation.

Monterosso’s attorney at the time, Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., calls the allegations “baseless.”

Concerns surface

In early April, the emails reveal, BerkshireWorks employees told Collins that Monterosso had slapped their bottoms, gave unwanted back rubs, used copious profanity “in front of persons [Monterosso] did not know,” and publicly made sexist comments in a period spanning “the past few weeks.”

Monterosso, 49 at the time, had occupied the position for less than three months before allegations surfaced, causing the city to place him on paid leave starting April 9.

A Pittsfield native, 1982 Taconic High School graduate and ex-Marine with prior workforce development experience as executive director with the Office of Employment and Training in Kentucky and earlier in West Virginia, Monterosso ended his brief stint at the head of BerkshireWorks when he resigned on May 19.

In the meantime, rumors flew and Pittsfield officials kept mum.

Throughout the ordeal, Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, who appointed Monterosso to the job in late January, declined comment on the situation, deeming it “a personnel matter.”

Bianchi recently reiterated that stance.

“It was agreed that he would leave and he did,” Bianchi said.

Although the executive director’s position is funded by state and federal dollars, Pittsfield’s mayor is in charge of hiring for the position.

Monterosso succeeded John Barrett III, the former North Adams mayor, who was appointed to the job in 2011 by then-mayor James M. Ruberto.

‘Hostile environment’

The emails reveal that multiple investigations took place in April, mostly comprised of interviews with staff of BerkshireWorks’ office on 160 North St. in Pittsfield and others who had interacted with Monterosso in the course of his work. Eight state employees work locally for the agency.

Monterosso’s behavior “made for a hostile work environment, especially for female employees,” Collins wrote DeAngelo on April 7.

“The inappropriate actions need to be dealt with as I fear they will continue to get worse. I think he should resign or be terminated.”

He added, “I’m trying to avoid a major investigation which could give the agency and the city a black eye.”

Collins said Monterosso had “called a female employee ‘honey’ on the phone, so she hung up. He then called her back and called her ‘baby’ and asked if she would like to go for a ride on his Harley.”

In a later meeting between the two, Monterosso allegedly “touched the hand of the same employee and pulled his chair close to hers, which was observed by several employees.”

An ex-employee of the former North Adams Regional Hospital — the alleged incident occurred shortly after the hospital closed in late March — told Collins that Monterosso said to her that “he would never hold up her unemployment but might have to slap her bottom five times.”

“This was in front of a staff member,” Collins wrote.

At a public meeting at the North Adams American Legion concerning the hospital’s closing — one primarily attended by women, Monterosso allegedly commented publicly that “the place smelled like tuna” and he “might have a hot flash” because “there was a lot of estrogen in the room.”

“He then came up behind several female employees and proceeded to give them unwanted back rubs, making them very uncomfortable,” Collins wrote.

State investigates

Further investigations by Timothy Dooling, general counsel of the state’s Department of Career Services, and David Nash, the head of the Disabled Veterans Outreach Program at BerkshireWorks, appear to corroborate Collins’ findings.

Dooling agreed to escalate actions against Monterosso in an April 11 email to Suzanne Quersher, director of labor relations for the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, and Alice Sweeney, director of state Department of Career Services. The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, or EOLWD, oversees BerkshireWorks at the state level.

Ann C. Dufresne, communications director for the EOLWD, said Monterosso “did not come back” after he was placed on paid leave on April 9.

Earlier, sources say, Monterosso had stormed into BerkshireWorks and confronted employees after he was first notified of his suspension and told to stay away from the office. His suspension apparently did little to alleviate employees’ fears of the unraveling situation.

In an April 11 email to Dooling and two days after Monterosso was placed on paid leave, Nash said staff feared Monterosso might again burst into BerkshireWorks’ weekly meeting on Friday morning.

“A number of staff asked me if I could provide them a second way out of our conference room,” Nash wrote.

“The concern was that [Monterosso] still has a key to the building and access to weapons. I personally did not feel this way, however at least four members of the staff expressed hesitation going to the staff meeting because they would feel trapped. We have a moveable wall which I opened to give them access to a second way out,” Nash said.

In the same email, Nash relayed “another concern” that “either someone impersonating a state worker or an actual state worker [accosted] someone on the way to speak to a city investigator,” placing “a large portion of the staff on edge.”

Whoever that person was, sources within the agency said it was not Monterosso.

Shortly thereafter, locksmiths changed the locks on the building and BerkshireWorks invalidated Monterosso’s security access.

‘Allegations baseless’

Monterosso resigned May 19 after Nuciforo, his attorney, and the city’s Personnel Department hammered out an agreement whereby Monterosso would continue to receive pay and health insurance until July 31, nearly 2 ½ months after his resignation.

Nuciforo declined comment citing a confidentiality agreement between himself, his client and the city.

But Nuciforo did tell The Eagle, “The allegations are baseless.”

On Oct. 14, DeAngelo, the city’s personnel director, rejected an Eagle public records request asking for “copies of all public records resulting in all investigations into the employment of William Monterosso” on grounds that the “records you are requesting are comprised of witness statements … that were taken out of the public view and the witnesses told me that they wanted their statements to be confidential.”

The records request blocked by the city was worded identically as the one which produced documents from the state.

Monterosso had 15 years of previous experience in the workforce development field. He most recently had served as the executive director of the West Virginia Association of Rehabilitation Facilities. Sources say he has left the area.

Last month, Ken Demers was appointed as the new head of BerkshireWorks.

Contact Phil Demers at 413-281-2859. pdemers@berkshireeagle.com @BE_PhilD on Twitter

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"Separation terms paid, insured Monterosso after his resignation"
By Phil Demers, The Berkshire Eagle, November 1, 2014

PITTSFIELD - The former BerkshireWorks Career Center Executive Director William Monterosso received a separation package of at least $20,000 and possibly more than $50,000 in BerkshireWorks discretionary funds on his way out the door, sources say.

Monterosso resigned on May 19 but he, his then-attorney Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., and the city inked a confidential separation agreement in which he was paid and received health insurance through July 31, according to emails between state and city employees obtained by The Eagle through a public records request. Monterosso's annual salary was $88,600.

"This letter serves to confirm that William Monterosso will continue to be paid his salary as Executive Director of BerkshireWorks through July 31, 2014," Pittsfield Personnel Director John DeAngelo wrote in a letter to BerkshireWorks Program Operations Manager Melanie Gelaznik on June 4. "Mr. Monterosso will also continue to receive his health insurance through BerkshireWorks, in the usual course, through July 31, 2014."

Several BerkshireWorks employees and others had come forward with accusations against Monterosso before he was placed on paid leave on April 9 by Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, who appoints the position. According to the state, Monterosso did not re-enter the agency's 160 North St. office after that date.

This means Monterosso received at least $30,672 in taxpayer money while not working in any capacity between April 9 and July 31. Sources from within the agency said the separation agreement topped $50,000, but The Eagle was unable to verify that figure.

Discretionary funds

Under questioning by The Eagle, DeAngelo declined to respond to questions about Monterosso's salary, the total amount he was paid after April 9 and by whom.

"I really can't disclose anything regarding his tenure over there," DeAngelo said.

He did indicate, however, that the city lost no money in the deal. Federal and state dollars fund the BerkshireWorks executive director position and the "monies pass through the city but that's as far as it goes," DeAngelo said.

Ann C. Dufresne, communications director for the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, differed in her account.

Dufresne told The Eagle that the state made sure that no state or federal funds went to pay Monterosso's separation package.

The executive director's salary normally is comprised of state and federal funds, so according to Dufresne and other sources, the compensation had to come from an extraordinary source: BerkshireWorks discretionary funds. These funds typically pay for agency expenses not covered by state or federal funds.

Monterosso "was paid by the city," Dufresne said. "He was neither appointed nor employed by the state. We had to verify that no federal or state funds were used in that settlement. The city paid it out of discretionary funds."

Emails sent during the controversy support her position.

Alice Sweeney, director of state Department of Career Services, emailed Edward Bartkiewicz, manager of field management and oversight for the state Department of Career Services, on May 20 seeking to verify the payment source.

"You need to ensure [BerkshireWorks] is paying out of discretionary money," Sweeney said.

Signed agreement

The emails confirm knowledge among state officials of the existence of a document, a signed agreement, that was agreed to by Pittsfield and Monterosso regarding his separation terms.

Two more emails addressed to Bartkiewicz, from one state and one local employee, expressed frustration at the city's lack of transparency during the ordeal.

Timothy Dooling, general counsel of the state's Department of Career Services, wrote Bartkiewicz on June 3, saying, "Can you let me know exactly what you need from Pittsfield regarding the [executive director] separation? The parties signed confidentiality agreements and there is a reluctance to turn over the actual document."

Collins, the BerkshireWorks finance/human resources director who reports to the state, complained about the agreement in a May 20 email to Bartkiewicz.

"We were told the signed agreement would not be provided to us," Collins wrote. "Also, we must continue to provide [Monterosso's] health insurance for the same period. Since we have no documentation, how do we proceed? Could this be a potential disallowed cost? Should we be paying for the city's mistakes!"

He added, "The lack of communication and disrespect from the city has been appalling."

The same sources who initially told The Eagle of the agreement say Pittsfield law firm of Cohen, Kinne, Valicenti & Cook LLP, which is representing BerkshireWorks in two pending complaints filed by BerkshireWorks employees against both Monterosso and the agency, has sought access to the terms.

The complaints were filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination in September. The findings will become public once the cases are adjudicated.

pdemers@berkshireeagle.com @BE_PhilD on Twitter

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"High marks for marijuana applicants, but no licenses: Applicants say changes state suggested led nowhere"
By Kay Lazar and Shelley Murphy, Boston Globe Staff, July 15, 2014

One of the companies received the second-highest score among the dozens that applied for Massachusetts’ first medical marijuana dispensary licenses. Another tied for fourth-highest.

In all, five companies awarded some of the highest marks during licensing evaluations were skipped over in January because one of their executives didn’t pass a background check. But they were told by regulators that if they removed the person, the company would still be in the running, according to interviews with the firms’ officials and documents obtained by the Boston Globe.

The five applicants followed state regulators’ directions and dropped the executives, but were then rejected for licenses in late June without explanation.

Executives from the five deferred companies said in interviews with the Globe that the state Department of Public Health misled them and that its rejection of their applications underscores a lack of transparency and fairness in the high-stakes selection process. They said that the department, which licenses marijuana dispensaries, has not returned their e-mails and calls since the June decision.

“If the department were to offer us a reason, or even engage in a meaningful dialogue with us on what went wrong with our application, we are all ears,” said Andrea Nuciforo Jr., general counsel and treasurer of Kind Medical Inc., a deferred company that had proposed a dispensary in Easthampton.

“What the law does not allow is for the department to score an applicant very high, ask them to make a minor tweak, and walk them down the primrose path for five months,” Nuciforo said.

He and representatives of the other deferred companies said the state appeared to treat them differently than some applicants that were selected after removing executives with checkered pasts, including one consultant who was arrested last December for allegedly exposing himself in public.

Asked about the companies’ complaints, a spokesman for the health department declined to make the director of the medical marijuana program available for an interview, or to answer questions, and instead issued a statement.

“The Department’s initial background check process uncovered certain suitability issues with these applicants, and they were notified that the Department had exercised its discretion to not proceed with their applications,” it stated.

“While these applicants may have submitted additional information after being notified that they had not been selected, the Department did not change its decision.”

But that’s not exactly what the companies were told in a Jan. 31 letter from Karen van Unen, executive director of the marijuana program. She wrote that their applications “will not be selected at this time,” then added, “Your application is deferred from proceeding further in the review process pending resolution of a matter discovered on a background check involving an individual identified in your application.”

In addition to Kind Medical, the companies receiving this letter were: Mass Organic Therapy Inc. in Plymouth, Baystate Medical Enterprises/Beacon Wellness Center in Franklin, JM Farm’s Patient Group in Deerfield, and BeWell Organic Medicine Inc. in Lawrence.

The deferred companies’ executives said they also received private assurances from state health officials that their applications were still in the running, and they were encouraged not to speak to the news media about their status.

Rina Cametti, president of Baystate Medical Enterprises/Beacon Wellness Center, said that during a February meeting with the health department’s lawyer, Kay Doyle, Cametti noted that she had been getting calls from reporters asking why the company had not been selected for a provisional license, though it had received the fourth-highest score.

“I said I had not spoken to the media,” Cametti said, describing that meeting with Doyle. “She thanked me for that and said we appreciate you being discreet, and it speaks volumes about your professionalism.”

Background checks on the deferred applicants by a consultant for the health department turned up a range of concerns regarding an executive or board member, including motor vehicle violations, an assault, problems with child support payments, and an incorrectly filled prescription by a pharmacist a decade ago.

Other companies that won initial approval in January were later allowed to remove executives or key consultants from their teams before being awarded provisional licenses in June. Among those are three companies whose managers included Diane or John Czarkowski, a husband-and-wife team forced to shut down their Colorado medical marijuana facility for numerous violations. Also licensed was a company tapped for a Brockton medical marijuana dispensary, even though its compliance officer was arrested in December for allegedly exposing himself to a woman.

On Dec. 14, the month before In Good Health won preliminary approval from the state, Douglas Noble, the company’s then-director of compliance and regulatory affairs, was arrested by Scituate police and charged with two counts of open and gross lewdness after a woman working alone at a dry cleaner complained that he twice exposed himself to her, according to court documents.

Boston attorney Philip A. Tracy Jr., who represents Noble, said: “He claims it’s a total misunderstanding or mistake. He had loose-fitting clothes on . . . he’s not guilty, and we intend to pursue it.” He said Noble, 60, had no prior criminal record.

Noble, a South Shore businessman, has faced numerous civil claims, including a lawsuit by creditors for hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts run up by health facilities he co-owned.

David Ball, a spokesman for In Good Health, said the company notified state health officials in March that Noble was no longer associated with the firm. A copy of a letter that Ball said was sent to state health officials notes that company officials met with state regulators on March 17, and that Noble resigned the next day.

Ball said that Noble resigned because he was “dealing with a number of personal and professional issues,” and that regulators never raised questions about Noble’s December arrest, nor his problems with creditors, which were highlighted in a February Globe story.

Noble resigned four days after regulators sent applicants notices stating that anyone “who will have any involvement” with the firms would be subject to expanded background checks.

Kay Lazar can be reached at Kay.Lazar@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar. Shelley Murphy can be reached at Shelley.Murphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ShelleyMurph.

■ Correction: Because of an editing error, the graphic accompanying the print version of this article incorrectly characterized the scores given to dispensary applicants. Applicants approved in January for provisional licenses earned scores ranging from 137 to 160, out of a possible 163 points.

Related: Read the rejection letters.





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"State sued by failed contenders for WMass medical marijuana dispensary licenses"
By Shira Schoenberg | sschoenberg@repub.com - The Springfield Republican (online) - September 25, 2014

BOSTON - With the future of medical marijuana dispensaries in Western Massachusetts still uncertain, two unsuccessful license applicants say the state should give them another look. They are turning to the courts to make their case.

Kind Medical, which wants to open a dispensary in Easthampton, and JM Farm's Patient Group, which wants to open a dispensary in Deerfield, are among the plaintiffs in two separate court cases against the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Both dispensaries say the state denied their licenses for no reason, after they met every condition DPH set.

"The fact there are no dispensaries set up in Western Massachusetts is beyond belief," said Nick Spagnola, chief operating officer of JM Farm's Patient Group. "It's just not right, especially when there are very qualified groups out there who did everything right, listened to DPH recommendations, who genuinely expected to have a license based on what DPH asked them to do."

Scott Zoback, a DPH spokesman, said in a written statement, "We are pleased that multiple courts have validated our comprehensive process to ensure patient access and public safety across the Commonwealth. We are focused on moving forward with our inspection phase and the open county process to fulfill the will of voters."

In a court brief, DPH officials say they had a valid reason, relating to background checks, not to license the JM Farm's dispensary.

Both cases are in Suffolk County Superior Court.

The medical marijuana law passed by voters in 2012 requires the state to establish at least one dispensary in each county. DPH, on Jan. 31, approved 20 dispensaries for provisional licenses, including dispensaries in Hampden and Hampshire counties. It initiated a process to allow eight applicants to reapply in counties without a dispensary, including Franklin and Berkshire.

However, the fate of any western Massachusetts dispensaries remains unclear. After granting provisional approval to Debilitating Medical Condition Treatment Centers in Holyoke, in Hampden County, the state denied it a license due to audit findings related to president Heriberto Flores' work as president of the New England Farm Workers Council.

The license for New England Treatment Access in Northampton, in Hampshire County, was put on hold after reports that executive director Kevin Fisher lied about his education on his application. As part of the open county process, the state is considering licensing a dispensary in Greenfield, in Franklin County. There were no new applicants for Berkshire County.

Officials at Kind Medical and JM Farm's say the state should look back at the applications it denied.

"Certainly, patient access depends on successful applicants. And we unfortunately have a case where the department, having had ample strong applications, chose to allow none of them," said former state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo, a Pittsfield Democrat and the clerk for Kind Medical. "It's a disservice to patients and unfair to applicants."

Both Kind Medical and JM Farm's were among a small group of applicants who were not granted licenses in January, but who were told that their applications were "deferred" due to issues with background checks. At the time, DPH gave each application a numeric score. The successful applicants, including those invited to apply in a new location, all scored between 137 and 160. Kind Medical scored a 148, the 13th highest score among all dispensaries and the second highest in Hampshire County. JM Farm's scored 141, the 14th highest score overall and the highest in Franklin County.

JM Farm's joined a lawsuit with two other unsuccessful applicants – Beacon Wellness Center and Mass Organic Therapy. All three said they scored higher than other successful applicants and had their applications deferred until they dealt with personnel matters. Each one severed ties with the individual in question, then was denied a license anyway with no explanation.

The three argue that DPH's decision was arbitrary and capricious. They are asking the court to allow each of them to apply in an open county.

The office of Attorney General Martha Coakley, which represents DPH, responded in a court brief that the problems found in the background checks were reason enough to deny the license. The matters discovered during the background checks were "significant, relevant and highly troubling," wrote Assistant Attorney General Carrie Benedon. "And, in view of this information, the Department in its discretion ultimately determined that the applicants were not responsible or suitable to operate (a Registered Marijuana Dispensary)."

In JM Farm's case, their chair and cultivation manager James Pasiecnik was facing criminal charges for assault and battery and witness intimidation related to an incident in which Pasiecnik allegedly assaulted a man who came to collect money Pasiecnik owed him.

Benedon wrote that severing ties with the questionable person does not give the dispensary a right to a license. DPH also contends that there was no "irreparable harm" done to the dispensaries, since they can reapply for a license in the future. But, DPH attorneys argued, there would be harm to the registration process and to other unsuccessful applicants, and further delays to patients, if the court circumvents the process by these particular applicants to reapply.

The case is awaiting a judge's ruling.

Separately, Kind Medical sued the state on Aug. 25, arguing similarly that DPH's decision "was arbitrary and capricious, unreasonable, whimsical, and against the substantial weight of the evidence."

According to the court filing, DPH told Kind Medical that its application was deferred pending resolution of a background check relating to the group's cultivation specialist, Jan Carlos Byl. According to court documents, Byl, who was also the cultivation manager for Beacon Wellness, had a criminal record.

Byl resigned from the organization. Nuciforo wrote in the court filing that he was told by DPH deputy council Kay Doyle that Byl's removal would result in Kind Medical being awarded the license given the strength of its management team and "the dearth of quality applications in western Massachusetts." Doyle also asked Nuciforo if he would be willing to reapply in Berkshire County, and he said he would. However, DPH told Nuciforo in June that Kind Medical had not been selected for a license. He was not invited to reapply in an open county.

Nuciforo claims DPH was inconsistent in applying its selection criteria. He is asking the court to direct DPH to award Kind Medical a license in Hampshire County and allow him to reapply through the open county process.

DPH has not yet filed a reply in that case.

Several other unsuccessful applicants have filed lawsuits, and judges so far have generally ruled in favor of the state.

Nuciforo and Spagnola expressed frustration with the process. Nuciforo believes his company did everything right. "It took time, it took money, it took energy to comply with the department's rules and to meet their very precise requirements," Nuciforo said. "It's hard for me to imagine a construct handled in a more arbitrary or capricious fashion than this one."

Spagnola said he feels bad for the patients. "Those who have actually lost the most are those suffering. They're still in a legal gray area. They don't have safe medical access to marijuana," Spagnola said.

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September 26, 2014

Re: Nuciforo suing state of Massachusetts over denied medical pot permit

The Springfield Republican newspaper ran 2 news stories this past week about former Pittsfield State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. suing the state of Massachusetts in Suffolk County Superior Court over a denied pot permit. Nuciforo argues that the state (DPH) acted unfairly in denying his group a permit to sell medical marijuana in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

I find Nuciforo's claim that his group was treated unfairly by the state (DPH) to be totally hypocritical. Since the Spring of 1996, when I was only 20 years old, Nuciforo had people associated with him bully me. Nuciforo's M.O. is to have other people do his dirty work without leaving behind his own finger-prints.

I tell my true story about Nuciforo's conspiratorial layered bullying of me on my blog page:
http://jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/2008/05/andrea-nuciforo-jonathan-melle-month-of.html

Nuciforo also strong-armed 2 woman candidates out of a 2006 state government for Pittsfield Registrar of Deeds to anoint himself to a sinecure while plotted a failed campaign for U.S. Congress in 2012.

http://luciforo.blogspot.com/2009/07/luciforo-stong-armed-2-women-out-of.html

I believe that Nuciforo's motivation to sue the state government he once represented in the Massachusetts State Senate for 10 years is to gain a permit to sell medical marijuana in order to make money for himself and his group, which by law must be a not-for-profit entity. I also believe that Nuciforo is the definition of unfair. The way he treated me over the past 18-plus years was mean-spirited! The way he strong-armed two women candidates out of a state government election in 2006 was both sexist and corrupt.

In closing, I hope Nuciforo loses his lawsuit against the state of Massachusetts (DPH), and he never gets his permit to sell medical marijuana!

- Jonathan Melle

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"State’s first medical marijuana dispensary to open in Salem"
By Kay Lazar, Boston Globe Staff, June 19, 2015

The state’s first medical marijuana dispensary, Alternative Therapies Group in Salem, is expected to open shortly, after receiving a temporary waiver Friday that will allow it to sell cannabis that has not been fully tested for pesticides and other contaminants.

The one-time waiver was granted because laboratories in Massachusetts are not yet able to complete the quality testing required by state health department rules, according to Governor Charlie Baker’s office.

“Patients have waited to access marijuana for medical purposes for far too long,” Baker said in a statement. “This waiver will allow industry laboratories a little more time to reach full operation while providing safe amounts of medical marijuana for qualifying patients who need it.”

But chemists at two labs poised to test dispensary products said the problem isn’t operations at the labs. The problem, they said, resides with the state’s guidelines, issued just six weeks ago, that set standards that are too stringent for lead.

And just as crucially, the labs said, while the rules require the cannabis to be screened for 18 pesticides that dispensaries are prohibited from using, they do not mandate testing to see whether residue from permissible pesticides remain.

“As a consumer, I would want to know those products are free from pesticides, but how do I know they are free from pesticides if they are not being tested?” said Christopher Hudalla, with ProVerde Laboratories in Milford, which is used by Alternative Therapies.

The Salem dispensary submitted its first batch of marijuana for testing, the Baker administration said, but the lab was unable to test for seven of the 18 prohibited pesticides.

Hudalla disputed that, saying his lab is able to detect 17 of the 18, and will be ready next week to test for all 18.

The Baker administration also said the lab had problems testing for metals.

Hudalla and Michael Kahn, president of MCR Labs in Framingham, said the lead levels allowed by the state are so strict that no dispensaries would be able to meet them.

By comparison, lead levels allowed for medical marijuana in Connecticut and Colorado are at least 40 times higher, and are safe, Hudalla said.

One organic potato tested by the lab had higher levels of lead than allowed under the state’s marijuana rules, he said.

“I am concerned about patients not having access due to too-stringent levels,” Kahn said.

Both chemists said the state Department of Public Health has declined to communicate with them about these problems. The state did not directly respond to a question from the Globe about whether it had communicated with the labs.

Under the state’s medical marijuana rules, the health department regulates the dispensaries, not the labs. Asked about the concerns raised by the labs, department spokesman Scott Zoback said in a statement, “This administration has made it a priority to communicate with [dispensaries] in a timely fashion about our testing standards, as well as all regulations, to ensure safe patient access.”

When Massachusetts issued its marijuana testing rules two years ago, those standards were among the most stringent in the country, requiring dispensaries to have their products screened by an outside lab for heavy metals, pesticides, and mold. They must also identify and measure active chemical compounds in the cannabis.

Under the waiver granted to Alternative Therapies, its marijuana can be distributed with a label that discloses the chemicals not tested.

“We are not lowering our standards for the testing of marijuana for medical purposes. Safety is job one,” Marylou Sudders, the state health and human services secretary, said in a statement. “The waiver allows for small amounts of marijuana to be dispensed for medical use while testing facilities ramp up.”

Under the three-month waiver, Alternative Therapies is allowed to dispense a maximum of 4.23 ounces of marijuana to qualifying patients for use over two months, while instructing patients to consume no more than 2 grams a day. Normally, patients would be allowed to buy up to 10 ounces of marijuana every two months.

During the next three months, the state health department will review its standards for testing metal levels in marijuana to ensure those levels are attainable for dispensaries in the future, the department said.

“We carefully considered the initial testing results, and we will review the standards going forward,” Dr. Monica Bharel, the state’s public health commissioner, said in a statement. “We believe these levels provide for patient health protections while allowing the first dispensary to distribute marijuana for medical use as voted on in 2012.”

Health officials said Alternative Therapies must complete one final state inspection before opening, and while they expected it to happen quickly, they were unable to offer a timetable. The Alternative Therapies Group’s executive director, Christopher Edwards, did not return a phone call.

Kay Lazar can be reached at Kay.Lazar@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.

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Chuck Grant displayed his medical marijuana that he picked up from the dispensary in Salem. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff.

"First medical marijuana dispensary opens in Massachusetts"
By Kay Lazar and Virgie Hoban, Boston Globe Staff and Correspondent, June 24, 2015

SALEM — Roughly two dozen patients were waiting in line when the doors opened for business at 10:40 a.m. Wednesday at Alternative Therapies Group, the first dispensary to sell marijuana for medical use in Massachusetts. Patient number one was a gray-haired man with a walker.

Nearly three years after voters approved medical marijuana, access to the Salem dispensary in a converted brick factory building was by appointment only. A police officer stood by the building’s entrance, and a private security guard checked off patients’ names from a clipboard as they waited in line under crystal blue skies.

“We fought a long time for this,” said Peter Hayashi, a 59-year-old disabled neuropsychologist.

Hayashi, who said he suffers from a neurological condition that makes it painful at times to feel cold air on his skin, said he has been getting marijuana from a Maine dispensary to ease his symptoms. Without marijuana, he said, he has often resorted to spending hours in bed with covers over his skin to protect against painful temperature changes.

“Marijuana has helped me be up and around more normally,” he said.

Also waiting in line was 53-year-old Wendy Atwood, who said she has long used marijuana to ease knee pain from arthritis, depression, and anxiety.

“I am a law-abiding citizen, a mom with two kids, and a day-care provider,” Atwood said.

“It’s going to be very exciting to walk into the store,” Atwood added. “I’m happy that it’s not under wraps anymore.”

More than 18,000 patients have the required physician certifications to legally use marijuana for medicinal purposes in Massachusetts, according to state records, and about half have completed registration with the state to shop in dispensaries.

Fourteen other dispensaries from Northampton to Boston have received preliminary state approval and are finalizing plans to open. At least two of those are expected to open this fall.

The executive director of the trade association representing dispensaries issued a statement saying the industry welcomes the opening of the first dispensary, but raising concerns that the state’s testing standards for medical marijuana are too stringent.

“Massachusetts has the most conservative testing limits in the country,” Kevin Gilnack, executive director of the Commonwealth Dispensary Association.

Alternative Therapies was able to open after receiving a temporary waiver last week from the state that allows it to sell cannabis that has not been fully tested for pesticides and other contaminants.

The one-time waiver was granted because laboratories in Massachusetts are not yet able to complete the quality testing required by state health department rules, Governor Charlie Baker’s office said last week.

But chemists at two labs poised to test dispensary products said last week the problem isn’t operations at the labs. The problem, they said, resides with the state’s guidelines, issued just six weeks ago, that set standards that are too stringent for lead.

The trade association said in its statement that the state made an errant assumption about how much marijuana patients might consume.

“A survey of available data showed that the heaviest users consume about 2 to 3 grams of cannabis per day,” Gilnack said in the statement. “Connecticut assumed a patient might consume 2.33 grams per day while Nevada assumed a patient might consume 5 grams in a day, yet [the Massachusetts Department of Public Health] based our testing limits on the assumption a patient could consume 28 grams -- about six to 12 times more than what we’re seeing in other states.”

Kay Lazar can be reached at kay.lazar@globe.com.

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HEALTH CARE INC. - "Marijuana dispensary victory could set precedent for ongoing pot lawsuits"
By Jessica Bartlett, Boston Business Journal, April 30, 2015

A Suffolk Superior Court judge’s decision overturning the state’s rejection of a medical marijuana dispensary license could have impacts for the handful of ongoing cases against the state.

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Mitchell Kaplan, in a decision issued Monday, said that the state cannot rescind the preliminary license for former Congressman William Delahunt’s dispensary, Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts.

The dispensary was one of nine to have received a provisional license, only to see it clawed back when the state took another look at the 20 dispensaries it had approved. The company, which is no longer associated with Delahunt, is now proceeding with a license request for Mashpee and Plymouth.

The decision may set a precedent for the handful of ongoing cases against the Department of Public Health and its executives, bringing into question the landscape of medical marijuana dispensaries that may be allowed to move forward in coming months, and the finality of the state's rejection of licenses.

“What we have here in (with) Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts is a case that arises out of different facts, but the same kinds of detrimental alliance, and the same time of regulatory hat trick occurred in their case as in ours,” said Andrea Nuciforo, an attorney representing Kind Medical Inc., an applicant for a license.

Attorneys differ on what kind of precedent the case may set.

Nuciforo said the case could be helpful for his client. Although Kind was not given a provisional license, Nuciforo said the Department of Public Health was not clear in why it ultimately rejected his client, and said his client followed the Department of Public Health's suggestions and regulations.

“The judge got it exactly right here, how fundamentally unfair this process was for people who played by the rules,” said Nuciforo.

According to docket records, there are two other lawsuits against the state from applicants besides Kind that were rejected from provisional licenses.

But Thomas Bean, an attorney with Verrill Dana LLP that represented Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, said the implications were more for the cases where licenses had been clawed back.

“For those applicants who were de-selected for a reason other than a material misrepresentation on the application, if they have pled as we have, this could make a difference for them,” Bean said.

Brighton Health Advocates, which was given a provisional license and had it clawed back similar to Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, is also suing the state, according to docket records.

According to docket information and attorneys, six other lawsuits have either been dismissed or settlements have been reached.

The state declined to comment on what kind of precedent the Suffolk Superior Court ruling might set, only saying that the agency was reviewing the decision.

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July 19, 2015

Re: Nuciforo's Taconic Finance corporation?

http://www.taconicfinance.com/

Taconic Finance Partners LLC

The Financing Solution for Marijuana Cultivation Centers and Dispensaries.

Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., Esq.
14 Waubeek Road, Pittsfield, MA 01201 USA
(c) 413.822.3399
anuciforo@Taconicfinance.com

Karen Katz, Esq.
222 Pleasant Street, Brookline, MA 02446-6855 USA
(c) 617.935.9331
kkatz@Taconicfinance.com

http://corp.sec.state.ma.us/CorpWeb/CorpSearch/CorpSummary.aspx?FEIN=001127974

Date of Organization in Massachusetts: 02-10-2014.

https://opencorporates.com/companies/us_ma/001127974

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“Group awaits word on medical marijuana facility application for Pittsfield”
By Jim Therrien, The Berkshire Eagle, August 8, 2015

PITTSFIELD - A nonprofit company hoping to locate a medical marijuana facility in Pittsfield expects to hear soon whether the application will make it into the next phase of the state Department of Public Health's license review process.

Julia Germaine, of Manna Wellness Inc., said this week that notification from the state could come within a few days. If Manna Wellness is invited to submit information in a second application phase, that would require further details about the nonprofit and its principals.

A third application phase would deal with site location and community support.

The application process for medical marijuana cultivation and dispensary facilities was revised this spring, and the current batch of applications was submitted in June, including the Manna Wellness submission.

Among the changes are that a former cap of 35 facilities statewide has been eliminated, and Germaine said she believes the DPH under the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker may have a better understanding of the financial aspects of managing a small nonprofit and in judging whether it can operate a production and/or dispensary facility.

In the initial application process, in 2013-14, a total of 20 projects were selected for dispensary or medical marijuana production facilities at designated sites around the state, but none were approved in Berkshire County. Manna Wellness, which applied designating a site on Callahan Drive in Pittsfield, and four other proposals within the county failed to win initial approval in the first round.

Afterward, nine of the first projects selected were rejected after additional information about the nonprofits, the principals involved with the operation or other aspects surfaced. A few previously rejected proposals were revived, and today there are 15 projects currently holding at least a provisional certificate of registration from the DPH, according to a list on the department's website.

To date, although medicinal marijuana was approved overwhelmingly by voters in November 2012, and the DPH began promulgating regulations the following spring, the licensing process has resulted in only three nonprofits receiving a final certificates of registration, and only one holds an approval to sell medical marijuana, according to a chart on the DPH website.

Alternative Therapies Inc. has received a formal approval to sell, and the nonprofit has both a retail facility in Salem and a cultivation facility in Amesbury.

Germaine said the Salem dispensary apparently has a limited supply of marijuana, in addition to being located far from Western Massachusetts.

By later this year, however, New England Treatment Access — holding final certificates issued for a dispensary in Northampton and a cultivation facility in Franklin County — is expected to receive the approval to sell.

Other nonprofits holding final certificates of registration but lacking approval to sell at this point are located in Ayer and Brockton.

Manna Wellness is among three dozen nonprofit applicants that submitted proposals in June under the revised state permitting process. The local nonprofit had been among 61 nonprofits "not selected at this time" for a provisional license in the first selection round in January 2014.

It remains unclear in the current phase how many of the nonprofits are considering sites in the Berkshires or Western Massachusetts, because the location review is the third of three reviews under the revised application process.

Germaine said she has heard that other entities are considering a site in the county or in Western Massachusetts but does not know the specific plans. Manna Wellness is among those that submitted an application of intent, she said, which includes financial information on the corporation and the directorship.

If invited to submit a second-phase application, additional management and operational profiles would be required, along with a narrative description of the management team and a summary of operating policies. In the third and final application submission, nonprofits would provide a siting profile showing the proposed location and include a demonstration of community support or non-opposition to the plan.

Manna Wellness, which began a local zoning review process in Pittsfield during the initial application process, believes that community support is likely. "We are confident we could work with Pittsfield again," Germaine said.

She said Manna Wellness is considering three possible locations, including the site off Callahan Drive that the nonprofit previously proposed for a cultivation facility and dispensary.

The complete list of certificate applications by nonprofits and their current status is listed on the DPH website: www.mass.gov/eohhs/gov/departments/dph/programs/hcq/medical-marijuana

Germaine said individuals in Massachusetts seeking to use medical marijuana can receive the drug through registered medicinal marijuana caregivers, who are allowed to grow marijuana for that purpose, or they can obtain a waiver to cultivate the plant.

Like caregivers, patients also have to register with the state and obtain an identification card. According to the DPH website, more than 20,000 residents have been certified as patients because of a medical condition, and nearly 12,000 of those are registered through an online system that now also is required.

Qualifying conditions for use of medicinal marijuana include AIDS, cancer, ALS, Parkinson's disease, Crohn's disease, and multiple sclerosis.

Information on the patient registration process is available at www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/dph/quality/medical-marijuana/mmj-system-registration-patient-step-by-step.pdf

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247. jtherrien@berkshireeagle.com @BE_therrien on Twitter.

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“Marijuana dispensary questions in Amherst”
By Scott Merzbach, Staff Writer, Amherst Bulletin, June 30, 2016

AMHERST — A fourth proposed medical marijuana dispensary received a letter of support from the Select Board last week, but not before concerns were expressed by members about the possibility of such enterprises displacing existing businesses and being grouped close together near the University of Massachusetts campus.

After a nearly 90-minute discussion that focused on the merits of the application, the Select Board on June 20 voted 4-0 in favor of issuing a letter of support for Happy Valley Ventures MA Inc., a Newton nonprofit, to put its dispensary at 422 Amity St., the site of Rafters Sports Bar & Restaurant. Member Andrew Steinberg abstained.

Happy Valley Ventures would build a new 4,000-square-foot building along University Drive, raze the building that has housed Rafters since its opening in 1991, and construct a second new building that would either serve as a restaurant or retail store, said Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., the lawyer representing the company.

But Nuciforo, a former state senator who has law offices in Pittsfield and Boston, said he could not promise that Rafters would still exist if the company receives permission to open from the state’s Department of Public Health.

The three previous applications endorsed by the Select Board were different in that they proposed using vacant buildings on University Drive and Meadow Street, and a proposed new building at an empty parcel on University Drive.

Steinberg said Wednesday he is concerned about what number of medical marijuana facilities is appropriate for the town, the potential concentration of such shops in one geographic area and the possibility voters will legalize recreational marijuana in November.

“In the end, I felt I didn’t want to vote for issuing another letter of support,” Steinberg said, adding he is nervous about three sales points for marijuana, potentially for recreational use, on a street that is one of the gateways to UMass.

Nuciforo told the board that Happy Valley Ventures is a community-oriented nonprofit that will provide a first-class experience for patients in western Massachusetts, and that it will be ready to transition to recreational sales should they be permitted.

Sales of $10 million

Peter Hechenbleikner, interim town manager, said residents should not be worried that all the projects proposed will arrive in Amherst.

“Just because there are four letters of support doesn’t mean there will be four medical marijuana facilities in the community,” Hechenbleikner said.

Hechenbleikner said annual gross sales of medical marijuana in Amherst are estimated at $10 million, and there are already questions about whether multiple companies could each be successful providing marijuana treatment options.

Select Board members said they do not appreciate that an established business like Rafters could be lost, even though they voted to let the process play out.

Board member Constance Kruger said the challenge for existing businesses is that the landscape for properties has changed with the money involved in the marijuana business.

“The legalization of medical marijuana changed the real estate values for some parcels, leaving local businesses not always able to compete with these higher land values,” Kruger said.

Jerry Guidera, interim director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, said he believes that forcing out a successful restaurant and bar would not be good for the town.

“No one wants to see a business displaced,” Guidera said. “That’s not what we consider economic growth.”

But Guidera added that he remains confident that Rafters will exist in some form even should Happy Valley Ventures open.

In fact, Rafters owner Dolly Jolly said the plan is to keep the restaurant open until her family is told it will have to move or close.

Jolly said earlier that even though her family has the right of first refusal on the building, the $2 million proposed sale price was too high, at more than twice the $854,200 assessment.

According to an agreement signed March 19, that is the purchase price agreed to between Happy Valley and West Amherst LLC, managed by Laird Summerlin, of Edisto Island, South Carolina, to buy the 1968 building and 1.31 acres at 422 Amity St.

Capping numbers

The fourth letter of support came a week after the Select Board debated whether it should cap the number of support letters it will issue on behalf of medical marijuana facilities.

The board has submitted letters of support for two dispensaries proposed a short distance away: MassMedicum Corp. of Easton, in a new 2,000-square-foot building at 85 University Drive; and Mass Alternative Care of Springfield, to use a former restaurant space at 55 University Drive.

In March, the board approved a letter of support for GTI-Massachusetts NP Corp. to use a 3.3-acre site at 169 Meadow St. in North Amherst.

Another dispensary, called the Happy Valley Compassion Center, is proposed for Route 9 in Hadley near the Amherst town line.

Steinberg said it appears communities have the authority to limit the number of dispensaries, which he argues may be wise public policy with so many planned near UMass.

The town’s bylaw governing medical marijuana sites was based on a state limit of five per county, but this cap was changed by the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker, Hechenbleikner said.

It will not be easy for town zoning to catch up with this, said board member Douglas Slaughter.

“There was no way for us to modify our zoning to react to that regulatory change of a new administration in any reasonable way,” Slaughter said. “It puts us in a bit of a pickle here in some respects.”

But Chairwoman Alisa Brewer said she is mostly comfortable with the process being used.

“I’m a little worried about putting the brakes on now when I’m not sure how that serves us,” Brewer said.

Kruger said she is not sure she would have a way of saying no to medial marijuana applicants that meet all the rules the town has set.

“I am worried about four (dispensaries), but I don’t really have a way that I can figure out how to not hear the next one to make a decision,” Kruger said.

Hechenbleikner, though, said it is unlikely that the board will entertain other applicants in the near future, instead waiting to see how these play out in the coming months. Each must also get approvals from the town Zoning Board of Appeals.

Sales elsewhere

The concerns about replacing existing businesses with marijuana stores, and the proximity to college students, were issues already confronted in Boulder, Colorado, which is much larger than Amherst, and, like Amherst, hosts a major institution, the University of Colorado.

Mishawn Cook, licensing administrator for the city, said in an email that the city council, in its code, placed limits of no more than three marijuana businesses of any license class within 500 feet of each other.

“The original stated purpose of this restriction was to preserve a diversity of business in our city, in sales, manufacturing and industrial zones,” Cook said.

Colorado began allowing retail sales of marijuana for recreational use in 2014. Boulder currently has 81 licenses issued for greenhouse grow operations, dispensaries, wellness centers, and manufacturing of infused products.

Guidera said it is too early in the process to say if medical marijuana or potentially recreational marijuana sales would pose dangers to Amherst’s business community. He speculates, though, that having numerous such businesses in one section of Amherst might be harmful.

“We would be concerned about lining University Drive with multiple marijuana dispensaries,” Guidera said.

Hechenbleikner said the Select Board will not be bound by its support for medical marijuana businesses should state law change and allow sales for recreational use of the Class D drug.

Boulder put in place safeguards such as not allowing pot shops in mixed-use zones with residences and prohibiting sales on the ground level in its downtown business improvement district.

“This combined with the density restriction has likely helped preserve a variety of business both in our downtown district and adjacent to CU campus,” Cook said.

Steinberg and Kruger both serve on the Campus and Community Coalition to Reduce High-Risk Drinking that brings together university and municipal leaders to combat alcohol issues. They said the group has not yet decided whether marijuana should be a topic for the coalition as it might become easier to acquire.

As for concerns about having these enterprises close to the campus, Cook said the federal Department of Justice took care of that problem by sending 10 letters to businesses that were already operating near the University of Colorado, with the federal officials telling them to move or close up.

“Subsequently, we no longer really have marijuana sales locations that are close to the CU campus because those locations did comply and moved or closed,” Cook said.

The University of Colorado, through its student conduct code, makes it clear that any use or possession of cannabis is not allowed on campus:

“As part of the campus rules, marijuana is still prohibited on campus for use or possession,” said Ryan Huff, spokesman for the university.

The code reads: “Use or possession of marijuana, including medical marijuana used or possessed under Colorado constitution article 18, section 14, is strictly prohibited on campus.”

“Being a university, we have federal funding and we have to follow the Federal Drug Free Schools Act,” Huff said.

With the change in law, there is no evidence of an uptick in use by students. “We haven’t seen a fluctuation in more people using or possessing,” Huff said.

UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski said current policies prohibit any use or possession of any marijuana on campus, but as dispensaries arrive near the campus, and the possibility of full legalization in the state looms, there could be implications.

“We need to spend more time on the matter,” Blaguszewski said. “One aspect to be considered for us is the federal law and federal funds and how these are distributed across the country and how they could be be impacted by marijuana legalization.”

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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“Pittsfield third medical marijuana site wins permit”
Grants special permit for cultivation, dispensary site
By Jim Therrien, The Berkshire Eagle, July 21, 2016

PITTSFIELD - A special permit was granted Wednesday by the Zoning Board of Appeals for a medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation facility on Dalton Avenue — the third such permit granted in Pittsfield, all of which are awaiting required sales licenses from the state.

The proposed facility, planned for an existing building at 501 Dalton Ave., is the second in that area undergoing the state licensing process. Another is proposed in a building at 531 Dalton Ave.

Both sites have received site plan and special permit approval at the city level but still lack a sales license from the state Department of Public Health.

A third facility is proposed for a building at 25 Downing Parkway.

Attorney Andrea Nuciforo, representing the applicant, Khem Organics Inc., emphasized that the state licensing process is a rigorous and lengthy one. "We are now about halfway through that process," he said.

City permitting boards have been approving site plans and special permits for eligible sites, but the approvals are contingent upon receipt of a state license. A fourth nonprofit group had previously obtained a special permit for the 531 Dalton Ave. site but was unable to advance in the state DPH's multi-stage licensing process.

Nuciforo and Brent White of White Engineering Inc., which prepared the site plan for Khem Organics, said the facility would use about 14,000 of 26,400 square feet of floor space in the building, with the other space reserved for existing business tenants.

They said the medical marijuana facility would be open approximately from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and up to 50 customers would be expected on an average day.

Customers also must be certified through the DPH, and use of the product is not allowed on the premises, Nuciforo said.

Devon Grierson, at attorney with Aaronson & Associates, representing the family that owns the adjacent Ken's Bowl, objected to the plan. He said the permit should be denied because there are many children visiting the bowling alley, including for special youth events.

However, Nuciforo said that, while state law and regulation authorizing medical marijuana sales establishes a 500-foot buffer zone between outlets and schools, playgrounds or day care centers, a business or other site, such as the bowling facility, would not meet that definition under the guidelines.

He said similar issues have arisen many times across the state, leading to that guideline determination.

City Planner C.J. Hoss concurred. He said the issue of what type of sites having activities involving children should be subject to a buffer zone restriction was specifically discussed when city officials passed an ordinance to regulate the siting of medical marijuana facilities.

Nuciforo and White did, however, agree to a request from Grierson and the Ken's Bowl owners that parking for the proposed dispensary be clearly marked and delineated from the adjacent parking for the bowling facility. The two sites are surrounded by paved parking areas facing Dalton Ave.

The Khem Organics plan was approved unanimously and earlier this week obtained site plan approval from the Community Development Board.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247. jtherrien@berkshireeagle.com @BE_therrien on Twitter.

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Our Opinion: “Medical marijuana clinics are a done deal”
The Berkshire Eagle, 8/4/2016

All the debate and unhappiness in Lee aside, the Board of Selectmen had no grounds on which to oppose a medical marijuana clinic. State law won't allow it.

The board voted 2-1 Tuesday night not to try to block a medical marijuana clinic off Route 102 proposed by Massachusetts Alternative Care Incorporated (Eagle, August 4). As Selectwoman Patricia Carlino told residents, the clinics are legal businesses that sell to people in real need, not to kids looking to buy pot.

That is a distinction that has been getting lost in the debate. Medical marijuana is being used for the treatment of pain, depression, nausea, sleep disorders and a wide variety of other ailments. A study released Wednesday reported that doctors in Massachusetts and across the nation are increasingly turning away from conventional medications to medical marijuana.

According to the study results published in the journal Health Affairs, this resulted in a reduction in spending of about $165 million on prescription drugs under Medicare in one year. This transition could translate to a decreased use of the opioids that are fueling the state's deadly heroin epidemic. Assertions that marijuana is a gateway drug to harder drugs are largely anecdotal.

Six medical marijuana clinics have opened across the state without incident. The real issue facing the state is November's ballot question that could legalize recreational marijuana use in the state. The attorney for the Lee group has assured residents that the medical marijuana clinic is not a stalking horse for recreational sales, which has been written into the deed.

State voters resoundingly approved medical marijuana clinics by referendum vote on the 2012 ballot, and because the state was in denial and unprepared it has taken this long for the clinics to begin to come into existence. Lee's clinic is at least two years away.

This time, state officials had best be prepared for the real possibility that recreational clinics will be approved by voters on November 8. After-the-fact opposition to a state law is pointless.

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“A new frontier: Medical dispensaries in Berkshires look to cultivate new clientele”
By Larry Parnass - The Berkshire Eagle - lparnass@berkshireeagle.com - November 19, 2016

PITTSFIELD - Operators of three proposed medical marijuana dispensaries in Pittsfield expect to open next year, bringing this therapeutic option to Berkshire County nearly five years after it won at the polls.

The three nonprofits, Khem Organics, Temescal Wellness (formerly Manna Wellness) and Heka Health Inc. are also considering the market for recreational weed, following passage of Question 4 this month, their representatives say.

But before committing to recreational sales - and seeking the new approvals needed - the companies are waiting.

They want the "yes" voters provided Nov. 8 to become the "how" of state regulations. They won't be at a competitive disadvantage for waiting: The law gives existing dispensaries first option to apply for permits to run commercial stores.

Rules outlined in the 25-page new law won't be the last word. Legislative leaders are promising quick work to address questions and concerns about the initiative petition on recreational marijuana, which one municipal advocate says puts cities and towns at a disadvantage.

Deborah Goldberg, the state treasurer, has already asked for more time to shape an oversight system.

"Our focus right now is on trying to get as much breathing room for localities and municipal leaders so they can lean into this issue and make some decisions," said Geoff Beckwith, executive director and CEO of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

THE COUNTDOWN

Khem Organics expects to begin renovations of a building at 501 Dalton Ave. within 60 days, according to John E. Mullen IV, its chief executive officer.

That timetable may make Khem Organics the first to open a dispensary in Pittsfield, which Mullen said could happen by late next summer, once the company completes its architectural review with state regulators. It secured its provisional certificate of registration from the state Department of Public Health on July 27.

According to DPH filings, the people investing in Khem are Matthew C. Feeney ($690,023), Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. ($475,000) and Albert S. Wojtkowski ($329,108).

In another first, Khem Organics' facility on Dalton Avenue, located behind the Salon Experience outlet and beside Ken's Bowl in a building that now houses a Salvation Army Family Store, muffler shop and pool hall, would grow all of the marijuana provided by the dispensary.

"We're full speed ahead on this project to provide access to our local patients," Mullen said. "That's our main goal; to be here in the Berkshires."

The company has hired Dennis Depaolo as its lead grower and chief operating officer, Mullen said. The building, owned by Wojtkowski Brothers Inc., provides roughly 16,000 square feet of growing space.

While other companies entering the field have proposed multiple dispensaries, Khem Organics is keeping its focus on Pittsfield, Mullen said. He is a registered nurse who continues to work in health care. In past jobs, he has assisted patients, including severely developmentally disabled people with seizure disorders, for whom medical marijuana can provide relief.

"I definitely can see the benefits of this industry to patients," he said.

Mullen expects the dispensary will be open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Whether orKhem Organics pursues commercial sales of recreational marijuana depends on how state regulations evolve, Mullen said.

"You never know how things will go," he said. "We have a good plan for this facility and our focus is on this facility. But we'll gather the information and make a determination soon."

NEW BUILDING

Temescal Wellness, in a project led locally by Julia Germaine, plans to build a 3,500-square-foot dispensary on a vacant lot on Callahan Drive off West Housatonic Street, about four miles southwest of downtown Pittsfield. The location is near the Ice River Springs water bottling plant and Fontaine's Antiques.

The property was vacant Friday morning except for two crows perched side by side on a leafless tree.

The company received a special permit from the Pittsfield Zoning Board of Appeals on Oct. 26. It was awarded its provisional certificate by the state June 30.

The project OK'd in Pittsfield is smaller than a plan submitted in 2013, when the company planned to cultivate marijuana on the site - before shifting to a Worcester location.

The company merged recently with Temescal, based in New Hampshire, where it operates a growing facility in Manchester and dispensaries in Lebanon and Dover. Germaine is chief operating officer of the Massachusetts side of the business. Anthony Parrinello is its CEO and is also executive director of the company's New Hampshire operations.

"I expect we'll break ground in the spring, with the expectation of opening at the end of 2017," Germaine said of the Pittsfield project.

Top investors are Ethos Realty Inc. ($138,964) and Edward T. and Jill M. Rebholz ($1,577,705).

Massachusetts dispensaries can only provide medical marijuana grown within the state. Temescal expects to hire 30 people to operate its planned cultivation center in Worcester. Along with the Pittsfield dispensary, it plans outlets in Framingham and Hudson.

As for recreational marijuana sales, Germaine said Temescal is interested in the market but wants a clearer sense of how it will be run. She said one reason to enter the recreational market is to be able to supply to people who can benefit medicinally, but have not pursued registration as patients under the state's system. She said some prospective patients worry that registration will jeopardize their jobs, affect child custody or change their eligibility to hold gun permits.

"It's quite the watershed moment," she said. "It's something that we are considering. We're kind of in a wait-and-see mode." With so much still to be determined by the Legislature, Germaine added, "it doesn't behoove us to make plans."

OTHER PROJECTS

A third proposed dispensary, Heka Health, received its provisional certificate July 12.

Thomas P. Keenan, a lawyer representing Heka Health, said the company is working with the DPH on inspections and is focusing on getting its cultivation facility open in Westfield, where it will also run a dispensary. .

"We haven't really done much work at our Pittsfield location, except to clear out the building so it will be ready for the build out once we have approvals from the state," he said.

On Friday, the 531 Dalton Ave. site, formerly home of Countrywide Rentals, sat empty, with a large green Dumpster in the parking lot filled to the top with debris from the old business. Keenan said Heka Health plans to renovate the space in the spring and open "sometime next summer."

The property is owned by the Pittsfield Investment Group Inc. based in Westfield.

Its major investor is the Westfield Investing Group, according to DPH files, which provided a loan of $1.3 million. The group is managed by Curtis S. Gezotis and Marc Lichwan, both of whom are Heka Health directors.

The company's president and CEO is Mark A. Dupuis, who will serve as head of cultivation in the 40,000-square-foot growing center that he owns in Westfield. The chief operating officer is Dr. Joseph J. Keenan, a surgeon.

Like the other dispensaries, Heka Health is assessing whether to enter the recreational marijuana market.

"We are waiting to see what the regulations say before making any decision in that regard. It's a little too early to provide any comment on that potential aspect of the business."

In Great Barrington, Theory Wellness Inc., based in Stoneham, plans to house a dispensary in a new one-story, wood-frame building that will go up on a vacant lot at 394 Stockbridge Road. The dispensary expects to open by next summer. The company submitted a site plan to the DPH on Sept. 20 and received its provisional certificate from the state Nov. 3.

LEGAL SALES

Dispensary operators aren't the only ones wondering about the new age of recreational marijuana sales.

C.J. Hoss, Pittsfield's city planner, said informal talks were held before the Nov. 8 vote on how the city would handle requests for recreational marijuana sales outlets.

"We have some time but over the next few months we'll develop some zoning that addresses recreational dispensaries," he said.

While communities will be able to ban sales by popular vote, the law that passed with the referendum question makes that difficult.

While the measure allows communities to ban sales through local referenda, the first one could not be held until the statewide election in November 2018 - 11 months after the first stores can open.

"That's a major flaw in the way the question was worded," said Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.

He said the law also gives significant power to a new Cannabis Control Commission. "Of course we don't want to have a state commission in Boston overwrite decisions made from Pittsfield to Provincetown."

Communities can set rules that limit the number of marijuana outlets to 20 percent of the number of liquor stores. They can also set limits on location and on hours of operation and use of signs.

Hoss said the city of Pittsfield will start a process, including public hearings, to define how approvals for marijuana sales are granted.

"There will be plenty of opportunities for input," he said.

Hoss said the city may also review the zoning rules it put in place for dispensaries.

Operators of medical marijuana dispensaries would need new approvals from the ZBA because the use would be changed.

Pittsfield voters approved Question 4 by a vote of 11,538 to 8,226 - or 58-42 percent.

Statewide, the measure passed 54 to 46 percent.

Reach staff writer Larry Parnass at 413-496-6214 or @larryparnass.

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The Salvation Army Family Store on Dalton Avenue in Pittsfield is closing to make way for a marijuana dispensary (backed by Nuciforo!).

“Tears, bargains mix as Salvation Army Family Store closes”
By Larry Parnass, lparnass@berkshireeagle.com – The Berkshire Eagle, November 25, 2016

PITTSFIELD - A retail store with a mission to help others goes dark today, with no light in sight. The closing of the Salvation Army Family Store at 501 Dalton Ave. puts at least a dozen employees out of work, with no prospect of jobless benefits. And it removes a bargain shopping destination from a city where the median household income lags the state by a third.

The store and at least one other business have just days to vacate their homes, after losing leases so the building can be converted into a growing facility for medical marijuana. Also forced out is Jay Casey, owner of Jay's Modern Bends, a muffler shop at the rear of the building. The status of a third business in the building, Casey's Billiards, could not be determined Friday.

On Friday, a steady stream of bargain-hunters pushed carts with goods marked 75 percent off to the Family Store's checkout counters. While many came for the discounts, others, like Bruce Cunningham, of Lanesborough, were extending condolences to staff. "I feel sorry for the employees for losing their jobs," he said, after paying $1.25 for a sweatshirt. "And they can't get unemployment, which stinks." Because the Salvation Army is a religious organization, its employees are not covered by the state's unemployment compensation system, according to the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

'THANKS FOR SERVICE'

Lisa Loveday, one of three managers, was among the employees told in a Nov. 17 letter from the Salvation Army's Albany office that their jobs would end Dec. 8. The store itself closes at 5 p.m. Saturday. The agency offered staffers one week of severance pay for each year worked and invited them to transfer to other Salvation Army stores. "We thank you for your service and we wish you every opportunity going forward," said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Eagle.

Loveday said Friday she cannot afford to commute an hour or longer to a different minimum-wage job, citing wear and tear on her car and the need to get home to care for her three children. "We're all losing our jobs, that's the biggest part," she said Friday in a sorting room at the rear of the store. She said customers were also finding the news hard to absorb. "They're still walking in the door and saying, 'You're closing?' " she said. "They're devastated. They're almost as devastated as we are, and we're losing our jobs."

Loveday has been looking for new work, so far unsuccessfully. Deborah Navin, of Pittsfield, another manager, said staff members learned of the lease problem when they read that Khem Organics had received approval to open a growing facility and dispensary. Salvation Army administrators first told store employees that they were looking for a new location. But the Nov. 17 letter did not mention the possibility of reopening in Pittsfield.

Major Don Sanderson, who oversees the Pittsfield store from the Salvation Army office in Albany, declined Friday to detail the store's status, referring questions to others with the organization. No one else could be reached for comment.

Navin, who has a daughter in college, said she has managed to cover her rent, phone and car insurance into the next year, giving her breathing room. Her severance payment will be worth about two weeks' pay. "It gives me six months to see if we're going to open a new store."

The mood in the store has been somber, she said. "Everybody's kind of sad that we're closing. The hard part is we don't know. There's a lot of 'don't know.' That's the hardest," she said. "I enjoy this job, I really do."

Employees have been passing the addresses of prospective locations on to agency leaders in Albany. The current store includes 10,000 square feet of space. "We want at least that in a new space," Navin said.

John E. Mullen Jr., CEO of Khem Organics, told The Eagle this month his operation hoped to begin building renovations in December or January, taking up 16,000 square feet of space. The 1976 metal prefab building is owned by Wotjtkowski Brothers Inc. and assessed, along with land, at $468,000, according to city records. One of the principals, Albert S. Wojtkowski, is a capital investor in Khem Organics.

RAPPORT WITH CUSTOMERS

Linda Thomas started work at the store as a sales associate in January 2010, after it moved from West Housatonic Street. She said she could apply for Social Security, but prefers to work. "It's a beautiful place to work with people," Thomas said. "Because I love the work, [the closing] is going to mean a lot to me. The customers and I are very close. I'm going to miss them. We all need to find a job. I keep wishing and hoping that we're going to find a place."

Some regular customers have been checking in, hoping for good news, she said, and asking: "'Anything yet, Linda, anything yet?" Tears have been flowing, weeks before the store was to close.

"I have time for my customers and they really appreciate it," Thomas said. That time includes offering no-nonsense appraisals in the dressing room about whether a piece of clothing flatters the would-be buyer. She said she doesn't whitewash things, recalling one customer in particular. "I had to tell her, 'The shoulders are too big.' They were thankful for that."

LOST BARGAINS

Cindy Haven, of Pittsfield, was standing mid-store Friday, sliding hangers on a long rack of women's tops. She is a regular shopper and views the closing as "tragic" for customers and employees alike. "It's a serious loss because there are a lot of very low-income people in Pittsfield who rely on stores like this for everything," said Haven.

"It was shocking to see that it was going out of business." Haven said she liked to browse the housewares items, visiting three to four times a year. "It's a nice place to find things that are out of style, or they don't make them any more."

A woman looking at pants who has been shopping the location since it opened said she feels personally hurt by the closing. She likes the prices better at the Family Store than at Goodwill and often purchases goods to send back to family members living in the Ivory Coast, her native country, in West Africa.

Neal McIntosh Jr., an arborist, was looking for exercise wear. He said he also checks regularly for durable work clothes. He's been shopping the Family Store for years, along with Goodwill. "They don't have the same selection," he said. "They have less, unfortunately."

Cunningham, the Lanesborough man who'd bought a sweatshirt, had paused at the checkout to chat with the cashier. "You'd be surprised at the buys and bargains you get," he said, glancing back at the cashier, "and the smiles."

STORE'S LEGACY

A little after noon Friday, Navin and Loveday were both working in the office with a one-way mirror beside the checkout area. A cashier was about to close her shift with an audit of her morning's cash receipts, neatly ordered in a removable drawer. Not far from the checkout, a radio in an old Magnavox console was playing softly. Nearby stood an old dresser and a set of bookshelves. Some other pieces of furniture carried orange "SOLD" stickers. One of the two glass front doors still displayed Halloween decorations.

Loveday said staff have been working at top speed to empty the space, aided by avid shoppers. She said any items not sold will be shipped to other Salvation Army locations.

Loveday said she's liked her job. Not surprisingly, it's been hard, emotionally, for staffers to dismantle the store. "They're not putting their hearts into it, that's for sure." She declined to provide figures on weekly sales volume, but suggested the numbers were impressive. "They do make a good profit with us," Loveday said. "They're going to miss our money."

Navin said the store was always busiest in summer. On some Mondays, she and others would arrive and find their entryway blocked by piles of donations delivered over the weekend. People saddled with unwanted stuff after tag sales routinely cleaned house with a trip to the store.

At its busiest, the store employed as many as 22 people. Navin said customers are upset, in part because the closing removes a money-saving option, particularly for young parents. We try to keep the kids' clothing prices low," she said. "The more they can save here, it saves them paying full price out there."

Those savings hit home in a city where the median household income is $43,489 a year, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures, compared to $67,846 for the state.

ANOTHER HUNT

Jay Casey, the owner of Jay's Modern Bends, is also on the hunt for a new location - so far without luck. The business has two employees, Casey and a co-worker.

Early Friday afternoon, he and a customer, Ben Schawinsky, of Sheffield, were walking under the latter's sedan, perched high on a lift. Casey was gingerly tapping the car's exhaust system, which he seemed to feel ought to be left alone this time. "If you start messing with it, you're going to get into a can of worms," he said. "If it's not broke, let's not fix it." Casey declined an offer of $5 for his inspection. "Pittsfield's going to lose a good muffler man, that's for sure," Schawinsky said of Casey.

Casey said that after 17 years in the building his father used to own, he was notified his lease would not be renewed. He doesn't hold that against the owner and believes he was treated fairly. "I'm looking everywhere from Lee up to Windsor and North Adams," he said, though he wants to remain close enough to his established customer base. "I'm still looking, but there isn't much out there." He said he will likely close at the end of the year, and is not taking on major new work. "I have to get ready to move," he said.

Reach staff writer Larry Parnass at 413-496-6214 or @larryparnass.

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"The pot train could still go off the tracks, and here's how"
By Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press, November 28, 2016

DENVER (AP) - Weed is winning in the polls, with a solid majority of Americans saying marijuana should be legal. But does that mean the federal government will let dozens of state pot experiments play out? Not by a long shot.

The government still has many means to slow or stop the marijuana train. And President-elect Donald Trump's nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions to be the next attorney general has raised fears that the new administration could crack down on weed-tolerant states 20 years after California became the first to legalize medical marijuana.

"We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized. It ought not to be minimized, that it's in fact a very real danger," Sessions said during an April Senate hearing.

The Controlled Substances Act bans pot even for medical purposes. A closer look at some of the government's options for enforcing it:

TAKE 'EM TO COURT: The government rarely invokes its authority to sue states, but it's the quickest path to compliance. The Justice Department could file lawsuits on the grounds that state laws regulating pot are unconstitutional because they are pre-empted by federal law.

Something similar happened in 2010, when the Justice Department successfully sued Arizona to block an immigration law that conflicted with federal immigration law.

Federal courts can also compel action, not just block it, as in Kentucky last year, when a county clerk was ordered to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples following a landmark Supreme Court ruling.

Twenty-eight states and Washington, D.C., allow marijuana for medical or recreational purposes. The government has yet to sue any of them.

RAID POT BUSINESSES: The government could avoid court entirely if it doesn't mind a more expensive option: law-enforcement raids.

The Drug Enforcement Administration retains the legal ability to shut down anyone selling or growing pot, but there has been no coordinated federal attempt to close pot producers in multiple states. The agency has said repeatedly that it does not have the resources to pursue ordinary pot users.

Any change in that approach would likely require more money from Congress, which just saw many of its constituents vote in favor of legalization. And a federal agency probably will not spend limited resources busting people growing pot for personal use, said John McKay, a former U.S. attorney in Washington state.

"Who is going to stop people from smoking pot in a residence in Denver? Federal agents?" he said. "They are going to stop doing terrorism investigations and start arresting people for pot? That, to me, is crazy."

Still, a series of raids could upend the marijuana landscape and chill investment in the fledgling industry.

FINANCIAL HURDLES: It's the biggest complaint in the weed business: taxes.

Businesses selling marijuana cannot use tax breaks or incentives offered to other small businesses, and some of them say they pay 80 percent or more of every dollar on taxes and fees. They have limited access to banking because many financial institutions are leery of the paperwork they are required to file on clients working with marijuana.

Colorado officials tried last year to ease the banking burden by setting up a special credit union to safely handle pot-shops money, only to see the Federal Reserve Bank and federal courts block the effort.

As long as Congress and the new administration leave those hurdles in place, the marijuana business will grow haltingly. Voters may generally support pot legalization, but few have sympathy for a pot entrepreneur unable to become a multimillionaire because of banking obstacles.

STRICTER REGULATIONS: Government officials who are skeptical of marijuana but also leery of going against public opinion can use regulation and red tape to slow commercial pot.

Legalization opponents frequently decry the strength of today's marijuana, an argument that provides political cover for pot skeptics who once used the drug themselves and gives legalization opponents a backdoor route to blocking weed.

In Colorado, for example, marijuana skeptics nearly succeeded earlier this year in getting state lawmakers to cap commercial pot potency. The proposal would have banned some 80 percent of the pot products on shelves.

Delays can be just as damaging. Even in Colorado, the first state out of the gate with recreational stores, businesses complain of long waits to get permits or licenses. A few shops were hobbled in 2015 when Denver health authorities raised alarms about pesticides and banned the sale of thousands of plants.

In Alaska, voters legalized pot in 2014, but shops are only just now opening. Washington state spent more than a year mulling rules for the pot business.

The marijuana industry has grown under three presidents, each opposed to legalized weed.

The Obama administration has generally shied away from pursuing commercial operators who comply with state-level rules. When states began pushing the marijuana experiment beyond the medical realm, former Attorney General Eric Holder urged them to keep the drug away from criminals, kids, federal lands and other states where it remains illegal.

Marijuana activists say the pot experiment is too far along for anyone to stop, but the industry is anxious. When Sessions was announced as the attorney general nominee, the pro-legalization group Drug Policy Alliance didn't mince words.

"This," the group announced in an urgent email to supporters, "was our worst nightmare."

Associated Press Writer Sadie Gurman in Denver contributed to this report.

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"Marijuana clinics face state and possibly federal challenges"
The Berkshire Eagle, Opinion: Editorial, November 25, 2016

The state Legislature will take its time on implementation of the new marijuana law, which is fine within reason. But Massachusetts and other states that have approved the sale of recreational marijuana must now keep an eye on Washington, D.C.

The law approved by voters on November 8 allows stores to begin offering recreational marijuana in January of 2018, but state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, who will oversee the law's implementation, and legislators expressed concern in The Boston Globe that more time will be needed to fine-tune the law. Concerns about the law include its low tax rate on sales, vagueness on regulation of edibles, and the need for more specific penalties related to driving under the influence of the drug.

A delay until mid-2018 to address gaps in the law would be reasonable, but there cannot be a repetition of the medical marijuana law boondoggle. Approved by voters in November of 2012, the first clinic didn't open in the state for 2 1/2 years, and there is still no medical marijuana clinic in the Berkshires.

The movement to legalize marijuana sales and recreational use has come about during the Obama administration because the Justice Department has chosen not to enforce federal laws on controlled substances in the states where the marijuana industry has established roots. That could change.

Senator Jeff Sessions, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for attorney general, was a prime advocate of the so-called "War on Drugs" during his 12 years as a federal prosecutor. The senator was once quoted as saying "Good people don't smoke marijuana," indicating a retrograde "Reefer Madness"-era perspective. While he has acknowledged once saying that he was sympathetic to the Ku Klux Klan until he found that members smoked pot he claims he was only joking.

Republican congressmen in states where the marijuana industry has been established or where it has been approved by voters may not take kindly to any attempts by the new attorney general to block that industry. According to Arcview Market Research and New Frontier, the legal US cannabis market will reach nearly $23 billion within four years if unhindered by the federal government. After the results of Election Day, about 60 percent of Americans now live in states where sales of recreational marijuana are legal.

As a bow to a thriving industry, Mr. Sessions may continue the Obama Justice Department policy of benign neglect toward the sale of recreational marijuana. But with so many questions emerging at the state and federal level, recreational sales of marijuana may not become a reality in Massachusetts any time soon.

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“Lawmakers to revisit pot law”
By Bob Salsberg, The Associated Press via The Berkshire Eagle, January 14, 2017

BOSTON — Legislative leaders have made clear they are not through with making changes to the voter-approved recreational marijuana initiative, but it remains to be seen whether future action amounts to an overhaul of or a mere tinkering with the new law.

A committee of House and Senate lawmakers will soon be named to consider potential revisions and make recommendations to the full Legislature.

Marijuana backers are watching closely to see whether the panel's makeup tilts toward members who opposed the November ballot question, or those who were supportive. That could offer a hint as to how significant any changes might be.

The Legislature bought itself more time last month by postponing key deadlines related to retail sales of recreational marijuana by six months.

A look at just some of the issues the committee might weigh:

Taxes

The law calls for a 3.75 percent excise tax on recreational pot sales. Marijuana products will also be subject to the state's 6.25 percent sales tax and a local option sales tax of 2 percent, making for an effective maximum tax rate of 12 percent.

Many critics of the law say that's too low, and won't even cover regulatory costs.

States where recreational marijuana was previously legalized have substantially higher tax rates: Colorado, 29 percent; Washington, 37 percent; and Oregon, 25 percent.

Ballot measures recently passed by California and Nevada voters establish 15 percent tax rates, while Maine's new law is more in line with Massachusetts, imposing a 10 percent sales tax on marijuana.

Backers of the current Massachusetts law say they're open to higher taxes in the future, but argue that lower taxes initially will strengthen the legal marijuana market while weakening the illegal market.

They also note that some legal states in the west have lately been reducing, not raising their taxes.

Local controls

While a few Massachusetts communities have signaled a willingness to put out the welcome mat for marijuana businesses, others are far more hesitant. So lawmakers may well debate how much control local officials should have over pot shops.

The law allows cities and towns to place "reasonable safeguards on the operation of marijuana establishments," but they cannot, without voter approval, prohibit stores totaling fewer than 20 percent of the liquor stores in their community. For example, if a town has 10 liquor stores, it must allow at least two pot shops.

One possibility would be to reverse the procedure and require local voters to opt in if they want retail marijuana stores, rather than opt out if they don't want them.

Homegrowing

Democratic Senate President Stan Rosenberg, who supported passage of the ballot question, is among those calling on lawmakers to reconsider how much pot people can grow in their homes. The law allows individuals to grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes, with a household limit of 12 plants.

Rosenberg has suggested those ceilings be lower, though he hasn't said by how much. Arguments against home growing include the potential for the pot to be sold to the underground market.

One emerging consensus, however, is that lawmakers will have a much tougher time changing parts of the law that have already taken effect, including homegrown pot.

Potency and edibles

The law is silent on potency restrictions for legal marijuana products. Will it remain silent?

Many studies have pointed to marijuana being more potent than when baby boomers were toking in their college days.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker is among those suggesting the Legislature consider limits on the concentration of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, in edible forms of the drug that will be legal to sell in Massachusetts. Marijuana-fused edibles, including such products as brownies and candy, are considered the fastest-growing component of the recreational market.

Sponsors of the ballot question say legislators need not take action because the law empowers the yet-to-be-appointed Cannabis Control Commission to adopt strict rules for the sale, packaging and labeling of recreational pot.

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The former Salvation Army Family Store on Dalton Avenue in Pittsfield is being transformed into a 16,000-square-foot marijuana growing operation. "It will look much different than what it looks like now," said John E. Mullen IV, chief executive officer of Khem Organics. Ben Garver - The Berkshire Eagle.

“Pittsfield medical marijuana dispensaries aim to open this year”
By Larry Parnass, lparnass@berkshireeagle.com – The Berkshire Eagle, March 10, 2017

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire County's first medical marijuana cultivation facility is taking shape off Dalton Avenue, with hiring poised to begin.

The venture, to be called Berkshire Roots, is likely to be the first of three dispensaries to open in Pittsfield in 2017. For years, residents have had to travel outside the county to obtain a therapeutic option voters approved in 2012.

Contractors hired by Khem Organics, the parent of Berkshire Roots, are at work inside a building at 501 Dalton Ave., readying the space for a roughly 16,000-square-foot growing operation.

"We think for us that's an advantage, having access to locally grown," said John E. Mullen IV, chief executive officer of Khem Organics.

After years of having no medical marijuana dispensary, Pittsfield's market is poised to be competitive.

THE BUILDOUT

Representatives of two other dispensaries say they too are on track to open this year.

- Temescal Wellness expects to break ground this spring on a building on Callahan Drive off West Housatonic Street, said Julia Germaine, the chief operating officer for Temescal's Massachusetts business.

Germaine said Temescal is constructing its growing facility in Worcester. By law, dispensaries can only provide medical marijuana from their own facilities — and those must be located in the state.

Once the state OK's Temescal's facility, it will begin to produce cannabis products for distribution in Pittsfield and at dispensaries in Hudson and Framingham.

- Heka Health plans a dispensary next door to Berkshire Roots, at 531 Dalton Ave. in the former home of County Rentals.

Thomas P. Keenan, a lawyer for Heka Health, said Friday the company is in its final approval stage with the DPH.

"We don't know exactly how long it will take, but we are aiming to be open by this fall," Keenan said.

The company has done some site work, including structural repairs. Keenan said construction could begin soon. "But we can't complete anything until we get our plans approved."

He said Heka Health hopes to reach that stage by June and finish construction by the end of summer. The dispensary will provide medical marijuana grown at the company's facility in Westfield, overseen by Mark A. Dupuis, its CEO and head of cultivation.

In Great Barrington, meanwhile, Theory Wellness has received its final approval from the state Department of Public Health and plans to open its dispensary on State Road in June. The cannabis will come from a facility in Bridgewater.

As of Feb. 28, the state had approved operations of nine dispensaries. There are 34,392 active medical marijuana patients, the DPH says, and 183 registered physicians.

PITTSFIELD FACILITY

Mullen, CEO of the company behind Berkshire Roots, is well aware three dispensaries will be coming online in the city around the same time.

"We are going to have competition, for sure," he said. "Our goal is to be the go-to place for quality and consistent medical cannabis products."

The company will try to capitalize on the fact that it is the only dispensary selling cannabis produced locally. The facility was formerly home to the Salvation Army Family Store and a muffler repair business in the rear.

A billiards parlor continues to operate on the west side of the building, but Mullen said talks are underway to close out that lease.

"It will look much different than what it looks like now," he said of the building's facade. Sage Engineering & Contracting Inc. of Westfield is handling the building's overhaul.

On Friday, Mullen confirmed with the DPH that its submission of documents for an architectural review is complete.

"It required detailed plans of the facility," he said. "It's a lot about security. It does hold it up, but it is the process we anticipated."

Once Khem Organics gets DPH approval to begin growing, it will take four months for the cannabis to be ready.

State law requires that cannabis plants be started from seed, though a proposed rule change would allow clones to be used.

Khem Organics has tapped Dennis Depaolo as its lead grower.

"He's a plant biologist and has been doing this for some time," Mullen said. "It's all about genetics."

In all, the company expects to hire 30 people.

The first will be cultivators, processors and what's known as "extraction associates," all for the growing side of the business.

"Then we'll move on to hiring the actual dispensary staff," Mullen said.

"It will depend on patient volume," he said of overall staffing.

For the dispensary to open as planned in early September, growing must start by May. "That's our timeline and I think it's realistic," Mullen said.

Between now and the opening, he plans to reach out to physicians' offices and to the general public, encouraging acceptance of the state's medical marijuana program.

Reach staff writer Larry Parnass at 413-496-6214 or @larryparnass.

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More to come!...
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About Me

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Amherst, NH, United States
I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at jonathan_a_melle@yahoo.com

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AP photo v Shepard Fairey

Rush Limbaugh lackeys

Rush Limbaugh lackeys
Posted by Dan Wasserman of the Boston Globe on March 3, 2009.

Honest Abe

Honest Abe
A 2007 US Penny

Dog race

Dog race
Sledding for dogs

The Capital of the Constitution State

The Capital of the Constitution State
Hartford, once the wealthiest city in the United States but now the poorest in Connecticut, is facing an uphill battle.

Brady, Bundchen married

Brady, Bundchen married
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and model Gisele Bundchen wed Feb. 26, 2009 in a Catholic ceremony in Los Angeles. www.boston.com/ae/celebrity/gallery/tom_gisele/

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto
Tanked Pittsfield's local economy while helping his fellow insider political hacks and business campaign contributors!

Journalist Andrew Manuse

Journalist Andrew Manuse
www.manuse.com

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Hampshire_Supreme_Court

Economic State of the Union

Economic State of the Union
A look at some of the economic conditions the Obama administration faces and what resources have already been pledged to help. 2/24/2009

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
The president addresses the nation's governors during a dinner in the State Dinning Room, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari).

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.
Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé Knowles teamed up for a musical medley during the show.

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009
Hugh Jackman pulled actress Anne Hathaway on stage to accompany him during his opening musical number.

Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow
A Progressive News Commentator

$500,000 per year

$500,000 per year
That is chump change for the corporate elite!

THE CORPORATE ELITE...

THE CORPORATE ELITE...
Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric

The Presidents' Club

The Presidents' Club
Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton & Carter.

5 Presidents: Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton, & Carter!

5 Presidents: Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton, & Carter!
White House Event: January 7, 2009.

Bank Bailout!

Bank Bailout!
v taxpayer

Actress Elizabeth Banks

Actress Elizabeth Banks
She will present an award to her hometown (Pittsfield) at the Massachusetts State House next month (1/2009). She recently starred in "W" and "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," and just signed a $1 million annual contract to be a spokesmodel for Paris.

Joanna Lipper

Joanna Lipper
Her award-winning 1999 documentary, "Growing Up Fast," about teenaged mothers in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Happy Holidays...

Happy Holidays...
...from "Star Wars"

Massachusetts "poor" economy

Massachusetts "poor" economy
Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest states, but it is also very inequitable. For example, it boasts the nation's most lucrative lottery, which is just a system of regressive taxation so that the corporate elite get to pay less in taxes!

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon
Hollywood Actress

Peter G. Arlos.

Peter G. Arlos.
Arlos is shown in his Pittsfield office in early 2000.

Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes

Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes
Big Dig - East-west commuters take hit; Fees at tunnels would double. 11/15/2008.

The Pink Panther 2

The Pink Panther 2
Starring Steve Martin

Police ABUSE

Police ABUSE
I was a victim of Manchester Police Officer John Cunningham's ILLEGAL USES of FORCE! John Cunningham was reprimanded by the Chief of Police for disrespecting me. John Cunningham yelled at a witness: "I don't care if he (Jonathan Melle) is disabled!"

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
The 44th US President!

Vote

Vote
Elections

The Bailout & the economic stimulus check

The Bailout & the economic stimulus check
A political cartoon by Dan Wasserman

A rainbow over Boston

A rainbow over Boston
"Rainbows galore" 10/2/2008

Our nation's leaders!

Our nation's leaders!
President Bush with both John McCain & Barack Obama - 9/25/2008.

Massachusetts & Big Dig: Big hike in tolls for Pike looming (9/26/2008).

Massachusetts & Big Dig: Big hike in tolls for Pike looming (9/26/2008).
$5 rise at tunnels is one possibility $1 jump posed for elsewhere.

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
My FAVORITE Journalist EVER!

9/11/2008 - A Show of Unity!

9/11/2008 - A Show of Unity!
John McCain and Barack Obama appeared together at ground zero in New York City - September 11, 2008.

John McCain...

John McCain...
...has all but abandoned the positions on taxes, torture and immigration. (A cartoon by Dan Wasserman. September 2008).

Dan Wasserman

Dan Wasserman
The deregulated chickens come home to roost... in all our pocketbooks. September 2008.

Sarah Palin's phobia

Sarah Palin's phobia
A scripted candidate! (A cartoon by Dan Wasserman).

Dan Wasserman

Dan Wasserman
Family FInances - September, 2008.

Mark E. Roy

Mark E. Roy
Ward 1 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Theodore “Ted” L. Gatsas

Theodore “Ted” L. Gatsas
Ward 2 Alderman (& NH State Senator) for Manchester, NH (2008).

Peter M. Sullivan

Peter M. Sullivan
Ward 3 (downtown) Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Jim Roy

Jim Roy
Ward 4 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Ed Osborne

Ed Osborne
Ward 5 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Real R. Pinard

Real R. Pinard
Ward 6 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

William P. Shea

William P. Shea
Ward 7 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Betsi DeVries

Betsi DeVries
Ward 8 Alder-woman (& NH State Senator) for Manchester, NH (2008).

Michael Garrity

Michael Garrity
Ward 9 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

George Smith

George Smith
Ward 10 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Russ Ouellette

Russ Ouellette
Ward 11 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Kelleigh (Domaingue) Murphy

Kelleigh (Domaingue) Murphy
Ward 12 Alder-woman for Manchester, NH (2008).

“Mike” Lopez

“Mike” Lopez
At-Large Alderman for Manchester, NH. (2008).

Daniel P. O’Neil

Daniel P. O’Neil
At-Large Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Sarah Palin for Vice President.

Sarah Palin for Vice President.
Republican John McCain made the surprise pick of Alaska's governor Sarah Palin as his running mate today, August 29, 2008.

U.S. Representative John Olver, D-Amherst, Massachusetts.

U.S. Representative John Olver, D-Amherst, Massachusetts.
Congressman Olver said the country has spent well over a half-trillion dollars on the war in Iraq while the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. 8/25/08.

Ed O'Reilly for US Senate in Massachusetts!

Ed O'Reilly for US Senate in Massachusetts!
John Kerry's 9/2008 challenger in the Democratic Primary.

Shays' Rebellion

Shays' Rebellion
In a tax revolt, Massachusetts farmers fought back during Shays' Rebellion in the mid-1780s after The American Revolutionary War.

Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore
Actress. "The Big Lebowski" is one of my favorite movies. I also like "The Fugitive", too.

Rinaldo Del Gallo III & "Superman"

Rinaldo Del Gallo III & "Superman"
Go to: http://www.berkshirefatherhood.com/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=699&cntnt01returnid=69

"Income chasm widening in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts"

"Income chasm widening in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts"
The gap between rich and poor has widened substantially in Massachusetts over the past two decades. (8/15/2008).

Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley

Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley
"The Bosley Amendment": To create tax loopholes for the wealthiest corporate interests in Massachusetts!

John Edwards and...

John Edwards and...
...Rielle Hunter. WHO CARES?!

Rep. Edward J. Markey

Rep. Edward J. Markey
He wants online-privacy legislation. Some Web Firms Say They Track Behavior Without Explicit Consent.

Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan
She gained fame with her antiwar vigil outside the Bush ranch.

Olympics kick off in Beijing

Olympics kick off in Beijing
Go USA!

Exxon Mobil 2Q profit sets US record, shares fall

Exxon Mobil 2Q profit sets US record, shares fall
In this May 1, 2008, file photo, a customer pumps gas at an Exxon station in Middleton, Mass. Exxon Mobil Corp. reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, July 31, the biggest quarterly profit ever by any U.S. corporation, but the results were well short of Wall Street expectations and its shares fell as markets opened. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, File) 7/31/2008.

Onota Lake 'Sea Serpent'

Onota Lake 'Sea Serpent'
Some kind of monster on Onota Lake. Five-year-old Tyler Smith rides a 'sea serpent' on Onota Lake in Pittsfield, Mass. The 'monster,' fashioned by Smith's grandfather, first appeared over July 4 weekend. (Photo courtesy of Ron Smith). 7/30/2008.

Al Gore, Jr.

Al Gore, Jr.
Al Gore issues challenge on energy

The Norman Rockwell Museum

The Norman Rockwell Museum
Stockbridge, Massachusetts

"Big Dig"

"Big Dig"
Boston's financially wasteful pork barrel project!

"Big Dig"

"Big Dig"
Boston's pork barrel public works project cost 50 times more than the original price!

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
My favorite journalist EVER!

U.S. Rep. John Olver, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Selectwomen Stephanie O'Keeffe and Alisa Brewer

U.S. Rep. John Olver, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Selectwomen Stephanie O'Keeffe and Alisa Brewer
Note: Photo from Mary E Carey's Blog.

Tanglewood

Tanglewood
Boston Symphony Orchestra music director James Levine.

Google

Google
Chagall

Jimmy Ruberto

Jimmy Ruberto
Faces multiple persecutions under the Massachusetts "Ethics" conflict of interest laws.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
Obama vows $500m in faith-based aid.

John McCain

John McCain
He is with his wife, Cindy, who were both met by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (right) upon arriving in Cartagena.

Daniel Duquette

Daniel Duquette
Sold Mayor James M. Ruberto of Pittsfield two tickets to the 2004 World Series at face value.

Hillary & Barack in Unity, NH - 6/27/2008

Hillary & Barack in Unity, NH - 6/27/2008
Clinton tells Obama, crowd in Unity, N.H.: 'We are one party'

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Wanna-be Prez?

WALL-E

WALL-E
"out of this World"

Crisis in the Congo - Ben Affleck

Crisis in the Congo - Ben Affleck
http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/popup?id=5057139&contentIndex=1&page=1&start=false - http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=5234555&page=1

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
NH's Democratic returning candidate for U.S. Senate

"Wall-E"

"Wall-E"
a cool robot

Ed O'Reilly

Ed O'Reilly
www.edoreilly.com

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
World Champions - 2008

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
J.D. Drew gets the same welcome whenever he visits the City of Brotherly Love: "Booooooo!"; Drew has been vilified in Philadelphia since refusing to sign with the Phillies after they drafted him in 1997...

Joe Kelly Levasseur & Joe Briggs

Joe Kelly Levasseur & Joe Briggs
www.2joes.org

NH Union Leader

NH Union Leader
Editorial Cartoon

Celtics - World Champions!

Celtics - World Champions!
www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_18_08_front_pages/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_17_08_finals_game_6/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_17_08_celebration/ - www.boston.com/sports/basketball/celtics/gallery/06_15_08_celtics_championships/

"The Nation"

"The Nation"
A "Liberal" weekly political news magazine. Katrina vanden Heuvel.

TV - PBS: NOW

TV - PBS: NOW
http://www.pbs.org/now

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone
List of Twilight Zone episodes - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Twilight_Zone_episodes

Equality for ALL Marriages

Equality for ALL Marriages
I, Jonathan Melle, am a supporter of same sex marriages.

Kobe Bryant leads his time to a Game 5 victory.

Kobe Bryant leads his time to a Game 5 victory.
L.A. Lakers holds on for the win to force Game 6 at Boston

Mohawk Trail

Mohawk Trail
The 'Hail to the Sunrise' statue in Charlemont is a well-known and easily recognized landmark on the Mohawk Trail. The trail once boasted several souvenir shops, some with motels and restaurants. Now only four remain. (Caroline Bonnivier / Berkshire Eagle Staff).

NASA - June 14, 2008

NASA - June 14, 2008
Space Shuttle Discovery returns to Earth.

Go Celtics! Game # 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Go Celtics! Game # 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
Boston took a 20-second timeout, and the Celtics ran off four more points (including this incredible Erving-esque layup from Ray Allen) to build the lead to five points with just 2:10 remaining. Reeling, the Lakers took a full timeout to try to regain their momentum.

Sal DiMasi

Sal DiMasi
Speaker of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives

Kelly Ayotte - Attorney General of New Hampshire

Kelly Ayotte - Attorney General of New Hampshire
http://doj.nh.gov/

John Kerry

John Kerry
He does not like grassroots democracy & being challenged in the 2008 Massachusetts Democratic Party Primary for re-election.

Tim Murray

Tim Murray
Corrupt Lt. Gov. of Massachusetts, 2007 - 2013.

North Adams, Massachusetts

North Adams, Massachusetts
downtown

Howie Carr

Howie Carr
Political Satirist on Massachusetts Corruption/Politics

Polar Bear

Polar Bear
Global Warming

Elizabeth Warren - Web-Site Links

Elizabeth Warren - Web-Site Links
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Warren & http://www.creditslips.org/creditslips/WarrenAuthor.html

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren
Consumer Crusader

Leon Powe

Leon Powe
Celtics forward Leon Powe finished a fast break with a dunk.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett reacted during the game.

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo finished a first half fast break with a dunk.

Teamwork

Teamwork
Los Angeles Lakers teammates help Pau Gasol (16) from the floor in the second quarter.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant took a shot in the first half of Game 2.

Kendrick Perkins

Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins (right) backed down Lamar Odom (left) during first half action.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed the national anthem prior to Game 2.

K.G.!

K.G.!
Garnett reacted to a hard dunk in the first quarter.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce reacted after hitting a three upon his return to the game since leaving with an injury.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Kobe Bryant (left) and Paul Pierce (right) squared off in the second half of the game.

James Taylor

James Taylor
Sings National Anthem at Celtics Game.

John Forbes Kerry & Deval Patrick

John Forbes Kerry & Deval Patrick
Attended Celtics Game.

Greats of the NBA: Dr. J, Bill Russell, & Kareem!

Greats of the NBA: Dr. J, Bill Russell, & Kareem!
Attend Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis
The actor (left) and his date were in the crowd before the Celtics game.

John Kerry

John Kerry
Golddigger attends Celtics game

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton
Ends her 2008 bid for Democratic Party nomination

Nonnie Burnes

Nonnie Burnes
Massachusetts Insurance Commish & former Judge

Jones Library

Jones Library
Amherst, Massachusetts

Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton

Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton
2008 Democratic Primary

"US vs Exxon and Halliburton"

"US vs Exxon and Halliburton"
U.S. Senator John Sununu took more than $220,000 from big oil.

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
4- U.S. Senate - 2008

William Pignatelli

William Pignatelli
Hack Rep. "Smitty" with Lynne Blake

Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke
Federal Reserve Chairman

Gazettenet.com

Gazettenet.com
www.gazettenet.com/beta/

Boys' & Girls' Club

Boys' & Girls' Club
Melville Street, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Denis Guyer

Denis Guyer
Dalton State Representative

The Berkshire Eagle

The Berkshire Eagle
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Carmen Massimiano

Carmen Massimiano
Williams College - May 2008

Larry Bird & Magic Johnson

Larry Bird & Magic Johnson
www.boston.com/lifestyle/gallery/when_the_celtics_were_cool/

Regressive Taxation! via State Lotteries

Regressive Taxation! via State Lotteries
New Massachusetts state lottery game hits $600 million in sales!

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
"Luciforo"

John Barrett III

John Barrett III
Long-time Mayor of North Adams Massachusetts

Shine On

Shine On

Elmo

Elmo
cool!

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce kissed the Eastern Conference trophy. 5/30/2008. AP Photo.

Kevin Garnett & Richard Hamilton

Kevin Garnett & Richard Hamilton
Kevin Garnett (left) talked to Pistons guard Richard Hamilton (right) after the Celtics' victory in Game 6. 5/30/2008. Reuters Photo.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce showed his team colors as the Celtics closed out the Pistons in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. 5/30/2008. Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis.

Joseph Kelly Levasseur

Joseph Kelly Levasseur
One of my favorite politicians!

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
In the Big Apple: NYC! She is the coolest!

Guyer & Kerry

Guyer & Kerry
My 2nd least favorite picture EVER!

Mary Carey

Mary Carey
My favorite journalist EVER!

Nuciforo & Ruberto

Nuciforo & Ruberto
My least favorite picture EVER!

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
U.S. Senate - 2008

NH Fisher Cats

NH Fisher Cats
AA Baseball - Toronto Blue Jays affiliate

Manchester, NH

Manchester, NH
Police Patch

Michael Briggs

Michael Briggs
#83 - We will never forget

Michael "Stix" Addison

Michael "Stix" Addison
http://unionleader.com/channel.aspx/News?channel=2af17ff4-f73b-4c44-9f51-092e828e1131

Charlie Gibson

Charlie Gibson
ABC News anchor

Scott McClellan

Scott McClellan
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/m/scott_mcclellan/index.html?inline=nyt-per

Boise, Idaho

Boise, Idaho
Downtown Boise Idaho

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Legislative Hearing in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, BCC, on Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson
My favorite classical U.S. President!

NH Governor John Lynch

NH Governor John Lynch
Higher Taxes, Higher Tolls

Paul Hodes

Paul Hodes
My favorite Congressman!

Portland Sea Dogs

Portland Sea Dogs
AA Red Sox

New York

New York
Magnet

Massachusetts

Massachusetts
Magnet

New Hampshire

New Hampshire
Magnet

New Hampshire

New Hampshire
Button

Carmen Massimiano

Carmen Massimiano
"Luciforo" tried to send me to Carmen's Jail during the Spring & Summer of 1998.

Kay Khan - Massachusetts State Representative

Kay Khan - Massachusetts State Representative
www.openmass.org/members/show/174

Luciforo

Luciforo
Andrea F Nuciforo II

B-Eagle

B-Eagle
Pittsfield's monopoly/only daily newspaper

Jon Lester - Go Red Sox!

Jon Lester - Go Red Sox!
A Red Sox No Hitter on 5/19/2008!

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Dustin Pedroia & Manny Ramirez

U.S. Flag

U.S. Flag
God Bless America!

Jonathan Melle's Blog

Jonathan Melle's Blog
Hello, Everyone!

Molly Bish

Molly Bish
We will never forget!

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Celtics guard Rajon Rondo listens to some advice from Celtics head coach Doc Rivers in the first half.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett and Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace embrace at the end of the game.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon calls for the ball as he charges toward first base. Papelbon made the out en route to picking up his 14th save of the season.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka throws to Royals David DeJesus during the first inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka delivers a pitch to Royals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek during the second inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew is welcomed to home plate by teammates Mike Lowell (left), Kevin Youkilis (2nd left) and Manny Ramirez after he hit a grand slam in the second inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell crosses the plate after hitting a grand slam during the sixth inning. Teammates Manny Ramirez and Jacoby Ellsbury scored on the play. The Red Sox went on to win 11-8 to complete a four-game sweep and perfect homestand.

JD Drew - Go Red Sox

JD Drew - Go Red Sox
www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/gallery/05_22_08_sox_royals/

Thank you for serving; God Bless America!

Thank you for serving; God Bless America!
Master Sgt. Kara B. Stackpole, of Westfield, holds her daughter, Samantha, upon her return today to Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee. She is one of the 38 members of the 439th Aeromedical Staging Squadron who returned after a 4-month deployment in Iraq. Photo by Dave Roback / The Republican.

Kathi-Anne Reinstein

Kathi-Anne Reinstein
www.openmass.org/members/show/175

Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy
Tragic diagnosis: Get well Senator!

Google doodle - Jonathan Melle Internet search

Google doodle - Jonathan Melle Internet search
http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?hl=en&q=jonathan+melle+blogurl:http://jonathanmelleonpolitics.blogspot.com/&ie=UTF-8

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Billionaire U.S. Senator gives address to MCLA graduates in North Adams, Massachusetts in mid-May 2008

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
"Luciforo"

A Red Sox Fan in Paris, France

A Red Sox Fan in Paris, France
Go Red Sox!

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Interviewed on local TV

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo
Luciforo!

John Adams

John Adams
#2 U.S. President

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I stood under a tree on the afternoon of May 9, 2008, on the foregrounds of the NH State House - www.websitetoolbox.com/tool/post/nhinsider/vpost?id=2967773

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Inside the front lobby of the NH State House

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Bill Clinton campaign memorabilia

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Liberty Bell & NH State House

Jon Keller

Jon Keller
Boston based political analyst

Jon Keller

Jon Keller
Boston based political analyst

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Franklin Pierce Statue #14 U.S. President

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
NH State House

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Stop the War NOW!

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
"Mr. Melle, tear down this Blog!"

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I stood next to a JFK photo

Jonathan Levine, Publisher

Jonathan Levine, Publisher
The Pittsfield Gazette Online

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I made rabbit ears with John & George

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I made antenna ears with John & George

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I impersonated Howard Dean

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
mock-voting

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
pretty ladies -/- Go to: http://www.wgir.com/cc-common/cc_photopop20.html?eventID=28541&pagecontent=&pagenum=4 - Go to: http://current.com/items/88807921_veterans_should_come_first_not_last# - http://www.mcam23.com/cgi-bin/cutter.cgi?c_function=STREAM?c_feature=EDIT?dir_catagory=10MorningRadio?dir_folder=2JoesClips?dir_file=JonathanMelle-090308? -

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Go Red Sox! Me at Fenway Park

Mary E. Carey

Mary E. Carey
My favorite journalist! Her voice sings for the Voiceless. -/- Go to: http://aboutamherst.blogspot.com/search?q=melle -/- Go to: http://ongeicocaveman.blogspot.com/search?q=melle

Velvet Jesus

Velvet Jesus
Mary Carey blogs about my political writings. This is a picture of Jesus from her childhood home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. -//- "How Can I Keep From Singing" : My life goes on in endless song / Above Earth's lamentations, / I hear the real, though far-off hymn / That hails a new creation. / / Through all the tumult and the strife / I hear its music ringing, / It sounds an echo in my soul. / How can I keep from singing? / / Whey tyrants tremble in their fear / And hear their death knell ringing, / When friends rejoice both far and near / How can I keep from singing? / / In prison cell and dungeon vile / Our thoughts to them are winging / When friends by shame are undefiled / How can I keep from singing?

www.truthdig.com

www.truthdig.com
www.truthdig.com

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Concord NH

The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post
http://fundrace.huffingtonpost.com/neighbors.php?type=loc&newest=1&addr=&zip=01201&search=Search

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
smiles & beer

Jonathan Lothrop

Jonathan Lothrop
A Pittsfield City Councilor

Michael L. Ward

Michael L. Ward
A Pittsfield City Councilor

Peter Marchetti - Pittsfield's City Councilor at Large

Peter Marchetti - Pittsfield's City Councilor at Large
Pete always sides with the wealthy's political interests.

Gerald Lee - Pittsfield's City Council Prez

Gerald Lee - Pittsfield's City Council Prez
Gerald Lee told me that I am a Social Problem; Lee executes a top-down system of governance.

Matt Kerwood - Pittsfield's Councilor at Large

Matt Kerwood - Pittsfield's Councilor at Large
Kerwood poured coffee drinks for Jane Swift

Louis Costi

Louis Costi
Pittsfield City Councilor

Lewis Markham

Lewis Markham
Pittsfield City Councilor

Kevin Sherman - Pittsfield City Councilor

Kevin Sherman - Pittsfield City Councilor
Sherman ran for Southern Berkshire State Rep against Smitty Pignatelli; Sherman is a good guy.

Anthony Maffuccio

Anthony Maffuccio
Pittsfield City Councilor

Linda Tyer

Linda Tyer
Pittsfield City Councilor

Daniel Bianchi

Daniel Bianchi
A Pittsfield City Councilor

The Democratic Donkey

The Democratic Donkey
Democratic Party Symbol

Paramount

Paramount
What is Paramount to you?

NH's Congresswoman

NH's Congresswoman
Carol Shea-Porter, Democrat

Sam Adams Beer

Sam Adams Beer
Boston Lager

Ratatouille

Ratatouille
Disney Animation

Ruberto Details Plans for Success - January 07, 2008

Ruberto Details Plans for Success - January 07, 2008
"Luciforo" swears in Mayor Ruberto. Pittsfield Politics at its very worst: 2 INSIDER POWERBROKERS! Where is Carmen Massimiano? He must be off to the side.

Abe

Abe
Lincoln

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime
Leader of the Autobots

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime
1984 Autobot Transformer Leader

Cleanup Agreements - GE & Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

Cleanup Agreements - GE & Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/cleanupagreement.html

GE/Housatonic River Site: Introduction

GE/Housatonic River Site: Introduction
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/

GE/Housatonic River Site - Reports

GE/Housatonic River Site - Reports
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/thesite/opca-reports.html

US EPA - Contact - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

US EPA - Contact -  Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/contactinfo.html

GE Corporate Logo - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

GE Corporate Logo - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites
www.epa.gov/region1/ge/index.html

Commonwealth Connector

Commonwealth Connector
Commonwealth Care

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Healthcare Reform

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Healthcare Reform

Network Health Forward - A Commonwealth Care Plan

Network Health Forward - A Commonwealth Care Plan
Massachusetts Health Reform

Network Health Together: A MassHealth Plan - Commonwealth Care

Network Health Together: A MassHealth Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

www.network-health.org

www.network-health.org
Massachusetts Health Reform

Neighborhood Health Plan - Commonwealth Care

Neighborhood Health Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

Fallon Community Health Plan - Commonwealth Care

Fallon Community Health Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform

BMC HealthNet Plan

BMC HealthNet Plan
Massachusetts Health Reform

Massachusetts Health Reform

Massachusetts Health Reform
Eligibility Chart: 2007

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare
Massachusetts Health Reform

Business Peaks

Business Peaks
Voodoo Economics

Laffer Curve - Corporate Elite

Laffer Curve - Corporate Elite
Reagonomics: Supply Side

Corporate Elite Propaganda

Corporate Elite Propaganda
Mock Liberal Democratic Socialism Thinking

Real Estate Blues

Real Estate Blues
www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/2008/0316/

PEACE

PEACE
End ALL Wars!

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Speech
Norman Rockwell's World War II artwork depicting America's values

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln
A young Abe Lincoln

RACHEL KAPRIELIAN

RACHEL KAPRIELIAN
www.openmass.org/members/show/218 - www.rachelkaprielian.com

Jennifer M. Callahan - Massachusetts State Representative

Jennifer M. Callahan - Massachusetts State Representative
www.openmass.org/members/show/164 - www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/05/04/legislator_describes_threat_as_unnerving/

Human Rights for ALL Peoples!

Human Rights for ALL Peoples!
My #1 Political Belief!

Anne Frank

Anne Frank
Amsterdam, Netherlands, Europe

A young woman Hillary supporter

A young woman Hillary supporter
This excellent picture captures a youth's excitement

Hillary Clinton with Natalie Portman

Hillary Clinton with Natalie Portman
My favorite Actress!

Alan Chartock

Alan Chartock
WAMC public radio in Albany, NY; Political columnist who writes about Berkshire County area politics; Strong supporter for Human Rights for ALL Peoples

OpenCongress.Org

OpenCongress.Org
This web-site uses some of my Blog postings

OpenMass.org

OpenMass.org
This web-site uses some of my blog postings!

Shannon O'Brien

Shannon O'Brien
One of my favorite politicians! She stands for the People first!

The Massachusetts State House

The Massachusetts State House
"The Almighty Golden Dome" - www.masslegislature.tv -

Sara Hathaway

Sara Hathaway
Former Mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
A corrupt Pol who tried to put me in Jail

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.

Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
Another view of Pittsfield's inbred, multigenerational political prince. Luciforo!

Luciforo

Luciforo
Nuciforo's nickname

"Andy" Nuciforo

"Andy" Nuciforo
Luciforo!

Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer)

Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer)
Nuciforo's henchman! Nuciforo tried to send me to Carmen's Jail

Andrea Nuciforo Jr

Andrea Nuciforo Jr
Shhh! Luciforo's other job is working as a private attorney defending wealthy Boston-area corporate insurance companies

Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer) Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr.

Berkshire County Sheriff (Jailer) Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr.
Nuciforo tried to send me to Carmen's Jail! Carmen sits with the Congressman, John Olver

Congressman John Olver

Congressman John Olver
Nuciforo's envy

The Dome of the U.S. Capitol

The Dome of the U.S. Capitol
Our Beacon of American Democracy

Nuciforo's architect

Nuciforo's architect
Mary O'Brien in red with scarf

Sara Hathaway (www.brynmawr.edu)

Sara Hathaway (www.brynmawr.edu)
Former-Mayor of Pittsfield, Massachusetts; Nuciforo intimidated her, along with another woman, from running in a democratic state election in the Spring of 2006!

Andrea F. Nuciforo II

Andrea F. Nuciforo II
Pittsfield Politics

Berkshire County Republican Association

Berkshire County Republican Association
Go to: www.fcgop.blogspot.com

Denis Guyer

Denis Guyer
Dalton State Representative

John Forbes Kerry & Denis Guyer

John Forbes Kerry & Denis Guyer
U.S. Senator & State Representative

John Kerry

John Kerry
Endorses Barack Obama for Prez then visits Berkshire County

Dan Bosley

Dan Bosley
A Bureaucrat impostering as a Legislator!

Ben Downing

Ben Downing
Berkshire State Senator

Christopher N Speranzo

Christopher N Speranzo
Pittsfield's ANOINTED State Representative

Peter J. Larkin

Peter J. Larkin
Corrupt Lobbyist

GE - Peter Larkin's best friend!

GE - Peter Larkin's best friend!
GE's FRAUDULENT Consent Decree with Pittsfield, Massachusetts, will end up KILLING many innocent school children & other local residents!

GE's CEO Jack Welch

GE's CEO Jack Welch
The Corporate System's Corporate Elite's King

Economics: Where Supply meets Demand

Economics: Where Supply meets Demand
Equilibrium

GE & Pittsfield, Massachusetts

GE & Pittsfield, Massachusetts
In 2007, GE sold its Plastics Division to a Saudi company. Now all that is left over by GE are its toxic PCB pollutants that cause cancer in many Pittsfield residents.

Mayor James M Ruberto

Mayor James M Ruberto
A small-time pol chooses to serve the corporate elite & other elites over the people.

Governor Deval Patrick

Governor Deval Patrick
Deval shakes hands with Mayors in Berkshire County

Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick
Governor of Massachusetts

Pittsfield High School

Pittsfield High School
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Sara Hathaway

Sara Hathaway
Pittsfield's former Mayor

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Pittsfield Attorney focusing on Father's Rights Probate Court Legal Issues, & Local Politician and Political Observer

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Very Intelligent Political Activists in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Rinaldo Del Gallo, III, Esq. is the spokesperson of the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition. He has been practicing family law and has been a member of the Massachusetts bar since 1996.

Mayor Ed Reilly

Mayor Ed Reilly
He supports Mayor Ruberto & works as a municipal Attorney. As Mayor, he backed Bill Weld for Governor in 1994, despite being a Democrat. He was joined by Carmen Massimiano & John Barrett III, the long-standing Mayor of North Adams.

Manchester, NH Mayor Frank Guinta

Manchester, NH Mayor Frank Guinta
Cuts Dental Care for Public School Children-in-Need

Manchester, NH City Hall

Manchester, NH City Hall
My new hometown - view from Hanover St. intersection with Elm St.

Manchester NH City Democrats

Manchester NH City Democrats
Go Dems!

2008 Democratic Candidates for U.S. Prez

2008 Democratic Candidates for U.S. Prez
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards

NH State House Dome

NH State House Dome
Concord, NH

Donna Walto

Donna Walto
Pittsfield Politician -- She strongly opposes Mayor Jim Ruberto's elitist tenure.

Elmo

Elmo
Who doesn't LOVE Elmo?

Hillary Clinton for U.S. President!

Hillary Clinton for U.S. President!
Hillary is for Children. She is my choice in 2008.

The White House in 1800

The White House in 1800
Home of our Presidents of the United States

John Adams

John Adams
2nd President of the USA

Hillary Clinton stands with John Edwards and Joe Biden

Hillary Clinton stands with John Edwards and Joe Biden
Hillary is my choice for U.S. President!

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the Radisson in Manchester NH 11/16/2007

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
U.S. Senator & Candidate for President

Pittsfield's 3 Women City Councillors - 2004

Pittsfield's 3 Women City Councillors - 2004
Linda Tyer, Pam Malumphy, Tricia Farley-Bouvier

Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Massachusetts
My friend Brian Merzbach reviews baseball parks around the nation.

The Corporate Elite: Rational Incentives for only the wealthy

The Corporate Elite: Rational Incentives for only the wealthy
The Elites double their $ every 6 to 8 years, while the "have-nots" double their $ every generation (or 24 years). Good bye Middle Class!

George Will

George Will
The human satellite voice for the Corporate Elite

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren
The Anti-George Will; Harvard Law School Professor; The Corporate Elite's Worst Nightmare

The Flag of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The Flag of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
I was born and raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

State Senator Stan Rosenberg

State Senator Stan Rosenberg
Democratic State Senator from Amherst, Massachusetts -/- Anti-Stan Rosenberg Blog: rosenbergwatch.blogspot.com

Ellen Story

Ellen Story
Amherst Massachusetts' State Representative

Teen Pregnancy in Pittsfield, Mass.

Teen Pregnancy in Pittsfield, Mass.
Books are being written on Pittsfield's high teen pregancy rates! What some intellectuals do NOT understand about the issue is that TEEN PREGNANCIES in Pittsfield double the statewide average by design - Perverse Incentives!

NH Governor John Lynch

NH Governor John Lynch
Supports $30 Scratch Tickets and other forms of regressive taxation. Another Pol that only serves his Corporate Elite Masters instead of the People!

U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter

U.S. Congresswoman Carol Shea Porter
The first woman whom the People of New Hampshire have voted in to serve in U.S. Congress

U.S. Congressman Paul Hodes

U.S. Congressman Paul Hodes
A good man who wants to bring progressive changes to Capitol Hill!

Paul Hodes for U.S. Congress

Paul Hodes for U.S. Congress
New Hampshire's finest!

Darth Vader

Darth Vader
Star Wars

Dick Cheney & George W. Bush

Dick Cheney & George W. Bush
The Gruesome Two-some! Stop the Neo-Cons' fascism! End the Iraq War NOW!

WAROPOLY

WAROPOLY
The Inequity of Globalism

Bushopoly!

Bushopoly!
The Corporate Elite have redesigned "The System" to enrich themselves at the expense of the people, masses, have-nots, poor & middle-class families

George W. Bush with Karl Rove

George W. Bush with Karl Rove
Rove was a political strategist with extraordinary influence within the Bush II White House

2008's Republican Prez-field

2008's Republican Prez-field
John McCain, Alan Keyes, Rudy Guiliani, Duncan Hunter, Mike Huckabee, WILLARD Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Ron Paul

Fall in New England

Fall in New England
Autumn is my favorite season

Picturing America

Picturing America
picturingamerica.neh.gov

Winter Weather Map

Winter Weather Map
3:45PM EST 3-Dec-07

Norman Rockwell Painting

Norman Rockwell Painting
Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell Painting

Norman Rockwell Painting
Depiction of American Values in mid-20th Century America

Larry Bird #33

Larry Bird #33
My favorite basketball player of my childhood

Boston Celtics Basketball - 2007-2008

Boston Celtics Basketball - 2007-2008
Kevin Garnett hugs James Posey

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
All heart! Awesome basketball star for The Boston Celtics.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady
Go Patriots!

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch
Owner of Fox News - CORPORATE ELITE!

George Stephanopolous

George Stephanopolous
A Corporate Elite Political News Analyst

Robert Redford

Robert Redford
Starred in the movie "Lions for Lambs"

Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep
Plays a jaded journalist with integrity in the movie "Lions for Lambs"

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise plays the Neo-Con D.C. Pol purely indoctrinated by the Corporate Elite's political agenda in the Middle East

CHARLIZE THERON

CHARLIZE THERON
"I want to say I've never been surrounded by so many fake breasts, but I went to the Academy Awards."

Amherst Town Library

Amherst Town Library
Amherst, NH - www.amherstlibrary.org

Manchester NH Library

Manchester NH Library
I use the library's automated timed 1-hour-per-day Internet computers to post on my Blog - www.manchester.lib.nh.us

Manchester NH's Palace Theater

Manchester NH's Palace Theater
Manchester NH decided to restore its Palace Theater

Pittsfield's Palace Theater

Pittsfield's Palace Theater
Pittsfield tore down this landmark on North Street in favor of a parking lot

Pleasant Street Theater

Pleasant Street Theater
Amherst, Massachusetts

William "Shitty" Pignatelli

William "Shitty" Pignatelli
A top down & banal State House Pol from Lenox Massachusetts -- A GOOD MAN!

The CIA & Mind Control

The CIA & Mind Control
Did the CIA murder people by proxy assassins?

Skull & Bones

Skull & Bones
Yale's Elite

ImpeachBush.org

ImpeachBush.org
I believe President Bush should be IMPEACHED because he is waging an illegal and immoral war against Iraq!

Bob Feuer drumming for U.S. Congress v John Olver in 2008

Bob Feuer drumming for U.S. Congress v John Olver in 2008
www.blog.bobfeuer.us

Abe Lincoln

Abe Lincoln
The 16th President of the USA

Power

Power
Peace

Global Warming Mock Giant Thermometer

Global Warming Mock Giant Thermometer
A member of Green Peace activist sets up a giant thermometer as a symbol of global warming during their campaign in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Sunday, Dec. 2, 2007. World leaders launch marathon negotiations Monday on how to fight global warming, which left unchecked could cause devastating sea level rises, send millions further into poverty and lead to the mass extinction of plants and animals.

combat global warming...

combat global warming...
...or risk economic and environmental disaster caused by rising temperatures

www.climatecrisiscoalition.org

www.climatecrisiscoalition.org
P.O. Box 125, South Lee, MA 01260, (413) 243-5665, tstokes@kyotoandbeyond.org, www.kyotoandbeyond.org

3 Democratic presidentional candidates

3 Democratic presidentional candidates
Democratic presidential candidates former senator John Edwards (from right) and Senators Joe Biden and Chris Dodd before the National Public Radio debate yesterday (12/4/2007).

The UN Seal

The UN Seal
An archaic & bureaucratic post WW2 top-down, non-democratic institution that also stands for some good governance values

Superman

Superman
One of my favorite childhood heroes and movies

Web-Site on toxic toys

Web-Site on toxic toys
www.healthytoys.org

Batman

Batman
One of my favorite super-heroes

Deval Patrick & Denis Guyer

Deval Patrick & Denis Guyer
Massachusetts' Governor stands with Dalton's State Rep. Denis E. Guyer.

Bill Cosby & Denis Guyer

Bill Cosby & Denis Guyer
TV Star Bill Cosby stands with Denis E. Guyer

Denis Guyer with his supporters

Denis Guyer with his supporters
Dalton State Representative

Denis Guyer goes to college

Denis Guyer goes to college
Dalton State Representative

Peter Marchetti

Peter Marchetti
He is my second cousin. Pete Marchetti favors MONEY, not fairness!

Matt Barron & Denis Guyer with couple

Matt Barron & Denis Guyer with couple
Matt Barron plays DIRTY politics against his opponents!

Nat Karns

Nat Karns
Top-Down Executive Director of the ELITIST Berkshire Regional Planning Commission

Human Rights for All Peoples & people

Human Rights for All Peoples & people
Stop Anti-Semitism

Massachusetts State Treasurer Tim Cahill

Massachusetts State Treasurer Tim Cahill
State House, Room 227, Boston, MA 02133, 617-367-6900, www.mass.gov/treasury/

Massachusetts State Attorney General Martha Coakley

Massachusetts State Attorney General Martha Coakley
1350 Main Street, Springfield, MA 01103, 413-784-1240 / McCormick Building, One Asburton Place, Boston, MA 02108, 617-727-4765 / marthacoakley.com / www.ago.state.ma.us

Bush v. Gore: December 12, 2007, was the seventh anniversary, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision...

Bush v. Gore: December 12, 2007, was the seventh anniversary, the 5-4 Supreme Court decision...
www.takebackthecourt.org - A political billboard near my downtown apartment in Manchester, NH

Marc Murgo

Marc Murgo
An old friend of mine from Pittsfield

Downtown Manchester, NH

Downtown Manchester, NH
www.newhampshire.com/nh-towns/manchester.aspx

Marisa Tomei

Marisa Tomei
Movie Actress

Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities (MCHC)

Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities (MCHC)
www.masschc.org/issue.php

Mike Firestone & Anna Weisfeiler

Mike Firestone & Anna Weisfeiler
Mike Firestone works in Manchester NH for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign

James Pindell

James Pindell
Covers NH Primary Politcs for The Boston Globe

U.S. History - Declaration

U.S. History - Declaration
A 19th century engraving shows Benjamin Franklin, left, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Philip Livingston and Roger Sherman at work on the Declaration of Independence.

Boston Globe Photos of the Week - www.boston.com/bostonglobe/gallery/

Boston Globe Photos of the Week - www.boston.com/bostonglobe/gallery/
Sybregje Palenstijn (left), who plays Sarah Godbertson at Plimouth Plantation, taught visitors how to roast a turkey on a spit. The plantation often sees a large influx of visitors during the holiday season.

Chris Hodgkins

Chris Hodgkins
Another special interest Berkshire Pol who could not hold his "WATER" on Beacon Hill's State House!

The Big Dig - 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto Milena Del Valle's car.

The Big Dig - 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto Milena Del Valle's car.
Most of Boston's Big Dig highway remains closed, after a woman was crushed when 15 tons of concrete fell from a tunnel ceiling onto her car. (ABC News)

Jane Swift

Jane Swift
Former Acting Governor of Massachusetts & Berkshire State Senator

Paul Cellucci

Paul Cellucci
Former Massachusetts Governor

William Floyd Weld

William Floyd Weld
$80 Million Trust Fund Former Governor of Massachusetts

Mike Dukakis

Mike Dukakis
Former Governor of Massachusetts

Mary E. Carey

Mary E. Carey
Amherst, Massachusetts, Journalist and Blogger

Caveman

Caveman
www.ongeicocaveman.blogspot.com

Peter G. Arlos

Peter G. Arlos
"The biggest challenge Pittsfield faces is putting its fiscal house in order. The problem is that doing so requires structural changes in local government, many of which I have advocated for years, but which officials do not have the will to implement. Fiscal responsibility requires more than shifting funds from one department to another. Raising taxes and fees and cutting services are not the answer. Structural changes in the way services are delivered and greater productivity are the answer, and without these changes the city's fiscal crisis will not be solved."

James M. Ruberto

James M. Ruberto
"Pittsfield's biggest challenge is to find common ground for a better future. The city is at a crossroads. On one hand, our quality of life is challenged. On the other hand, some important building blocks are in place that could be a strong foundation for our community. Pittsfield needs to unite for the good of its future. The city needs an experienced businessman and a consensus builder who will invite the people to hold him accountable."

Matt Kerwood

Matt Kerwood
Pittsfield's Councilor-At-Large. Go to: extras.berkshireeagle.com/NeBe/profiles/12.htm

Gerald M. Lee

Gerald M. Lee
Pittsfield's City Council Prez. Top-down governance of the first order!

Mary Carey

Mary Carey
Mary with student

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox
Jonathan Papelbon celebrates with Jason Varitek

Free Bernard Baran!

Free Bernard Baran!
www.freebaran.org

Political Intelligence

Political Intelligence
Capitol Hill

Sherwood Guernsey II

Sherwood Guernsey II
Wealthy Williamstown Political Activist & Pittsfield Attorney

Mary Carey 2