|Criticism Of Caccaviello Leads To Sharp Exchanges With Businesses|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
11:59AM / Monday, July 09, 2018
|Paul Caccaviello took office in March following the resignation of David Capeless.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Back on May 11, the owner of Otto's took to his personal Facebook to criticize the way the district attorney got the job.
David Capeless in March stepped down from the position early after working for months with the governor's office to get Paul Caccaviello appointed to the job
. Capeless made no bones about it saying, "I am taking this step now because I want Paul to run for election as the district attorney as I did 14 years ago." He gave is full support behind his first assistant.
On March 14, Caccaviello was appointed. He now runs as the district attorney in the race, giving him somewhat of an advantage. And many have been critical of the move, including Otto's owner Luke Marion.
"I'm sure Paul Cacciavello is a nice guy, but I don't understand for the life of me how anyone but his family can support him. The man was set up to have a leg up in the county District Attorney race through collusion. It's not even a secret! It's everything that is wrong with our system, and he wants to be the damned DISTRICT ATTORNEY! I don't care what the guy even has to say, I won't be voting for him on principle," Marion wrote on Facebook.
"Christ, I make fried chicken and catch hell. This dude gets set up to run as an incumbent and people don't bat an eyelash."
In most circumstance, that would have been the end of it. Until recently, when his business received a message from Karen Caccaviello, Paul Caccaviello's wife.
"I brought my daughter and my sister to your restaurant yesterday. ... I had no idea the comments you were spewing on FB. We would have never gone," she wrote to the business.
The two exchanged text with Caccaviello saying she was "sick over this" and "you make me ill." Marion responded saying that it had nothing to do with his business and that "I'm entitled to take issue with the situation." Marion further called it "a disgusting abuse of power out of the DA's office."
The back and forths sort of led to nowhere. But it ended with Caccaviello writing, "I have a big Italian family. I told them all. We are loyal. I liked your restaurant but I will never be back. Watch what you say word of mouth is key. Politics has nothing to do with it. It's human decency. The Highland is all I'm saying."
Marion shared the exchange on Facebook.
"So if the incumbent district attorney's wife angrily messages your business via Google about the comments you've made on your personal Facebook, disagreeing with the collusion and backdoor dealing that is currently happening within the DA's office, what do you do? I don't think I've ever been so floored," he wrote.
It was that follow-up that the Caccaviellos weren't expecting. Paul Caccaviello said that he was aware of the exchange and is taking it as a lesson in social media.
"I am aware of it. I wasn't part of it. But for me, my wife's support of me and her defense of her family comes from a place of love," Caccaviello said. "When politics and social media intersect, it is tough. It is very tough. Honestly, lesson learned."
Caccaviello says his wife will be a "fierce defender of her family" and he understands why she was upset seeing someone she loves so harshly criticized.
He doesn't believe his wife's intentions were to be threatening or intimidating, and he said communicating through texts often leads to miscommunication. Marion, however, didn't interpret it like any other complaint he receives at the restaurant.
"In general, I do feel very uneasy when the district attorney's wife comes at me in that manner. He is the district attorney, after all," Marion said.
Running for an office can be difficult on the families, and the Caccaviellos haven't had that experience before. Further, they aren't heavy social media users.
"Politics and social media, it is a tough lesson," Caccaviello said.
Caccaviello doesn't see partisanship as part of the office. He spent most of his career as an independent and has never run for office before. But, Betsy Capeless has been part of campaigns in the past as her husband David ran for the job multiple times.
John Krol hosts his own Facebook television show and has been highly critical of the transfer of power. Throughout numerous shows, he's made a number of very sharp and critical comments about it and has repeatedly pushed the issue. And on June 26, he again referred to it as "a shady handoff" during a feature piece highlighting the issue.
That led to Betsy Capeless leaving an angry message with the show's lead sponsor, Berkshire Money Management.
"I'm calling to express my great dissatisfaction with Berkshire Money Management's advertising with the John Krol Show. They were on the show two days ago and they are calling my husband and Mr. Caccaviello, who is the current district attorney, shady, disgraceful and shameful," Capeless said. "These are 25-year-plus veterans of the district attorney's office who served this county collectively in a great way for many years."
In the message, she accused Krol of attacking Caccaviello and Capeless because Krol's wife is friends with a rival candidate. Nonetheless, Capeless' voicemail shows a clear frustration with the criticism.
"I don't appreciate having my husband called a liar, having him be accused of circumventing the democratic process, while at the same time playing videos where he explains exactly what he is doing in an open and honest way. You guys are sponsoring this show and I want to let you know that I really don't appreciate it and neither do the Caccaviellos," Capeless said.
Caccaviello said he doesn't want to speak for somebody else in response to the Capeless voicemail. But, he said those messages are not something his campaign is coordinating.
Berkshire Money Management owner Allen Harris said he called her back immediately but she refused to meet with him to discuss it. Harris was particularly taken back because he doesn't care about the race nor has he ever been critical of Capeless or Caccaviello.
"It may make me sound out of touch, but I have more interest in who is going to be the next high school senior president than I am who is going to be the next DA. Perhaps that's a bit of hyperbole, but the point is I have no proverbial dog in this fight. The fight is being brought to me," Harris said.
Harris said in April he was asked to go to an event for Caccaviello and he declined because he was out of town. But, he said he sent the campaign a message wishing them good luck in the election.
At first, Harris chalked the message up to Capeless "ferociously" defending her family and he respects that. But, after hearing that he wasn't the only one to receive messages, he started to wonder.
"Originally I thought she was merely protecting her man, which I completely respect. But after learning that there was a coordinated attack on another local business, I can see that they are trying to wield their power to influence the election," Harris said.
"It's a shame. I have never met Paul Caccaviello and by all accounts, he seems well suited for the position. I wish him the best of luck. I truly do. The city needs good people."
Caccaviello has defended himself against criticism of the way he was given the position. He believes that the effort was one made to preserve continuity in the job. He feels the move was the right one for the organization, but critics are looking at it from a political standpoint and not an administrative one.
"Stability and continuity and a seamless transition was a priority. I can appreciate that. I absolutely get that, particularly when there is going to be an election. When you look at it from a political kaleidoscope, that's where the criticism comes from. If you look at it from a public safety standpoint and having continuity in the administration, it is a sensible approach," Caccaviello said. "I am honored and humbled that David thought enough of me to take the reins and honored and humbled that the governor sees the same thing."
However, the messages received by local businesses has fueled the critics even more. First, the opposition voiced outrage over the move, later an ethics complaint was filed over Caccaviello having uniformed officers at his announcement - a no-no in state ethics - and now these messages.
Nonetheless, as the county is absorbed in the hottest days of the year, the tone of the race is heating up.