A year after his court-ordered reinstatement as fire investigator in Oak Bluffs, Peter Martell says the town is not honoring his position. Last June a Dukes County superior court judge found that Oak Bluffs fire chief Peter Forend had no legal or justifiable reason for dismissing Mr. Martell. In May a Dukes County superior court judge ordered the town to pay some $35,700 in attorney’s fees.
But Mr. Martell said the fire department has not made good on his reinstatement.
In a July 19 letter to the selectmen, Mr. Martell said his radio call sign has not been restored, he is not allowed to attend officers’ meetings and he is not allowed to participate in any firefighting activities.
“The judge found that restricting my ability to aid in fighting a fire was ludicrous,” Mr. Martell wrote. “Any fire officer’s first responsibility is fire suppression and other duties come second.”
Mr. Martell further claimed that he is being harassed and has threatened to return to court over the matter.
On Tuesday selectman Walter Vail suggested that the town craft a response while board chairman Kathy Burton said that she had not yet read the letter. Yesterday Mr. Vail said the matter would be placed on the next selectmen’s agenda but that the board had been focusing its efforts on the search for an interim town administrator.
Mr. Vail said the board had narrowed the search to three candidates: Stanley Arend, a previous finalist for the position in 2006 who withdrew to take a job in California, former Falmouth town manager Robert Whritenour, and Orange town administrator Rick Kwiatkowski. Mr. Vail said two other candidates already had been eliminated and on Wednesday candidate Donald Andrews, an Oak Bluffs resident, withdrew his name from consideration.
“We’re going through a very thorough search here and we want to make sure the right person is in place to pick up the ball and run with it,” Mr. Vail said.
Selectmen are expected to make a decision at next Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting, the annual summer taxpayer’s session. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. in the Oak Bluffs library meeting room.
In other business this week, selectmen nixed a kayaking operation in Sengekontacket. West Tisbury-based Martha’s Vineyard Eco Adventures has been offering tours of Sengekontacket, as well as other ponds, for three years according to founder and tour guide Erik Vanlandingham, but selectmen said he could no longer use town-owned property at the big bridge to launch his tours.
“I worry about precedent,” said Ms. Burton. “What about the rest of the businesses that would want to come and do this in a very congested area?”
Selectman Greg Coogan suggested that Mr. Vanlandingham take his business a little way down the road.
“On the other side of the bridge, that’s Edgartown,” he said. “If they have no objection to it, just going in on the other side might be an answer for you in the meantime. We’re not telling you to do that, we’re just enlightening you on town property. The other side of the drawbridge is Vineyard Haven just so we’re fair to all the towns.”
Finally selectmen received an update on the so-called Vineyard Warrior Triathlon, scheduled for Sept. 11, from organizer Matthew Brackman who said he had registered 300 athletes from seven countries and 20 states to date. The race starts with a one-mile swim off State Beach, followed by a 24-mile down-Island bike ride, ending finally with a 6.2-mile run to Waban Park. Mr. Brackman recently made a splash in an episode that demonstrated the media’s insatiable appetite for shark stories.
“A reporter for the Herald called the Edgartown court looking for legal stories and the clerk there is competing in the race and mentioned off-handedly about her fear of sharks in the race, so the Herald called the police station and spoke to Lieutenant Williamson, who referred them to me,” he said. Mr. Brackman was quoted in that article as suggesting that swimmers avoid wearing shiny jewelry which attracts sharks.
“I was interviewed by three television stories based on that article,” he said. “I thought I was being funny when I responded to the article on my Facebook page. I said, ‘I’m putting together a shark protection team,’ which was totally a joke but one of the papers thought that was real and then called me asking me how I put that team together.”