Oak Bluffs Shakeup Continues as Inspector Fires Secretary

By JAMES KINSELLA

Newly appointed Oak Bluffs building inspector Jerry Wiener fired the secretary to the building department yesterday because he said she was not doing her job.

Eliza Usher, who has worked for the town building department since May of 2001, was terminated by Mr. Wiener on Monday morning.

"The work wasn't getting done," Mr. Wiener said yesterday afternoon.

Ms. Usher left a telephone message with the Gazette yesterday morning confirming that she had in fact been fired, but then she could not be reached for comment throughout the day.

Last year, the town paid Ms. Usher $40,020. At the time of her termination, she was being paid $18.42 per hour.

Ms. Usher also has worked as the clerk to the zoning board of appeals. It was unclear yesterday whether she would continue to hold that position.

Ms. Usher has also worked in a number of town departments, most recently in the building department.

Mr. Wiener's action marks one more step in an ongoing shakeup in the town building department, which has been the target of increasing criticism during the last year.

On March 18 Richard Mavro, who had been the town building inspector for 16 years, took a medical leave of absence. Mr. Mavro, who was midway through a three-year appointment set to expire in April, officially resigned in late June. He has applied for retirement to the Barnstable County Retirement Board, which administers retirement for Oak Bluffs town employees.

On July 12 the Oak Bluffs selectmen hired Mr. Wiener, an Aquinnah resident who already was building inspector in that town. Mr. Wiener came aboard as interim building inspector in Oak Bluffs on May 31.

Prior to his medical leave, Mr. Mavro had been widely criticized by residents and town officials for what they saw as a periodic failure to enforce building and zoning rules in the town.

The most controversial episode involved the Joseph G. Moujabber property on Sea View avenue extension on the North Bluff, where a three-story garage was built in open violation of town zoning bylaws. Under pressure from all sides, Mr. Mavro finally issued a demolition order for the garage last December. The town is moving ahead to enforce the demolition, although the dispute is still tangled in a mass of legal proceedings.

Two other modified garages - one on Dempster Park, another on Barnes Road - also have drawn objections.

Another episode on Mr. Mavro's watch involved the proposed reconstruction of the former Army Barracks, a historic building at 45 Circuit avenue, where the contractor demolished the building with no permit, leaving a large hole on the town's main commercial street.

Ms. Usher recently came under criticism herself as building department secretary from residents who said she was unhelpful.

One of the residents also raised the issue of whether Ms. Usher's job as building secretary conflicted with her post as clerk to the Oak Bluffs zoning board of appeals.

Last month, Ms. Usher said she had discussed the issue of a potential conflict with both Mr. Mavro and Mr. Wiener. She also said she had taken on the clerk's job because no one else had responded to an advertisement for the position.

Oak Bluffs town administrator Casey Sharpe yesterday declined to comment on Ms. Usher's termination. "As with any personnel matter, the town's policy is to make no comment," Ms. Sharpe stated in an e-mail yesterday afternoon.

Oak Bluffs selectman and board chairman Gregory Coogan could not be reached for comment yesterday. But last month Mr. Coogan told the Gazette that the town has made a concerted effort to clean up the building department.

"We're going in a positive direction and we're not going backwards," Mr. Coogan said. "We're definitely not going backwards and we need people to have confidence in our building department."