Embattled Oak Bluffs Building Inspector May Now Seek a Town Retirement Deal

By JAMES KINSELLA

After spending much of the last 12 months in a political hot seat, Richard Mavro is reportedly preparing to close the door on his 16-year tenure as the Oak Bluffs building inspector.

Mr. Mavro, who has been on a medical leave of absence from his job since March 18, is in discussions with town officials about taking either a regular or medical retirement from the town, according to information obtained by the Gazette.

In return for stepping down from his job, Mr. Mavro -- whose job performance has come under widespread criticism during the past year -- would receive a $25,000 payment from the town.

Oak Bluffs officials declined to comment on the discussions.

"Ongoing personnel matters and employee health issues are not public records," town administrator Casey Sharpe stated yesterday.

"I have to give you a no-comment on it. If any decisions are made they will be made in executive session. Nothing is finalized," said selectman and board chairman Gregory Coogan.

Mr. Mavro could not be reached for comment.

Despite his medical leave as building inspector, Mr. Mavro has continued to drive Oak Bluffs students on a school bus to and from the town school on Tradewinds avenue. He drives the bus for a private company that holds the transportation contract with the school.

Last year, Mr. Mavro's gross wages from the town were $50,419.

Should Mr. Mavro qualify for retirement based on an accident or the job-related creation or worsening of an existing condition, he would receive, until his death, payments based on 72 per cent of his last 12 months pay from the town of Oak Bluffs. These retirement payments would be mostly untaxed, said Cynthia Schilling, a member of the Dukes County retirement board.

Under a medical disability retirement, a person in the system would receive 50 per cent of the last 12 months of pay. These payments would be taxed.

Ordinary retirement is based on the highest 36 consecutive months of earnings, and is calculated on a formula that takes into account age of retirement.

Mr. Mavro, who has served as the town building inspector since 1989, is in the middle of a three-year appointment that expires next April.

Over the past year, he has been criticized for his performance in two high-profile cases.

He allowed the construction of a single-car garage last year on Seaview avenue extension to morph into a much larger structure that galvanized North Bluff neighbors in protest.

More recently, Mr. Mavro failed to stop the demolition this past winter of a historic building on Circuit avenue. First, the building inspector allowed a contractor to work on the downtown building without a written building permit. The contractor later demolished the building at 45 Circuit avenue in violation of town bylaws aimed at protecting the historic integrity of the downtown.

But it was clearly the North Bluff garage controversy that thrust Mr. Mavro into the most trouble of the last year. Town officials, including selectmen, historic district commissioners and members of the zoning board of appeals all raised questions about the building inspector's actions.

During two board of appeals hearings last July regarding the garage owned by businessman and restaurateur Joseph G. Moujabber, zoning board members were sharply critical of the lack of detailed plans and any paper trail that showed approvals for a project whose scope had clearly widened from simply a $22,000 garage.

"I'd like to see a site plan with elevations and setbacks," said zoning board member William (Chuck) Sullivan, who described the building records as "“scantily filled-out."

Zoning board chairman Gail Barmakian last July expressed her contempt for how Mr. Moujabber behaved and how the building department appeared to exercise little oversight.

Selectmen began weighing in on the controversy in August. Selectman Kerry Scott wondered aloud why Mr. Mavro was absent from the zoning board hearings on the Moujabber garage.

“It was his action being appealed. So many questions came up,” Ms. Scott said a week ago. “It would have been helpful if he was there.”

When selectmen invited Mr. Mavro to a meeting in early August for questioning, they were blunt.

Mr. Coogan asked the building inspector: “In this situation in the North Bluff, can you explain how we got from the original request for a small building to where we are?”

Despite claims by Mr. Moujabber’s Boston attorney that his client had communicated with Mr. Mavro as the garage project expanded, Mr. Mavro mentioned nothing about updated plans or new applications and approvals.

Instead, he argued that once he issues a permit, it’s not his job to monitor compliance until a homeowner calls him for an inspection.

“I have no right to tell anyone what to do,” Mr. Mavro told selectmen last summer. “As a citizen and taxpayer, I may not like it at all, but I’m kind of stuck. I can’t cite someone for what they might do.”

In June of last year, Mr. Mavro came under pressure from another town board, the Cottage City historic district commission.

Commission members wrote a letter to Ms. Sharpe last spring, citing two examples of building projects in the new historic district that Mr. Mavro failed to refer to them: a large deck four feet off the ground and the installation of vinyl-clad, single pane windows.

“The Cottage City Historic District Commission requests the board of selectmen require the building official to observe the following language of the district bylaw,” stated a letter dated May 20 from commission chairman S. David Wilson.

Earlier this year, neighbors of a Dempster Park property hired a Boston lawyer to challenge Mr. Mavro's decisions regarding another garage project that appeared to be larger than originally permitted.

While the past year has been a tough one for Mr. Mavro, he is not unaccustomed to being at the center of a controversy. Back in 2000, his actions aroused the ire of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) when he granted a building permit to allow the expansion of the Wesley Hotel, even though DEP rulings prohibited any additional sewage flow from the hotel.

“The building inspector went ahead and issued a building permit even though he was carbon copied on the letter that said the addition would represent an increase in flow," an engineer from the state agency said at the time.