At a special meeting Wednesday Chilmark selectmen reacted to a report detailing an incident that occurred at the town Community Center summer camp, with critical comments and questions about both the findings and process.

The lengthy report from the Chilmark Town Affairs Council was posted on the council website late last week, following a public apology from town affairs council president Jeff Herman several days after the July 29 incident at the camp, when two white children were involved in tying a tent strap around a black child’s neck. The children involved were eight and nine years old, according to the council’s statements.

The report sought to determine whether race played a role in the incident, ultimately concluding that there was no overt evidence of racial motivation after interviews were conducted with camp staff and a child who was a witness to the event. In exhaustive detail, the report provided background about the camp and community, calling the incident disturbing and pledging to form a diversity, equity and inclusion subcommittee to examine Community Center operations.

The report is unsigned and provides no information about who wrote it or who was involved in conducting the investigation.

The Community Center and camp are on town property and overseen by the council, an independent nonprofit. According to its website, the council executive committee has 17 members, including town administrator Tim Carroll and selectman Warren Doty.

The select board is not involved in the summer programming.

In lengthy comments Wednesday, Chilmark selectman James Malkin criticized aspects of the report, expressing concern about the fact that it is unknown who wrote it, and that there are no people of color on the town affairs council. He also said he was “disappointed” that Island diversity groups had not been included sooner in the investigation.

“I’d suggest that a group of white people, no matter how thoughtful, don’t have the lens or the experience to determine whether an incident is racist or not,” Mr. Malkin said. “I’m also personally surprised that given the amount of time that transpired from the event on July 29, and the issuance of the report on August 26, that the only concrete step taken by the summer program was the creation of a subcommittee.”

Speaking to the Gazette by phone after the meeting, town affairs council member Suellen Lazarus said multiple members of the council were involved in the process, and that the report was collaboratively written and edited during a meeting held over Zoom. Ms. Lazarus said she did not know who on the council conducted interviews as part of the investigation.

Mr. Herman could not be immediately reached for comment.

All three selectmen spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, underscoring that they felt it was paramount that people feel safe on town property.

Selectman Bill Rossi said he was called the day the incident occurred, and felt that the town affairs council had handled the incident with the “utmost seriousness,” adding that the report was well-written. But he echoed concerns that the council had not been clear enough about the next steps.

“I wanted more of what their goal was, in forming this committee, and what was going to be the end result in terms of findings,” Mr. Rossi said. “And how were these findings going to be positively implemented to the program for next season?”

Mr. Doty called the report “detailed and thorough,” and noted that it acknowledged systemic racism in the community.

“The Chilmark select board has received this report and welcomed its spirit of self examination, and its desire to find a program that is anti-racist,” Mr. Doty said. He did not speak about his own role as a member of the town affairs council, or whether he was involved in preparing the report.

Mr. Herman attended then meeting and responded briefly to the select board, saying that the council took the report “extraordinarily seriously,” although he acknowledged that the report had limitations because the parents of the three children directly involved in the incident did not consent to their children being interviewed.

Explaining the subcommittee’s next steps during the meeting, Ms. Lazarus said the town affairs council would write a mission statement and code of conduct for the Community Center reflecting its values of diversity and safety, which would have to be signed by all camp participants. Incident reports and an expedient investigative process would occur in instances of non-compliance, Ms. Lazarus said.

She added that staff would undergo diversity, equity and inclusion training, and acknowledged that the town affairs council needs broader representation in its membership.

“Supervision is an issue that needs addressing,” Ms. Lazarus said in part. “We need to make sure our organization reflects the diversity of the Island.”

The special meeting closed without public comment. Town officials said comment to the town affairs council could be emailed to the, and comments to the select board could be sent to