Special town counsel John “Jack” Collins updated the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen at their regular meeting on Tuesday night on the progress, or lack thereof, of negotiations with suspended Council on Aging (COA) director Roger Wey and his attorney, Paul Merry.
“People are aware that an effort was made to resolve the differences between the town and the Council on Aging director in executive session,” Mr. Collins said, referring to the three-hour negotiations that took place in executive session at a special selectmen’s meeting on Tuesday, May 20. “We came very close, in my opinion, to reaching an agreement.”
Mr. Collins said he had spoken to Mr. Merry about 90 minutes before the meeting and that Mr. Merry indicated he’d been unable to speak with Mr. Wey for the last several days and asked for “a few more days to see whether that agreement or something close to it would be something he could live with.”
Mr. Collins recommended that the selectmen grant Mr. Merry’s request.
“Quite frankly that makes sense to me,” Mr. Collins said. “We’re talking about a lot of litigation and a lot of animosity, the time, the expense and all the bad feelings that go with it that probably can’t be mended very easily.”
Mr. Collins said he felt a final decision was “a week or two away,” and advised the board not to set a final decision date for a disciplinary hearing for Mr. Wey. “You can always do that later,” Mr. Collins said. “I’d like to have more conversation to see if we can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I think we were very close and I think in this case it’s worth a little bit more effort.”
Mr. Collins recommended that, while they wait to hear back from Mr. Wey’s attorney, the selectmen meet with the COA board of directors, “To find out where they think this thing ought to go. To see whether or not it makes sense to continue the way you are, or to reorganize.”
Mr. Collins suggested that they discuss whether the position of director should be modified as the result of this investigation, and that all job descriptions at the COA be reevaluated. “It’s not a bad idea once in a while to take a look at the whole picture. No matter where we go, obviously you want to work with the town accountant and make sure procedures are understood by everybody.”
Selectman Walter Vail was less collegial about the situation. “As it related to the so-called session we had last week, for my money that’s off the table,” he said sharply. “We’ve passed over three months of paying the director for administrative leave. The Council on Aging is working just fine. For my money I would just as soon eliminate the director position and move on.”
Mr. Vail’s suggestion elicited a strong reaction from a group of Mr. Wey’s supporters, which required chairman of the selectmen Greg Coogan to call the meeting to order.
Selectman Kathy Burton favored following Mr. Collins’s recommendation and having open and transparent discussions with the COA board, noting that she’s heard about internal rifts in the COA since she first became a selectman.
Selectman Michael Santoro said that, while he appreciated Mr. Vail’s frustration, a more moderate course of action seemed appropriate. “We are looking at the best interest of the senior center,” he said. “But we don’t want to drag this out.”
Council on aging board member Karen Achille said that if recently elected chairman Bob Blythe called a special meeting of the board, “I can guarantee you that members would be present.”
Return of Seas
In other business, restaurateur William Craffey, new owner of Jimmy Seas Pan Pasta, was approved by unanimous vote for a year-round full liquor license. Mr. Craffey and his business partner Lisa Huff purchased the defunct restaurant at auction in April. The transaction included the sale of the Jimmy Seas Pan Pasta name.
“We’re trying to keep Jimmy Sea’s Jimmy Sea’s,” Mr. Craffey told the board.
In an interview with the Times, Mr. Craffey, who also operates Vineyard Pizza Place in Vineyard Haven and The Pizza Place at the Edgartown Triangle, said the new Jimmy Sea’s will have essentially the same menu as the old Jimmy Sea’s and that some of the chefs from the former incarnation will be working there. “We’ll be open year round, except for a few weeks during the winter,” he said. “ I think Oak Bluffs could use a few more options in the off-season.”