Discord is in Oak Bluffs DNA


Roger Wey has been a popular and successful politician. Oak Bluffs selectman, Dukes County commissioner, Martha’s Vineyard Commission member, road race organizer and a familiar face among the race runners — an empathetic, engaging, enduring public servant. In his private life, he’s a roofing contractor. Now, and for several years, he has been the well paid appointed manager of the town Council on Aging. He was not awarded that post because of a long and distinguished record of public management, but rather because he is a well-known and well-liked Oak Bluffs personality who was affectionately regarded by many and thought by the selectmen to have something more to give, if the assignment came with some job security. All of this remains true.

What is also true is that, based upon the investigations by the Oak Bluffs Police, Oak Bluffs town accountant Arthur Gallagher, and town labor counsel John M. Collins, the financial affairs and record keeping of the Council on Aging are a mess. Mr. Wey, not accused of self-dealing or financial crimes, is nevertheless responsible for the management and oversight of all that goes on at the Council on Aging, including the bookkeeping and the agency’s compliance with established municipal accounting requirements and state law. The town needs to get to the bottom of the bookkeeping and record keeping mess, and Mr. Wey, who has, perhaps acting out of long experience as an elected, independent town officer, appears to have conducted the Council’s affairs in his own genial and informal way, with considerable disregard for some financial management obligations that ultimately must be corrected.

Toward this end, Mr. Wey, wounded by his suspension from the job and the criticism of his management of the Council, appears to be nursing a bitter antagonism toward the selectmen and their chairman, Walter Vail, whose job it is to get at the problems and see that they are fixed. Mr. Wey is also nurturing hostility by his partisans who, in the ignoble but inflamed political DNA of Oak Bluffs, charge personal vendettas and argue that the examination of Council on Aging accounts ought to be conducted behind closed doors rather than in public.

Mr. Wey, from his long public service, knows that such arguments are unpersuasive and must not prevail. The problems, whatever they are, are the public’s problems, the taxpayers’ problems, and the town chief executives’ — that is, the selectmen’s — problems, and they need to be publicly addressed and cleared away. After all, whatever has been happening with the Council on Aging’s books has been happening for years. The selectmen ought to have been on top of it. The town’s administrator and accountant have now brought the matter to light. It’s the selectmen’s job to straighten the mess out.

Indeed, what Mr. Wey’s experience as selectman and county officer ought to have trained him to do is to cooperate with the incumbents and their agents to get to the bottom of these issues and fix them.