Officer was subject of prior investigations

Accused of spreading rumor and altering laptop.

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Tisbury police officer Mark Santon waits for a hearing with Tisbury selectmen last month to start. — Stacey Rupolo

Officer Mark Santon was suspended for two days in 2015 — one day for spreading a false rumor to colleagues that a supervisor was involved in a domestic dispute at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, and a second for altering the default language on a department laptop before turning it in.

The department investigation into those two incidents was released as part of a public records request made by The Times in light of Officer Santon’s appearance before the board of selectmen two weeks ago for a disciplinary hearing.

Combined with the independent investigation released last week, the 2015 report reveals a trend of Officer Santon being untruthful.

Larry Gomez, chairman of the Tisbury board of selectmen, said Tuesday he and other board members were aware of the previous incidents when they voted to reinstate Santon two weeks ago. He acknowledged he was troubled by the officer’s behavior.

“Personally, me, I wasn’t comfortable. It was a unanimous vote, but I was not comfortable,” Mr. Gomez said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

Melinda Loberg, another selectman, told The Times there are simply things that came up in executive session that can’t be shared publicly. “We have more information than the public has,” she said.

Selectman Tristan Israel said those previous reports were part of the context, but he is insistent that allegations be corroborated. “I think we were fair. I am very literal in these things,” he said. “Our judgments were based on things that were concrete.”

In the 2015 incident, Officer Santon was investigated by Police Chief Daniel Hanavan after allegations surfaced that the officer was telling junior officers about a “grappling match” between a senior member of the department and his wife at the airport, the report states.

Officer Santon had told colleagues the alleged domestic dispute was witnessed by members of the West Tisbury Police Department, according to the report. Those West Tisbury officers, whose names are redacted in the report, denied they had witnessed any such altercation.

“I am concerned that Officer Santon would make false statements against a supervisor and a senior member of the Tisbury Police Department staff,” the report, authored by Chief Hanavan, states.

In that same report, Chief Hanavan investigated tampering done to a department-issued laptop by Officer Santon, who was being removed as a detective. According to the report, when the laptop was turned in, it had one user going by the name ‘disapointed’ (sic), and the keyboard language had been changed to Estonian. A technician determined that only Officer Santon would have had access to the computer to make those changes, which were done one day before the laptop was turned over, according to the report.

Officer Santon denied the allegations, the report states. He told Chief Hanavan he had no idea how the computer’s language preference was changed to Estonian. “I was out with a head injury,” he was quoted as saying in the report. “I was on medication, and I told [name redacted] I don’t recall.”

Officer Santon has not responded to requests for an interview.

Chief Hanavan has declined to comment on discipline issues involving Officer Santon, referring questions to town administrator Jay Grande. Mr. Grande did not respond to specific questions sent to him by email, including why names of other police officers had been redacted from the reports that were released.

The 2015 report also makes reference to another disciplinary matter involving Santon, in 2014. In that incident, Officer Santon, then a detective, allegedly marked a case folder “false arrest” instead of telling the officer that the court had suggested an alternate charge, the report states.

The Times has also learned that Officer Santon was counseled in 2014 after police received a complaint that the officer was seen in public with a woman and the woman’s child having a social breakfast. Santon had been the arresting officer of the woman’s husband, who was charged with and had pleaded guilty to sex abuse crimes, which made his interaction with her inappropriate.

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1 COMMENT

  1. The people who put known, inept liars in a position of power and then justify/cover-up the bad behavior of these liars are to be held accountable. Whether it’s a small town cop or the POTUS, justifications for support of incompetent liars with bad behavior are astonishing. Turn on the news and you hear it every day.

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