Edgartown selectmen navigate controversial appointments

— File photo by Ralph Stewart

In a rare split vote at their Monday May 14 meeting, Edgartown selectmen reappointed disbarred attorney Edward “Pete” Vincent to represent Edgartown on two town boards.

Following a unanimous vote to appoint and reappoint a long list of volunteers to various town boards and committees, selectmen took up reappointments to the conservation commission separately.

Selectman Art Smadbeck and chairman Michael Donaroma voted to reappoint Mr. Vincent, along with current members Christina Brown and Stuart Lollis to three-year terms on the commission.

Selectman Margaret Serpa voted against the appointments. She made it clear that she opposed only Mr. Vincent. There was no discussion on the nominations.

Mr. Vincent’s disbarment followed his admission of guilt to larceny charges after he failed to properly distribute $590,000 of his client’s money from real estate closings.

On November 4, 2011, in Edgartown District Court, Mr. Vincent admitted to sufficient facts on two counts of larceny. The admission resulted in a felony conviction for Mr. Vincent. His case was continued for two years with probationary conditions, including 100 hours of community service. He made full restitution to the victims.

“I did not want to reappoint Mr. Vincent,” Ms. Serpa told The Times after the meeting.

Mr. Donaroma acknowledged that the reappointment was controversial, but supported Mr. Vincent.

“He’s been there for almost 30 years. I haven’t heard any complaints,” Mr. Donaroma said. “He’s probably the most up-to-date in environmental laws, I think he does a good job.”

Selectmen also took up appointments to the dredge committee, restructured in the aftermath of revelations earlier this year that former chairman Norman Rankow had ordered dredging around a dock owned by his construction clients without any of the necessary local, state, and federal permits.

The dredge committee is now comprised of members nominated by the conservation commission, the shellfish advisory committee, and the marine advisory committee, as well as two at-large members appointed by selectmen. Town employees who previously served on the committee, including the harbormaster, the conservation agent, and the shellfish warden now serve as non-voting members.

The board voted to appoint Mr. Vincent to the dredge advisory committee based on a conservation commission nomination. Mr. Donaroma and Mr. Smadbeck voted in favor. Ms. Serpa was again opposed.

Selectmen also appointed Gary Look for the marine advisory committee, and Ralph Case for the shellfish committee.

Five people wrote to selectmen to express interest in the two at-large appointments.

“I would like to see some new people, I think we could use some new blood,” Mr. Smadbeck said before Monday’s vote.

The board voted unanimously to appoint Dudley Levick and J. Howell Kelly as at-large members.

Mr. Levick submitted a one-line letter. “I would like to express my interest in serving on the dredge committee,” Mr. Levick wrote.

Mr. Kelly submitted a half page letter in which he stressed his familiarity with “the activities of the dredge advisory committee” and lack of “business or other interests which would create an actual or perceived conflict with the activities of the committee.”

In making their appointments selectmen bypassed Dave Nash, current chairman of the dredge advisory committee.

In a three page letter to selectmen, Mr. Nash outlined his actions following the illegal dredging controversy, and his goals for the future, including reorganizing record keeping, developing better tracking of finances, and advertising crew positions. He also advocated training for the dredge crew.

Mr. Nash said he was only interested in continuing on the dredge committee as chairman, and said he believed the restructuring of the dredge advisory committee would make it less efficient.

“It’s the town’s call, if they feel they want a fresh start, that’s entirely their choice,” Mr. Nash said in a phone interview on the Tuesday of the selectmen’s decision.

Mr. Donaroma said he wanted a new direction for the dredge committee. With Monday’s action, no voting members of last year’s dredge committee remain in office.

“It’s time to make a clean sweep,” Mr. Donaroma said in a phone interview on Tuesday. “My idea is that the selectmen be very involved. I think the selectmen should and probably will play a big part in the decision process. Before they pull the trigger on any project, selectmen are going to have to sign off on it.”