Thursday, June 17, 2010

When Will The Publisher Stop Covering For The Banker?

Andrew Mick
Angelo C. Stracuzzi
Just what does Greylock's disgraced ex-CEO have on The Berkshire Eagle's Andrew Mick?
What else is The Berkshire Eagle failing to report?

by G.M. Heller

Published: Saturday, June 19, 2010, 12.34 P.M. EST.

Pittsfield, MA --- Why has Andrew Mick, Publisher and CEO at The Berkshire Eagle, been covering-up for Angelo C. Stracuzzi, former President and CEO at Greylock Federal Credit Union?

On Friday, June 4, 2010, Mr. Stracuzzi, 61, the former Pittsfield City Council president, resigned (some say he was fired) from the board of trustees at nationally-recognized Greylock Federal Credit Union, where Mr. Stracuzzi has served for years as the organization's high-profile, highly paid president, CEO, and advertising spokesperson.

Mr. Stracuzzi's face along with the familiar tagline, "Tell 'em Angelo sent you!," has been a staple of Greylock's advertising campaigns for years, while on-air his cheerful upbeat delivery touting the credit union's financial products is well-known to radio listeners throughout the region.

This surprising turn of events allegedly stemmed from trustees' concerns over what Greylock board chair Sheila LaBarbera called, in a statement issued late that Friday afternoon after boardmembers met with outside counsel, 'potential conflicts-of-interest' in the handling of Mr. Stracuzzi's probation in a misdemeanor case for which he had been convicted five years earlier in another state.

Mr. Stracuzzi pled guilty to one count each of assault & battery and criminal mischief in May, 2005 in York County Superior Court in Alfred, Maine.

This startling revelation that Mr. Stracuzzi had had a run-in with Maine cops only came about because The Eagle had reported it in its Sunday May 30 edition as part of a different story that The Eagle apparently believed was more newsworthy.

The Eagle was running a story on a local angle in response to having been upstaged by The Boston Globe just days earlier when The Globe's Spotlight Team broke news that the Massachusetts Probation Department, under state Commissioner John J. O'Brien since 1998, has been rife with patronage hires, nepotism, influence peddling, favoritism, and questionable quid pro quo campaign contributions. (Who would have thought this could happen in Massachusetts?)

The Globe series made specific mention of a patronage (read: nepotism) hire in the North Adams probation office who'd also been alleged to be a 'no-show,' and who, after complaints had been received by department headquarters in Boston, had subsequently been transferred to the South County office at near double his North Adams salary.

It was a story The Eagle should have known about and should have been the first to report long ago, but never did.

So in the wake of The Globe's scathing statewide scoop, The Eagle, in an article dated May 30, 2010 and headlined "Probation Cloud Hits County", reported on what appeared to be a local conflict-of-interest from five years earlier when Berkshire Superior Court's probation office in Pittsfield was given authority to oversee a local man who'd been convicted in Maine and whose probation was transferred to Massachusetts under the so-called Interstate Compact.

That man was Angelo Stracuzzi.

The conflict-of-interest to which Greylock chair LaBarbera referred in her June 4 press release stemmed from Mr. Stracuzzi's probation having apparently been overseen by his friend and fellow Greylock board member (and the credit union's former chair) Clifford Nilan, whose day job was, and is, chief of probation at Berkshire Superior Court.

(Except that the state Probation Department is now backtracking, according to The Eagle, and is now claiming that Mr. Nilan did not "play a direct role in supervising Stracuzzi," yet department headquarters in Boston is at odds to say just who did oversee Mr. Stracuzzi.)

Despite being subordinated within an article about a different scandal, that first mention in The Eagle of a heretofore unreported criminal matter involving one of Berkshire County's leading political and business figures was surprise enough.

But what caused even more public consternation and speculation (especially online within The Eagle's Topix threads) was that, after acknowledging in the May 30 article that it had actually been aware of Mr. Stracuzzi's conviction for at least five months (since January, according to The Eagle, when it sent emails to Probation Department headquarters), The Eagle after all that time was still only able to give the most vague description and sparse accounting as to what actually led to a criminal complaint being issued against Mr. Stracuzzi in the first place.

What kind of incident six years earlier could possibly have caused a successful bank executive and former Pittsfield City Council president to be criminally charged in a coastal resort town like Biddeford, Maine?

The Eagle's May 30 eye-opener contained little else about Maine's July 2004 criminal case against Mr. Stracuzzi, nor any explanation how or why he happened to be in Biddeford.

Prominently reported in that article, though, was Mr. Stracuzzi's own explanation for what happened.

According to that May 30 report, "Stracuzzi, 61, told The Eagle last week that he was charged with assault after he pushed a young male hitchhiker out of his car in Biddeford one afternoon. Stracuzzi said he believes the criminal mischief charge was leveled against him because he broke the hitchhiker's necklace."

Bad enough that were there an actual crime, The Eagle was relying upon the alleged perpetrator as its witness to relay what happened (like the fox being interviewed about goings-on at night around the chicken coop), but The Eagle then failed to present any evidence, source, or details to confirm Mr. Stracuzzi's version of events.

For example, The Eagle omitted any reference to, or interview with, Sarah Churchill, an attorney and specialist in criminal trial litigation with the high-priced law firm Strike, Goodwin & O'Brien in Portland, Maine, whom court records indicate represented Mr. Stracuzzi before York County Superior Court Judge G. Arthur Brennan.

In addition, The Eagle, other than including Mr. Stracuzzi's initial reference to a "young male hitchhiker," failed to state whether anyone from the newspaper tried to contact that individual to obtain his side of the story, especially since that individual's name was indeed available from court records (despite being a juvenile at the time).

Not only that, but The Eagle omitted any reference whatsoever to the Biddeford Police investigation that followed, or to the detectives' report that formed the basis for issuing Mr. Stracuzzi a summons.

Also omitted were quotes from those Biddeford Police detectives, even statements made 'not for attribution'.

Further omitted was public information on file at York County Superior Court in the clerk's office, data which could easily have been obtained via telephone just by speaking with court personnel. (Alfred, Maine is a quiet, friendly town of 2500, and the superior court clerk's office is open from 12-4 weekdays.)

Just about the only thing that was being acknowledged by the newspaper was that: "The Eagle has formally requested more information about the case, but the Biddeford Police Department and York County District Attorney Mark Lawrence have yet to respond."

The fact that Biddeford is 222 miles away -- by car less than four hours from Pittsfield -- apparently made it impossible for The Eagle during the Berkshires' incredibly busy mud season -- January through May -- to dispatch anybody to Biddeford to interview anyone in the police station which investigated the case, in the D.A.'s office which prosecuted the case, in Biddeford District Court where the case was initially heard, or in York County Superior Court where sentence was ultimately pronounced and records are maintained.

Historically, The Eagle has shown great ingenuity and unabashed energy in reporting local crime stories and criminal proceedings, doing so on matters horrific and benign.

The newspaper's daily regimen invariably includes even the smallest details carefully lifted and sifted from police and court records, guaranteed to embarrass any Berkshire defendant, his extended family, and friends.

The Eagle is known to publicize and even to amplify in excruciating detail and without reserve the who, what, where, how, when, and often the why of any incident.

The criminal prosecution, minutia from every subsequent court proceeding, and the court climax with a detailed listing of everything the judge's sentence imposes is all standard fare in The Eagle.

There's little that goes on in Berkshire County's courts about which The Eagle's readers are not made fully aware.

In nearly every case, except apparently, this one.

(And also, of course, those matters involving patronage, nepotism, favoritism, and no-show hiring in Berkshire County's Probation Department offices.)

Inexplicably, The Eagle, even to this day, still has failed to report what actually happened in Biddeford in July 2004 that led police in that municipality to issue a criminal summons to one of Berkshire County's leading citizens.

Unreported in the May 30 article, for example, is just why Maine prosecutors would accept nothing less than a guilty plea on something so seemingly silly as what Mr. Stracuzzi claims was a dust-up with a hitchhiker?

The Eagle's follow-up report published June 3, headlined "Probation to Review Case," added little to the sum of public knowledge concerning Mr. Stracuzzi's contretemps in Biddeford.

Likewise the newsflash posted to The Eagle's Web site late the afternoon of June 4, that broke the story headlined "Stracuzzi Resigns Greylock Board, Placed on Leave as CEO," did not do any better in adding to the sum of the public's knowledge as to what actually transpired in Biddeford, or to explain how whatever it was could have created such a dramatic ripple effect six years later.

This was like reporting on the devastation from a Level 5 hurricane without actually reporting that it had ever rained, let alone been windy.

It took another week, until June 11, for The Eagle finally to acknowledge in a reference buried deep within a related article, this one simply headlined "Stracuzzi Resigns as CEO," that: "Stracuzzi's latest legal headache stems from separate 2004 incidents in Maine, according to York County Superior Court officials. Stracuzzi was charged with six crimes in connection with two back-to-back incidents in July 2004, including two counts of soliciting sex from a minor, according to a spokeswoman in the court clerk's office."

"Separate 2004 incidents in Maine"?
"Charged with six crimes"?
"Two back-to-back incidents in July 2004"?
"Two counts of soliciting sex from a minor"?

Please excuse our ignorance, but from where had all this suddenly come?

What else had yet to be disclosed by The Eagle?

What else was The Eagle omitting from this image shattering news story?

Worse, what had actually happened during those incidents in Biddeford -- now apparently two of them back-to-back -- that was still not being reported by The Eagle?

What the public had initially been led to believe was just some momentary nonsense with a hitchhiker and broken jewelry, was now turning into something with strange and sinister implications.

Yet, even with The Eagle's 'come lately' admission on June 11 that there had been allegations of multiple incidents and crimes, even with that tacit acknowledgement, The Eagle was still omitting relevant facts and details about which The Eagle's editors were now well aware at that point, and which related directly to the "two back-to-back incidents" The Eagle was now finally acknowledging.

Such as: that the alleged "minor" (note The Eagle's use of the singular) involved in these matters was, in fact, two different boys, aged 15 and 13, respectively.

Hence, the two separate incidents.

Such as: that the incident alleged by Mr. Stracuzzi to have taken place during the day, as was initially reported by The Eagle May 30, appears actually to have taken place in the evening.

In fact, each incident had been called into Biddeford Police in late evening, specifically 9:36 P.M. in the first instance, Monday, July 26, 2004; and then one the following night at 10:00 P.M., according to the blotter at the Biddeford Police station.

Such as: that Judge Brennan ordered psychological evaluation and counseling as a condition for Mr. Stracuzzi's probation.

That is something which could have real-life implications for juvenile males near and far should Mr. Stracuzzi or the Berkshire County Probation Office fail to follow through on Judge Brennan's order.

Imagine if what happened in Biddeford were to happen elsewhere in some future time because either psychological evaluation and counseling had not occurred as ordered, or because Mr. Stracuzzi's treatment was not continued as needed.

As it stands right now, The Berkshire Eagle's readers still do not officially know just what happened in Biddeford, Maine when Angelo Stracuzzi wheeled into town that balmy evening in July 2004.

Nor do The Eagle's readers know why Greylock's board formally accepted the resignations of both Mr. Stracuzzi and his fellow board member Clifford Nilan; nor even why Mr. Stracuzzi formally resigned his position as president and CEO.

The Berkshire Eagle continues to stonewall, to cover-up, to dissemble, to omit, and to obfuscate, apparently on behalf, and for the benefit, of Mr. Stracuzzi.

Why is The Eagle's Publisher and CEO, Andrew Mick, allowing any of this to take place on his watch?

[Editor's Note: Andrew Mick reports ultimately to William Dean Singleton of Denver, Colorado, founder and CEO of MediaNews Group. Mr. Singleton is also chairman of the board of directors of the Associated Press (AP), and, according to Wikipedia, "serves as publisher of a number of MediaNews' dailies, including the Denver Post, the Salt Lake Tribune and the Detroit News."]

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Thursday, June 03, 2010

State of Maine v. Angelo Stracuzzi

What The Berkshire Eagle Fails to Report
by G.M. Heller

The Berkshire Eagle has had the following information since Tuesday, June 1 regarding Angelo C. Stracuzzi's recently exposed (by The Eagle itself in an article published May 30) run-in with police in the coastal town of Biddeford, Maine in July 2004.

Mr. Stracuzzi is president and C.E.O. of Greylock Federal Credit Union and served for many years on the Pittsfield City Council both as a councilman and as that governing body's president.

Angelo C. Stracuzzi, president and C.E.O.,
Greylock Federal Credit Union

According to York County Superior Court records, Biddeford Police charged Mr. Stracuzzi with 'Patronizing Prostitution of a Minor' - Class D, 'Assault & Battery' - Class D, and 'Criminal Mischief' - Class D.

In two separate cases filed with the York County Superior Court, Mr. Stracuzzi was charged with the same three identical counts in each case.

The criminal complaints stemmed from separate incidents occurring a day apart, each incident involving a different underage male.

The first incident took place July 26th, 2004 (Criminal Docket No. 05-194) and was reported to Biddeford Police that same evening at 9:36 P.M..

The second incident occurred July 27th (Criminal Docket No. 04-2288) and appeared on the police blotter at 10:00 P.M. same night.

The boys' ages at the time were approximately 15 and 13 years-old, respectively.

Responsive to a Biddeford Police detective's investigation of the two separately filed incident reports, a summons was issued to Mr. Stracuzzi to appear in Biddeford District Court the following month and answer to the above-stated criminal charges.

Biddeford is about the same size as Pittsfield, Massachusetts and located on Maine's southern coast less than two hours north of Boston.

Maine's legal system specifies five classes of crimes ranging in descending order of severity from Class A to Class E.

Mr. Stracuzzi was being charged with Class D criminal misdemeanors.

To defend him, Mr. Stracuzzi hired criminal defense attorney Sarah Churchill, of the law firm Strike, Goodwin & O'Brien of Portland, Maine. "This firm", according to its Web site, "is engaged exclusively in the practice of criminal law including murder, all felony charges, OUIs, domestic violence, and all related misdemeanor matters."

Attorney Churchill "has handled several high profile criminal matters," according to her Web page, "including murder and gross sexual assault. Her area of practice focuses on criminal trial litigation."

SG&O's Web site also proclaims, "Our goal is to offer each and every one of our clients unparalleled service and dedication to ensure we reach a satisfactory resolution to your case. Should the State be unwilling to resolve your case to your satisfaction, we stand prepared to take the matter to trial."

At his arraignment in Biddeford District Court in August, 2004, Mr. Stracuzzi entered a plea of Not Guilty and requested trial by jury.

The matter was marked up for trial and ultimately transferred to York County Superior Court in Alfred, Maine, the county seat, 13 miles west of Biddeford.

In May 2005, state prosecutor Jeff Moskowitz (now a Maine state court judge) agreed to drop one of the cases against Mr. Stracuzzi along with one of the charges in the remaining case in exchange for Mr. Stracuzzi's guilty plea.

Presiding Judge G. Arthur Brennan accepted Mr. Stracuzzi's guilty plea and, according to The Berkshire Eagle, "On May 25, 2005, Stracuzzi was sentenced in York Superior Court to a 364-day suspended jail sentence and one year of probation after admitting to the misdemeanor charges."

What The Eagle conveniently and inexplicably omits in its report was that Judge Brennan also ordered Mr. Stracuzzi to get "Psychological evaluation, and counseling as needed".

This was a specific condition of Mr. Stracuzzi's probation.

Another probation condition not reported by The Eagle was that Mr. Stracuzzi was to have no contact with either of the two boys, both of whose names are listed on Judge Brennan's no contact order.

It is not publicly known yet whether the Massachusetts Probation Department saw to it that Mr. Stracuzzi obtained the psychological evaluation and counseling ordered by Judge Brennan.

It also is not publicly known yet exactly what Mr. Stracuzzi told his employers, the board of directors at Greylock Federal Credit Union (if indeed he told them anything at all at the time), but it appears that when Mr. Stracuzzi did finally acknowledge to the board his run-in with Biddeford Police, he was less than candid with boardmembers regarding the nature of the original charges against him as well as the subsequent probation conditions set by the Court.

Coincidentally, one of the few officials in Berkshire County having direct and authorized access to Mr. Stracuzzi's entire probation file (after it was transferred to Massachusetts from Maine's Department of Corrections under the Interstate Compact), and whose official responsibility as part of his day job was to be aware of the probation files of offenders under his legal juridiction, was none other than longtime GFCU boardmember Clifford Nilan, the bank's former chairman, who also, according to GFCU's 2009 annual report, "is Chief Probation Officer of Berkshire Superior Court".

[Editor's 24-hour late-breaking update: The board of directors of Greylock Federal Credit Union met with outside counsel on Friday, June 4, 2010 (from a law firm outside Berkshire County not affiliated with any local Berkshire law firms). Mid-afternoon, the board issued the following statement: "The directors of Greylock Federal Credit Union have accepted Angelo Stracuzzi's resignation from the Board of Directors and we have placed him on an administrative leave of absence from his position as CEO, while the board completes a full investigation of potential conflicts of interest. The Board has also accepted the resignation of Director Cliff Nilan. The board took its actions with full appreciation for the years of dedicated service and achievement under their leadership. We have full confidence in the ability of our senior management team to maintain Greylock's standards of excellence. Credit Union members will continue to receive the same level of outstanding service."<<<]

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