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Stanek campaign calls for city’s financial stability

Date: 10/18/2013

By G. Michael Dobbs

HOLYOKE – Jeff Stanek said he wasn’t planning to run for mayor, but he was “disappointed in the results [of the Alex Morse Administration] and things going on.

The Holyoke-born businessman came in second in the primary; his first effort in politics.

Stanek, who graduated from Holyoke Catholic High School, was raised in the city but has spent much of his adult life working elsewhere. His family and his wife’s family are still living in Holyoke; he said he has “deep roots” here.

“If things were going spectacularly, I would never have put myself out there,” he said.

What initially drew him to consider a run are the financial concerns facing the city. “I’m not on board with the direction we [are] going,” he said.

Stanek specifically cited the emphasis on the creative economy as a worry.

“It’s not going to take us out of the hold we’re in,” he explained.

Stanek cited the losses created at the Holyoke Geriatric Authority and the increase in sewer fees as two issues.

Holyoke hitting its tax levy ceiling “is the biggest single issue the city is facing,” he said.

The city has to raise the number of taxable properties and to do so must sell city owned property to developers.

“We have to carefully develop the remaining parcels of land,” he said, noting that Holyoke does not have much undeveloped property at this point.

The city must also take measures to help building owners improve their properties to increase their values.

“We have a lot of old buildings and it’s a challenge to get them up to code,” he said. Stanek added that some building owners have had to turn away potential tenants because the cost of making necessary improvements was too expensive.

He noted that in the downtown revitalization district about 50 percent of the properties are considered nonprofit.

Stanek believes the city needs “a greater diversity of jobs.”

Stanek considers public safety a major issue in the campaign and said he has met with Police Chief James Neiswanger to discuss his concerns.

“Zero tolerance is tough; we have to crack down as much as we can and change the image of downtown,” he said.

While he said community policing is “an important tool” – a major strategy in the last few years – Stanek would like to see a task force established with plain-clothes police officers that would patrol the streets of the city. On his website, he said, “We should start a task force that performs undercover community policing, walking and biking throughout the city. I would rather people act freely, than adjust their behavior because a uniformed officer is approaching.”

Although Stanek has ideas about policing he said, “I’m not the type of guy who would force my opinion on anyone.”

He added, “My approach is no different than the companies I’ve worked for – a team approach.”

On his website, Stanek lists the positions he has had since graduating from Quinnipiac University in 1996.

“For the majority of my career I’ve been a controller,” he said and added the companies for which he has worked have been “small to medium size companies, $20 million to $35 million … At least several positions have been being the right hand man to the head of the company.”

Stanek said he was part owner of a call center business in Maine. That part of his career has generated considerable response on the Internet as the company was involved in an allegation of racketeering.

According to court documents dated Aug. 13, 2010, “In January 2004, MyFreeMedicine, a Kentucky company that sold prescription-assistance services, began using a Maine call center, AdvanceTel Direct (AdvanceTel) as its telemarketing services provider. At the same time, MyFreeMedicine began discussing the promotion of its product with Alpine Investors, LP (Alpine), an AdvanceTel Direct investor. In October 2004, Alpine and MyFreeMedicine entered into an agreement in which Alpine agreed to work exclusively on MyFreeMedicine’s media campaign, and MyFreeMedicine agreed to use AdvanceTel exclusively as its call center. During MyFreeMedicine’s relationship with AdvanceTel, customers complained about MyFreeMedicine’s product. In 2005, the Federal Trade Commission and several state Attorney General Offices launched an investigation into MyFreeMedicine and eventually sued the company for fraud. MyFreeMedicine has now initiated its own suit against Alpine and its partners, and several of the Maine call center’s managers and employers alleging a pattern of mail, wire, and financial institution fraud in violation of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO).

“MyFreeMedicine’s Amended Complaint contains six counts: three Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) counts under 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962(c) and 1964(c), a RICO conspiracy count, a breach of contract count, and a tortious interference with prospective advantage count.”

Stanek is described in the document, as “the financial controller at AdvanceTel Direct, with book keeping, bill collecting and management responsibilities. Mr. Stanek billed MyFreeMedicine weekly for the call centers services.”

According to the document, “Magistrate Judge thus concluded that Mr. Stanek was entitled to dismissal of all four RICO counts.”

Stanek said, “It [the case] was basically an attorney bringing a suit on the call center … when the lawsuit came to fruition I was there [at the call center].”

Stanek called the suit “completely without merit” and that his involvement was just speaking with his attorney for 30 minutes.

“When you get involved in business, stuff like that can happen,” he said. Stanek added the case never made it past a magistrate – much less heard by a judge.

Stanek is currently unemployed – his last job was “a multi-unit franchise company” in Michigan, as described on his website. He stopped commuting to and from Holyoke after getting married in 2012.

“I knew [the campaign] was going to be a full-time job,” he said. “I never could have gotten through the primary if I was working.”