MVC member’s off the cuff remark to chairman sparks controversy

MVC member’s off the cuff remark to chairman sparks controversy

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Updated 12:05 am Tuesday, February 25, 2014

An open mike has tripped up U.S. presidents and politicians. Ronald Reagan learned that lesson when he made a quip about bombing the Soviet Union in front of a supposedly dead mike. On Thursday, an open mike added to the controversy surrounding a proposed bowling alley in Oak Bluffs under review as a development of regional impact (DRI).

Martha’s VIneyard Commission (MVC) chairman Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs had just gaveled the public hearing on Sam Dunn’s proposed bowling alley/entertainment center closed. He announced a brief five-minute recess prior to the MVC taking up its next agenda item.

Linda Sibley of West Tisbury, the longest serving MVC member and DRI hearing chairman, in an aside to Mr. Hancock, leaned over and said, “I would have dragged his life out so we could beat on him a little longer.”

Her comment was picked up by MVTV microphones just before the recording stopped for the recess.

In an email sent Saturday morning to Oak Bluffs Association (OBA) members, OBA executive director Christine Todd alerted the recipients to the comments overheard on the MVTV tape of the MVC meeting. “I would like you all to PLEASE take some time to view this for yourselves,” Ms. Todd said. “It is at the 112 minute 55 second marker into the hearing if you do not wish to view the entire hearing.”

On Sunday, a person identified by the name “IloveOB,” added a comment under a news account of last Thursday’s hearing titled, “MVC still not bowled over.” IloveOB wrote, “Absolutely repulsive behavior, I guess someone at the MVC forgot that they left the microphone on.” The commenter provided a link to a YouTube video of Ms. Sibley’s remark. The video clip fueled more comments critical of the MVC’s handling of the project.

Reactions varied

On Monday, Ms. Todd told The Times. “I hope it’s addressed in a professional manner. I’m curious to see how this will be addressed.”

“If she said those things, it would make me question the decision making by the MVC because they are a board that is supposed to be helping and protecting the Vineyard,” said Doug Abdelnour, owner of Nancy’s restaurant and a member of the Oak Bluffs Association.

Sam Dunn was nonplussed. “I doubt she meant anything by it because I have always found her to be fair and objective,” he wrote in an email after viewing the clip on YouTube.

Mr. Hancock, the commissioner on the receiving end of Ms. Sibley’s comment, thought nothing of it. “I think what she was referring to were some of the landscaping issues,” Mr. Hancock told The Times in a telephone call Monday. “In my mind it didn’t refer to the project as a whole.”

Just kidding

“It was a joke,” Ms. Sibley said in a telephone interview with the Times Monday. “I realize that you might need a lot of context to understand the joke. Sam has been in front of the MVC a lot in the last five years for his other projects, all of which have gone on for ever and ever and ever. So basically I was surprised and somewhat amused at how quickly the public hearing process has gone. It didn’t go on for months and months. It was pretty cut and dried. I thought it was funny.”

Ms. Sibley said she would have made this joke to Mr. Dunn’s face, ‘We wanted to keep you around longer to beat on you a little Sam’ and I think he would have laughed,” she said.

Ms. Sibley said she regrets that “this has been taken so far out of context. I’m not apologizing for it because it was a joke and I really think Sam would have gotten it.”

Ms. Sibley expressed surprise that the project has garnered so much public attention. “I find it a little amusing that there’s so much froth over this project,” she said. “I don’t think anybody on the commission has stated an opinion on the project.”

She said there is nothing unusual in the MVC treatment of this project. “As an organization it’s our job to clarify and prod a little bit,” she said.

Not fair game

Cable operators are required by law to provide public, educational and government (PEG) programming. On Martha’s Vineyard, Comcast provides PEG access through MVTV, a nonprofit corporation, funded by Comcast through agreements with the six Island towns.

Following the completion of a new franchise agreement signed between the towns and Comcast, last June MVTV moved into a new 4,000-square-foot building with state-of-the-art equipment off Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.

MVTV films most board of selectmen meetings, MVC public hearings and town meetings, in addition to other important government meetings. Meetings air on one of the three Comcast PEG channels and may also be viewed on the MVTV website, a convenience for non-cable subscribers.

Ms. Todd provided a link to the MVTV website. Sunday evening the MVC meeting was available for view. Monday morning it had disappeared.

An MVTV staff member reached Monday morning told The Times that at the instruction of Stephen Warriner, MVTV executive director, the recording was removed from the website so that Ms. Sibley’s off-hand comment could be edited out.

In an email to The Times, Mr. Warriner said MVTV policy with regard to government coverage is gavel to gavel. “Comments picked up by our microphones before or after gavel in/out are not to be aired,” Mr. Warriner said. “This includes breaks if they are gaveled out.”

Mr. Warriner said that anything that occurs during the gaveled portion of the meeting is fair game for the MVTV microphones.

“In this case, MVTV made an accidental mistake,” he said. “We aired something we should not have. When I learned of it, I ordered the meeting to be taken down and edited in accordance with long-standing MVTV policy.”

As of Monday afternoon, the meeting was once again available on the MVTV website — minus the off-the-cuff remarks by Ms. Sibley.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Linda Sibley is the MVC chairman. Fred Hancock of Oak Bluffs is MVC chairman. Ms. Sibley, chairman of the land use planning committee, chaired the DRI public hearing portion of the meeting.


  1. If I spent $70k on a study just to make the Commission happy I’d be pretty upset at a joke that implied no matter what I did the process was going to be strung along for as long as possible… I wouldn’t be as good natured about it as Mr. Dunn’s appearing to be. Politics… whose ready to clean house?

  2. Ms Sibley is not apologizing because it was a joke. Wow.

    Respect must be earned. Good luck the next go around, Ms Sibley.

  3. How about instead of the Reagan “hot mike”. What about something that’s NOT 30 years old. For instance, Obama to Putin ” I’ll have a lot more flexibility in my second term.”

  4. Just pretty inappropriate and unprofessional. Yes, people are taking it seriously – you want to be taken seriously as a Commission member, I assume? Then don’t joke about beating up on people, it’s not funny.

  5. Who is Mr Warriner trying to protect with his edits. The public has a right to know. Its a matter of public trust and ethics. I don’t trust either Mr. Warriner or Ms. Sibley. As far as ethics go, we can judge them by their words or actions. Time for them both to step down.

    1. It’s not a conspiracy, it’s simply that conversation after the gavel isn’t of public record.

      You really think MVTV should be filming every bit of chitchat that happens in the off minutes between the actual meeting?

      1. The problem with this chit-chat is that it shows us the inappropriate power thrown around as a supposed joke by a commissioner. No commissioner has a right to be this arrogant about her position. Truth in jest is undeniable and her joke tells us how she really feels. It seems a long way off from the MVC’s purpose.

      2. When did the MVTV become responsible for the MVC members not waiting for recording equipment to be turned off before they started making off the record comments? The comment was made in public.

  6. This is awesome. The part about the gavel is gold. “They weren’t supposed to be recording”. Ooops. Cats out of the bag, guys. The jig is up.

    OB OUT of MVC!!
    Who’s with me?

  7. “Taken out of context”, I’ve never seen a more perfect example of the contrary…. ……..There is no doubt in my mind that the MVC members are dedicated to their beliefs and concern for the island. I give them some degree of applause. There are good things that the MVC does and hold in “check”. Having said that, we have to ask ourselves, are they impeding rational progress?( economic or otherwise) . Things change. To me, a 40 year veteran, the character of the rock is intact. Each Town knows what would be in their best interest, and should be capable of making their own decisions. A little more inter-town communication could go a long way, at a much less of an expense.

  8. Sorry, 1 more comment, then i will shut up. A lot has been mentioned about kids ( teens ) activities in the winter… hats off to the YMCA and the teen center and the Alex Club. GREAT JOB!

  9. I’m just happy she’s not a member of PETA and murders her own animals for food, ahhh this is great! Where’s the popcorn?!

  10. Frankly, I don’t see any joke here considering the context. Ms Sibley needs to step down before the public does to her what she suggested the MVC do to Mr Dunn.

  11. What’s even worse(not really) is the fact that the guy she was talking to dropped a sick Peter Principle joke and she goes on to reply “Well I kill and eat animals so I am the furthest thing from PETA there is…”

    Touche, Ms. Sibley. Touche.

  12. What A GREAT Joke! Wow………… The only definitive joke is the integrity of the MVC

  13. Yeah, what a surprise she said something like that. Remember when she voted against Crane Appliance when they’re in similiar business to her own? selling televisions. It’s good to see the MVC is so unbiased.
    I’m also wondering, where is their authority? If a town has a pre-existing commercial zone and approves the business, why do people from outside the town have any legal authority to naysay it?

    1. What about moving her RADIO SHACK franchise and not being referred to the MVC. If its not a radio shack than why does she still display their signage?
      She clearly speaks from both sides of her mouth.
      When she’s not eating the animal she just KILLED!

      1. You missed the memo, this is a discussion about whether or not somebody is abusing their power. DO NOT HIJACK MY COMMENTS TO AIR YOUR PERSONAL VIEWS ON HUNTING. It’s irrelevant, off-topic, and annoying.

  14. Well once more Sibly has shown her true colors and real agenda of wielding power
    Remember when she stated she ” didn’t want any of those people flying in here”
    In reference to the Michale Jordan’s of the world ( Cory Cuppersmith golf course ).
    Just another day for Sibly and her prejudice comments!

    1. Man if the town had those cpa funds they could have bought webs campground back then.

      1. Why CPC we used the MVLB and paid 18 million for something we could have bought for 2.5 million six years earlier.
        But the real question here is the removal of Sibley for her continued arrogant, manipulative, biased and prejudice actions.
        Remove her now and send her to the public stocks!
        Return some scence of dignity and credibility to the MVC!

        1. Things were alot tougher back then, before the government started printing money from thin air. I think the interest rates were around 9 per cent.

    2. Wow, lot of people know what needs to be done and are ready to replace her. So let’s get a list of all you that are willing to give up your free time for a couple of decades so you can get this straightened out. Keep in mind there’s no pay and no one will like you either, oh, it doesn’t hurt to have the same level of education as Dr. Sibley either..

      If you think things are so bad step up. It will require coming out from behind your computer and standing up for your beliefs in front of the cameras, but how hard can that be?

        1. No Linda died last year. But perhaps her spirit is watching over us. Maybe it’s just Dr Linda Sibley !

      1. It takes dedication to stand up. No doubt Ms Dr has dedicated her time and energies to the MVC for a very long time. But no doubt this has somehow entitled her to jokey arrogance regarding her position to serve the community, lording over people’s hard-work dreams. When everyone starts to ask, “Who does she think she is?”, you’re right, time for someone else to step up.

      2. Bob. The argument is not the effort to be an MVC commissioner but wether Sibley acted in her bias and prejudice way!
        Yes she did! This has nothing to do with her supposed credentials
        It has everything to do with her manipulative, bias and prejudice actions. This is one commish that should go!
        To the public stocks for a good lashing! And future banning from all political activities on MV

        1. I think we should keep her around so we can beat her up some more. Haha Get it? What a funny joke!

  15. Maybe this is all just totally taken out of context but it appears Mr. Hancock’s response was “I know”. Is that what you usually say to a joke? Are they just really in synch with their humor that they don’t laugh at each other’s jokes or what?

    1. A long time ago, it was famously said that laws are like sausages, and that it is better not to see either being made. (The MVC doesn’t technically make “laws,” but presumably you get my point.) I don’t know what Ms. Sibley meant by her remark, but this overwrought public hue and cry about her off the record comment seems way overblown to me. One can only imagine what kind of comments you would hear if you miked the off the record comments of Congress during any of their hearings. Let’s drop the drama, get back to the task at hand, and let the chips fall where they may.

      1. Get a clue OB. Do you like the current half-dead feel of Oak Bluffs? I sure as Hell don’t, and if you let these people keep making decisions for us, it will be all dead. It’s a big effing deal when one of the main names you hear at the MVC says she wants to beat on somebody over their personal life. It shows that they have their own agenda and do not serve public interest. The difference with this case is, it might be really hard to change Congress, but, we sure as Hell can take down the MVC. Just maybe, if more people got pissed and made it known, things can change. People who say “let the chips fall where they may”, deserve what ever happens to them.

        1. I think you misunderstand my “chips” comment, Steve. If you want to change the process or the regulatory scheme, that’s fine. I would be the last one to discourage you from trying to do that through proper channels. And I’m not defending the MVC at all, but we’re saddled with it for the time being — unless you and/or others are successful in changing that. In the meantime, this lame and shrill personal attack on Linda Sibley’s ill-advised aside is a bit ridiculous, particularly if what people really dislike is the MVC in general, and how it views its role. As for the half-dead feel of OB, I don’t blame the MVC for that — I have selectmen who fill that bill much better.

          1. That’s cool. I just want this to start a snowball that eventually squashes the MVC. Linda is a commitee queen who has made herself a target, if she wants to beat on somebody some more, she can fall on the same sword.

          2. Understood, although it seems the MVC has given you plenty of legitimate ammunition to attack then without relying on this lame attack on Linda Sibley’s comment.

          3. True, but, her comment gave us some real insight on why it takes months and months and dollars upon dollars to go before the Almighty MVC. Apparently, they like to drag things out as much as possible and beat up on you, like a true pack of bullies, and boy, do I hate bullies.

          4. One reason it takes so much time and money is that MVC is way too large and cumbersome. If it were half the size it is, I bet the process would be a lot faster and cheaper. Just saying.

          5. Why is their focus always commercial and not residential? Is the environmental impact of a 100 galloon per minute shower not as important? This building will be smaller than a lot of “McMansions”. I don’t understand the priorities of the MVC as pertains to maintaining the “Vineyard” lifestyle. They defer to town bylaws for residential but continually put the screws on commercial endeavors. What has changed the island more?

          6. Usually Steve, I disagree with you ideologically on most things, but on this one, we are twins. You are spot on.

      2. Respectfully, getting back to the task at hand means Ms Sibley is allowed to put her words into action. I don’t think the hue and cry is the least bit overblown.

        1. And what if she doesn’t put those words into action? What if they were just words? Then what?

          1. From where I’m sitting, it appears she already has. Consider the drawn out reviews by the MVC.

    2. everything to see. This is the crux of our political issues on marthas vineyard. There is always an element of truth to a “joke”. The fact that the person holding the gavel is the one with contempt for the person applying is disgusting.

  16. FOR SALE ! Politically correct Adjustable Foot Extractors fitting any size mouth. Radio Shack’s very own 2014 model.

  17. She’s a nasty ole witch at the store,why put her in charge of any town seat….

    1. One bad apple does seem to spoil the bunch! MVC members should banish her now and regain some self respect in the community !

      1. What are you new here? It’s a wicked hive of scum and villainy. It’s just the first time we’ve caught how they really feel. Pitchforks? too cliche, let’s bring back tarring and feathering.

  18. i’m sick of MVC and every single thing being monitored by boards of folks that feel like they have the power to do and say….take back the power! freedom from MVC!

  19. Wow, just wow. Why are the other commisioners defending her instead of distancing themselves from her? Oh, I get it, the whole MVC is corrupt and on a power trip. It’s time to bring the MVC down. Come on people, let’s break out some petitions, get signatures and get our persective towns out from under the thumb from this “think tank”. This group is not working in the best interests of it’s voters, it’s out to destroy our local economy. It’s time to overthrow these clowns.
    Also, it’s obviously not a joke, because anybody who has met Linda, knows she has no sense of humor. But, the fact it’s being edited out by MVTV stinks to high heaven. Mr Hancock seems to think little of our collective intelligence if he’s claiming she was commenting about landscaping.

  20. Politics on the Vineyard is like old stale history. The same people get re-elected every year for 20-30 years, so everything is stale, no creativity. Why, because most Vineyarders are stale, and want to keep the same stale people they elect. As a result, smarter people don’t waste their time running for office and we have remarks as reported. Linda can say what she wants, she will be reelected.

  21. Ms Sibley obviously doesn’t know to joke properly, because we all should be laughing.

  22. This contemptuous comment is not a joke. The leaders of this MVC, who by the way have only their own interests in mind, have a duty to be non-judgmental, not bias because someone has multiple applications. The fact she made this comment at all calls for resignation. I don’t want someone making decisions about my future business endeavors making “jokes”, no matter what she thinks about the applicant.