Charging Bigotry, Applicant Attacks Commissioner Role

By JULIA WELLS

In a tense exchange that left members of the Martha's Vineyard Commission stunned, the developer of the Down Island Golf Club took off the gloves last night, repeatedly calling a senior member of the commission a bigot.

Brian Lafferty, a Bolton developer who is partners with golf club developer Corey Kupersmith, said he would go to court to challenge Linda Sibley's right to participate in a review of an affordable housing project now planned for Mr. Kupersmith's property in the southern woodlands section of Oak Bluffs.

The housing project is under review by the commission as a development of regional impact (DRI). A public hearing is set to open on August 14.

"I've got a problem with Linda Sibley sitting on this proposal . . . . my own personal opinion is that Mrs. Sibley has demonstrated that she is bigot," declared Mr. Lafferty. "It's no huge secret that many of the people who will qualify for the affordable homes in this project are members of various minorities - we are entitled to a fair and impartial hearing in front of the Martha's Vineyard Commission and someone that has demonstrated that sort of bigotry, I don't think should be sitting on this sort of proposal," he added.

The outburst came during a land use planning subcommittee meeting held at the commission office in Oak Bluffs. The purpose of the meeting was a pre-public hearing review for the project.

But what began as a relatively perfunctory review changed course as Mr. Lafferty unleashed his attack on Mrs. Sibley. The attack is rooted in a smear campaign mounted last year by the golf club developers against three members of the commission; at that time Mrs. Sibley was the central target.

Last night Mr. Lafferty hauled out all the old malignant remarks, claiming anew that during an earlier public hearing on the Down Island Golf Club project Mrs. Sibley made "disparaging remarks against blacks and Japanese." There is no evidence in the MVC written or electronic record of the golf club hearings that Mrs. Sibley ever made such remarks.

Pointing to a recent state supreme court case in the town of Winchester, Mr. Lafferty threatened to go to court if Mrs. Sibley does not remove herself from the review of affordable housing project.

"The SJC [Supreme Judicial Court] overturned a decision by a local board . . . saying people who bring their own bigotries to a hearing are not qualified to sit," Mr. Lafferty said.

Commission members rose to Mrs. Sibley's defense.

"The allegations you have made are strong and serious," said Christina Brown, who is chairman of the LUPC.

"Defamatory," said Megan Ottens-Sargent.

Mr. Lafferty was unfazed.

"We have the videotapes, I can bring the videotapes and play them. On three different occasions Mrs. Sibley referred to ‘little Japs from Tokyo,'" he said.

At this point Mrs. Sibley jumped in.

"I beg your pardon, I never used that language. I would never ever say that," she began, but Mr. Lafferty cut her off.

" ‘I don't want Michael Jordans flying in here to play golf, my mythical little golf player from Tokyo' - those were your exact words," Mr. Lafferty said.

"Excuse me, but several of the things you've just said I never said," Mrs. Sibley began, but Mr. Lafferty cut her off again.

"If you sit on this case we'll bring the videotapes to court - it's as simple as that," he said. "I have it on my computer - you can watch it if you want," he said, pointing to his laptop computer, resting on the table in front of the commission.

"I have been on this commission for six months and I was not at any of the earlier hearings, but I have known Mrs. Sibley and I think it is outrageous what you just said. I am outraged by it, really," said Linda DeWitt.

"Facts sometime hurt," Mr. Lafferty shot back.

"You just used the word ‘fact' and I think that is not right - you called Mrs. Sibley a bigot," declared Paul Strauss.

"It wouldn't be the first time that we were on different sides, and it won't be the last," Mr. Lafferty said.

Finally Mrs. Brown steered the meeting back to the subject at hand: a technical review of the plan to build 320 houses on 270 acres.

"Shall we move on, are you okay?" she said, turning to her colleague.

"I'm fine. I know my heart," Mrs. Sibley replied.