Plainville willingly got in bed with a CROOK, nothing more than a SLICK CON MAN [much as Middleboro got in bed with a CONVICTED RAPIST].
Plainville officials IGNORED AND DEFENDED an ILLEGAL RAFFLE! and much else.
The only place the Horse Poop is flying is Plainville's Town Hall!
Joe Fernandes will be retired on an 80% TAXPAYER FUNDED RETIREMENT when the Tsunami of his BAD decisions hits!
Driving 'irony' in Plainville
Hailed as savior of harness racing, Piontkowski may have killed it
Former Plainridge Racecourse President Gary Piontkowski discusses plans related to the track in August 2011.
Posted: Monday, August 12, 2013
Driving 'irony' in Plainville
BY JIM HAND SUN CHRONICLE STAFF
The Sun Chronicle
PLAINVILLE - Just a few months ago, horsemen were praising Gary Piontkowski as the savior of harness racing in Massachusetts.
Piontkowski was the driving force behind efforts to build Plainridge Racecourse in Plainville 15 years ago and bring back harness racing after the state's only track closed in Foxboro.
More recently, he was spearheading the campaign to win a state license to add slot machines to Plainridge so the track could win the added revenue needed to keep racing viable.
"First, there would be no racetrack in Massachusetts if not for the efforts of Mr. Piontkowski," one supporter, Peter Richardson Blood, said on Facebook.
But, from social media to the paddocks of his former track, Piontkowski's name has been sullied by the revelation that he was taking money from the track for years.
A state Gaming Commission uncovered the practice and, as a result, the commission disqualified Plainridge from competition for the slot machine license.
The commission said it was also unhappy investors did not try to get the $1.4 million back, and instead bought out Piontkowski's share of the track for $1.8 million and agreed to pay him $180,000 a year for two years.
Piontkowski did not return phone calls or answer the door at his Rhode Island home, so he could not be reached for comment.
But, the former savior is now being viewed as the killer of harness racing.
"Gary single-handedly nailed the coffin shut on Massachusetts racing," critic Jaymes McAssey said on a Facebook page dedicated to the racing community.
Those who had public dealings with Piontkowski, but did not know the inner workings of Plainridge, say they are stunned by the turn of events.
"I think he is the guy who saved racing, and I think it is somewhat ironic the tables have turned and he is the guy who might have destroyed it," said state Sen. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham.
Ross has been supportive of the track over the years because so many workers, horsemen and farms derived their incomes from it.
He said he never imagined there was something financially wrong at the track, but quickly added he does not know what standard business practices are in the gambling industry.
The Gaming Commission obviously believed Piontkowski's practice of taking up to $1.4 million from the track's "money room" was beyond the pale.
It was critical of Piontkowski and the track owners, and found Plainridge unsuitable for a gaming license.
But, even in the best of times, Piontkowski and the track were controversial.
Piontkowski was the former manager of another track that used to operate in Foxboro. Always politically well connected, he also served for a time as chairman of the state Racing Commission.
The man who replaced him as chairman, Robert Hutchinson, voted against Plainridge getting a state license for racing in 1998. He noted, among other things, that all of its investors had not been vetted by state police at the time of the vote.
He was overruled by two other commissioners.
State police alleged that the two commissioners had been holding improper communications with the administration of then Gov. Paul Cellucci in "an extensive web of behind the scenes connections between the racetrack backers and the Cellucci administration," according to press reports at the time.
But, that was just the beginning of the controversies.
Piontkowski and partner Lou Giuliano, who financed the track project, had a falling out and ended up in a legal battle. Giuliano even claimed his signature had been forged on some documents.
Piontkowski got control of the track and Giuliano tried to open a competing operation in Foxboro, but never got the project going.
In 2004, state police were again at odds with Piontkowski, accusing him of taking illegal telephone bets. At the time, betting over the phone in Massachusetts was not allowed. It is now.
Piontkowski countered that the state police were corrupt and were retaliating against him for complaints he had filed against them.
The racing commission dropped the matter.
Even when it appeared Piontkowski and the track were trying to do something good, it got caught up in controversy.
Resident Mary-Ann Greanier filed a complaint with the state Attorney General's Office about a charity raffle the track had conducted. The Attorney General's Office closed the case after the track agreed not to conduct the raffle in the future.
One of the strangest episodes at Plainridge came in 2002, when a man posing as a Brinks security guard stole more than $100,000 from the track.
The man timed the crime when the sun was shining into security cameras.
The suspect police later said committed the crime was found shot to death in Rhode Island and the case was never solved.
Last year, during the quest for the slot machine license, Piontkowski stirred up more controversy when he sued a gambling opponent because someone had posted derogatory comments about the track on the man's website. [SLAPP suit: Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation - intended to BULLY and INTIMIDATE!]
The suit was dismissed and the track was ordered to pay legal fees.
Yet, until recently, Piontkowski was always held in high regard by Plainville town officials.
They said Piontkowski was cooperative, civic minded, supportive of local charities and youth sports clubs, and was running an outfit that provided jobs and much-needed tax revenue to the town.
Former Police Chief Ned Merrick, whose wife worked at the track, said there was never any trouble at Plainridge while he was chief.
So, officials said they were blindsided when Piontkowski resigned last April and more recently when the investigative report came out detailing his practice of taking money from the track.
They were hoping Plainridge would get the slots license because it had promised to pay the town $1.5 million a year in property taxes, along with $2.7 million in fees.
Slot machines were also supposed to generate 400 new jobs.
Town Administrator Joseph Fernandes said he is troubled by several aspects of the Piontkowski case, but perhaps what bothers him the most is that investors and Piontkowski lied when they said he was retiring for health reasons.
Gee, Joe, Do you think that constitutes 'NEGOTIATING IN BAD FAITH'?
And yet you continue to negotiate under the circumstances?
Do you think in Plainville's BEST INTERESTS, maybe the Town should sue Plainridge?
Joe, Didn't you think it was puzzling that those HEALTH REASONS necessitated a financial buyout?
It's difficult to know if we can blame incompetence or stupidity!
The windfall town officials were hoping for is lost, and now they are worried the track will close, people will lose their jobs, farms that support horse racing will be sold and Plainville will lose the $279,000 a year the track is currently paying in taxes.
"I think it is a shame one person could ruin it for all those people," Town Assessor Mary Jo LaFreniere said.