West Tisbury police chief search takes a new twist


West Tisbury selectman Jeffrey (“Skipper”) Manter, who is also a police sergeant, announced last night that he was withdrawing his name from consideration for the job of West Tisbury police chief.

The news was delivered in one sentence written on a sheet of paper enclosed in an envelope handed to executive secretary Jen Rand: “I am withdrawing my name from consideration for police chief.”

His decision capped a week of speculation and uncertainty that followed the news that Mr. Manter was among the four finalists.

Selectman Richard Knabel thanked Mr. Manter for sparing the town the expense of seeking a legal opinion.

At a meeting between the search committee and selectmen on October 12, selectmen Cynthia Mitchell and Mr. Knabel questioned whether Mr. Manter could apply for a job offered by a board on which he is a member and whether he is eligible to serve in both capacities — as police chief and selectman. The selectmen oversee the police department.

The selectmen posed the questions to town counsel Ron Rappaport. In the meantime, they suspended the search process.

With the question of Mr. Manter settled, the two selectmen set the date for a public meeting with the three finalists and interviews.The public meeting will begin at 7 pm on October 29 in the Howes House. The interviews will begin at 9:30 am on October 30.

Week of speculation

One day after the list was made public, at the October 13 meeting of the selectmen, Mr. Manter announced that he would take a week to decide whether to resign from the selectmen to pursue the chief’s job or remove his name from final consideration.

“This is a tough one,” Mr. Manter told The Times following that meeting. He has been a West Tisbury police officer since he graduated from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School in 1975, and he has been eligible for retirement for 15 years. He was first elected selectman in 2003 and re-elected in 2006 and 2009.

In addition to Mr. Manter, the finalists include the acting police chief, Sergeant Dan Rossi, Donald B. Hull, the acting police chief in Canton, Conn., and Christian Pedoty, a police lieutenant with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City.

At the selectmen’s meeting, Mr. Knabel reported that the board had received a letter in support of Mr. Rossi signed by eight members of the West Tisbury police department : officers Leo DeOliveira, Daniel Durawa, Matthew Gebo, Daniel Gouldrup, Sgt. Matthew Mincone, James D. Neville, Russell Ventura, and Garrison Viera.

The four-paragraph letter said, “Dan’s self-motivation, initiative, determination, and performance have assured his success at becoming a respected chief of police and most importantly representative of the town of West Tisbury.”

Mr. Rossi was named acting police chief in April after the retirement of Beth Toomey.

In other business, selectmen agreed unanimously to the request that the Mill Pond Committee enter into a $25,000 contract with ESS Group Inc. of Wellesley, an engineering and environmental studies consulting firm. ESS was one of three companies that responded to the Mill Pond Committee’s request for proposals to study the Mill Pond to determine if steps need to be taken to remove underwater growth, and if so, how to do it. Committee member Kent Healy told The Times that he hopes that work will get underway while there is still autumn flora to be studied. The process will take some time because the project requires a review of the Mill Pond growth throughout the year, he said.

The selectmen also accepted the recommendation of the town park and recreation committee to appoint Mark (“Hap”) Bernard to fill a vacancy on that committee until the election in April 2011. Sitting committee members include Bruce Keep, chairman, Cheryl Lowe, and Doug Bardwell. The committee has struggled to hold meetings for some time, often unable to gather a necessary three-member quorum.

Wayne Greenwell of 11 Yellow Brick Road asked the selectmen to halt what he described as “the disturbance of the peace” from the use of dirt bikes on Nip and Tuck Farm property just off State Road.

Mr. Greenwell said that dirt bike racers create noise and noise vibrations that disturb neighboring residents even when windows are closed. Mr. Greenwell, referring to a letter he sent to town officials including building/zoning inspector Ernie Mendenhall, cited three sections of the town by-laws that restrict noise. Mr. Manter asked Mr. Mendenhall to look into the allegations and “take care of the violations.”