PITTSFIELD — In the final debate of the Pittsfield mayoral campaign, Peter Marchetti and John Krol used their opening statements to trade jabs over allegations facing their opponent rather than the number of issues facing the city.
On Wednesday night, Krol, Marchetti and a loyal contingent of both candidates’ supporters gathered at Berkshire Community College for a debate co-hosted by Pittsfield Community Television and iBerkshires.com.
Krol led the event with an opening statement that called on voters to select a candidate who would “empower” the staff working with them and leaned into recent news that Marchetti had been named as one of four defendants in a workplace sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit.
“A mayor needs to show respect for the people he or she works with — colleagues, staff, every person — no matter their gender or no matter their role,” Krol said.
“We talked about experience and no matter what that experience is, we have to look at the nature of it, we have to look at the character of it,” Krol continued. “If it doesn’t have respect and it doesn’t have equitable actions and fairness, then we have to have a change.”
Krol claimed the lawsuit was proof of how Marchetti treats coworkers “behind closed doors.”
Marchetti is a 35-year employee of the Pittsfield Cooperative Bank. He served as the senior vice president of retail banking and operations until September when he began a temporary leave of absence from the bank to run his mayoral campaign.
A lawsuit filed by the bank’s former vice president of marketing was served to the bank, Marchetti and two other top male executives on Oct. 18.
Marchetti and his employers have resoundingly disputed that any wrongdoing took place. Pittsfield Cooperative Bank issued a statement to local media stating that while the female employee had issued a harassment complaint against Marchetti, the complaint had been investigated by an outside investigator who determined the claim was unfounded.
Marchetti used his own opening statement to address the suit. He read in part from a statement he said was from his employer that said “the investigator concluded that Mr. Marchetti did not violate the bank’s anti-harassment and discrimination policy, nor did he violate any laws, including sexual harassment laws.”
Marchetti said that because the lawsuit was ongoing — the defendants have until Nov. 8 to submit their response to the complaint in federal court in Springfield — he was limited in what he could say. He did emphasize his belief in the importance of anti-harassment policies and his support of the city’s diversity, equity and inclusion office.
“As a gay man myself, I understand the importance of a fair, respectful and harassment-free culture,” Marchetti said. “I have and will continue to support a safe and non-hostile work environment, a culture that is accepting of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age and disability.
“I will stand up for fairness of women and anti-harassment and discrimination policies in the workplace,” he added.
Moderator and iBerkshires executive editor Tammy Daniels then asked Krol if he would like to address any "controversy" in his campaign.
In mid-September, the former president of Animal Dreams, a local feline rescue nonprofit, came to The Berkshire Eagle with allegations that Krol had embezzled funds from the nonprofit’s bank account. Krol had served on the board of the nonprofit.
Records provided by both the nonprofit head and Krol show that Krol used the account to pay off a credit card connected with his marketing business, OneEighty Media. Krol claimed the payments were made by “mistake” because he had been sent the incorrect account number by Greylock Federal Credit Union, the bank for both the nonprofit and his business account.
Krol paid back the nonprofit the total of the misused funds — more than $6,800 — primarily with a secret check from the then-husband of the nonprofit president, Allen Harris.
The records Krol provided to The Eagle also revealed that Krol attempted to use the account to pay four years of state corporate tax with the nonprofit’s funds.
Krol said at the debate that “I have brought all the evidence forward and I have been open and honest,” in reference to meeting for an interview on the subject with The Eagle.
“Let me be very clear, a mayor needs to not hide behind attorneys,” Krol said. “They have to be able to come out and be able to be open and honest with the evidence.”
Krol has not provided The Eagle with accounting records that the paper has sought from Krol’s former accountant to verify his claim that his state corporate taxes were later paid from his own account. Krol copied his attorney in an email to an Eagle reporter denying access to interview that source.
Marchetti issued his own salvo at Krol in his response to Krol’s statements, claiming his former city council colleague had violated state ethics laws by accepting the $6,800 “donation” from Harris. Krol never paid Harris back that money.
State law, generally, prohibits elected officials or public employees from accepting gifts or donations valued over $50. While there are some exemptions to those laws, officials are often required to file a disclosure statement as part of the exemption.
Krol claimed his opponent had “lost [his] cool” in recent debates and that Marchetti’s “temperament” would be a potential issue if he was elected.
In a final retort before conversation turned to the issues facing voters, Marchetti said “there’s a difference between losing your cool and standing up for yourself.”
The debate served as the last public meeting between the candidates before voters make their choice in the municipal races on Election Day, Nov. 7.
Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-496-6149.