Authors Posts by Steve Myrick

Steve Myrick

Steve Myrick
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Several Island police department budgets took a hit over the course of President Obama’s two-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. The Secret Service requests help with crowd control and traffic control as the president moves around the Island to visit golf courses, beaches, and restaurants. Those services are not reimbursed by the federal government.

The Oak Bluffs police department estimates about $13,000 in extra hours and overtime for police officers. Police were requested to help when the president visited Farm Neck Golf Club six times during the first family’s 16-day vacation. The president also dined at the Sweet Life Cafe and attended the annual Oak Bluffs fireworks display Friday night.

In Edgartown, Chief Tony Bettencourt estimated his department spent approximately $3,500 on extra shifts and overtime associated with the president’s vacation. It was an unusually expensive year for Edgartown. The Secret Service called on the department to provide officers for the arrival and departure of the president at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. This year there was an extra arrival and departure, when the president briefly returned to Washington, D.C., in the middle of his vacation. The president also dined at the Edgartown restaurant Atria, and appeared at the Edgartown School for a statement on the murder of journalist Jim Foley by terrorists. Michelle Obama also traveled to Edgartown for lunch.

Those costs were offset by the $14,200 in rent the government paid for the use of the Edgartown School, which served as the White House media center. That rental fee goes into the town’s general fund.

The Secret Service called on West Tisbury police to cover two shifts during the president’s arrival and departure from the airport, at an estimated cost of $720.

Because the president rented in Chilmark, that town’s police department, one of the Island’s smallest, was called upon to provide daily coverage. Chilmark police chief Brian Cioffi declined to comment on the costs to his department. “I do not comment on the financial aspects or the security aspects of a presidential visit,” Chief Cioffi said. In an email statement, executive secretary Tim Carroll said town department heads have not yet submitted those costs.

Under normal circumstances, there are four State Police officers assigned to the Vineyard. The presidential visit swelled their ranks to more than 16. No costs were immediately available for overtime and rental accommodations.

The Massachusetts Environmental Police also assigned an additional officer to the Island, in addition to the sergeant now assigned.

Police departments in Tisbury and Aquinnah did not have any extra costs associated with Mr. Obama’s visit this year.

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A documentary film released this month makes the case that urgent action is needed to restore the health of the oceans, and one step may be to close some areas to fishing.

Dr. Sylvia Earle sits on a tiny one person submersible called the Deep Worker. — Kip Evans

Documentary filmmaker Bob Nixon and a group of local fishermen have enlisted in the effort spearheaded by Sylvia Earle, one of the world’s most respected oceanographers, to create marine sanctuaries, and they want to begin in the waters near Martha’s Vineyard.

The idea is to create what Ms. Earle has dubbed “hope spots,” a large tract of ocean where no fishing, dumping, or ecological alteration is allowed. The tracts are chosen because of a unique or critical environmental trait that deserves protection. The idea is to provide a protected area where aquatic life can regenerate.

The effort is an attempt to preserve and rebuild fish stocks that have dwindled to the point where entire species are threatened, as is much of the once thriving New England fishing industry.

The concept received an international boost last week with the release of the documentary Mission Blue, which profiles the life of Ms. Earle and her continuous, urgent campaign to save the world’s oceans. The film was produced by Mr. Nixon, a seasonal resident of Chilmark, and Fisher Stevens.

“No ocean, no us,” Ms. Earle says in the film, a phrase she repeats in a dizzying schedule of speaking engagements around the world. “Sixty years ago, when I began exploring the ocean, no one imagined that we could do anything to harm it. If we continue business as usual, we’re in real trouble. The ocean is dying.”

Mr. Nixon, owner of the Beach Plum Inn, Menemsha Inn, and Home Port restaurant, is an award winning documentary filmmaker who spends a lot of time on Vineyard waters. An avid conservationist and outdoorsman, he said the film demonstrates how the world’s oceans are in immediate peril, including the waters surrounding Martha’s Vineyard.

“I’ve been coming here since I was 15,” Mr. Nixon said in a recent telephone conversation. “I’ve seen the stripers go down. I was around when the Derby had a moratorium, and I’ve seen them come back. But everyone is aware they’re not here like they used to be.”

Three years ago, Mr. Nixon arranged what turned into a series of meetings and strategy sessions among Island fishing interests and Ms. Earle.

“It was an unlikely meeting,” Mr. Nixon said. “Sylvia has very strong opinions about fishing and overfishing and industrial fishing. The fishermen felt they had a common bond with her, they both saw the impact of these industrial fleets. They are embracing her idea of marine sanctuaries as a self interest. For their livelihood to continue, they are convinced spawning areas and critical habitat need to be preserved.”

That view may be slightly optimistic. Among the first group that met with Ms. Earle three years ago were William “Buddy” Vanderhoop of Aquinnah, a well-known charter fisherman, charter fishing captain Jennifer Clark, commercial fisherman Alec Gale, and Chilmark selectman Warren Doty, who has been involved in the commercial fishing industry in several capacities.

Mr. Vanderhoop has become a strong advocate of creating “hope spots” in Vineyard waters.

“You just can’t keep taking fish,” Mr. Vanderhoop told The Times. “I’d like for my kids to have as good a time fishing as I have all my life. We need to make a couple of safe havens where the fish can spawn. Give them a break.”

Mr. Vanderhoop puts much of the blame for species decline on large scale commercial fishing. He believes a practice known as pair trawling, where two commercial fishing boats drag a large net between them, primarily to catch herring, a critical food source for striped bass and other species.

“With all the technology out there, fish don’t have a chance,” he said. “You take away the forage fish, then you have no large fish coming in because there’s no bait. The general public doesn’t know this is happening out there, which is a real shame. Ecologically, it’s just stupid.”

But not everyone agrees with the concept of marine sanctuaries, and not everyone agrees they should be in Vineyard waters.

“I’m not in favor of it at all,” said Alec Gale, a Menemsha based commercial fisherman and co-owner of the Menemsha Fish House, a wholesale seafood market. “That’s where our fish come from. It would be basically like cutting our own throat. Why would I be in favor of something that is going to end up killing me?”

Mr. Doty said he attended the original meeting, but had no communication with the group since then, and they have not reviewed with him the three areas under consideration.

This summer, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) established a process for communities to nominate areas of the ocean as national marine.

Among the criteria are whether the area “supports present and potential economic uses, such as: tourism; commercial and recreational fishing; subsistence and traditional uses; diving; and other recreational uses that depend on conservation and management of the area’s resources,” according to NOAA.

The group has identified three areas to investigate as possible marine sanctuaries. One area is southwest of Gay Head, in Rhode Island Sound. Another tract is just off Noman’s Land, south of Martha’s Vineyard. A third area is well offshore, south of Nantucket in an area known as Banana Shoals.

Mr. Nixon and Ms. Earle are organizing diving expeditions on the three sites beginning this month, to help gather information necessary for the nomination process.

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Beth Toomey will join the Martha's Vineyard Airport commission.

Updated 11 am, Wednesday

Dukes County Superior Court Associate Justice Richard J. Chin handed the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission (MVAC) a significant victory in its legal battle with the Dukes County Commission over control of the county-owned Martha’s Vineyard Airport and its operations.

In an 11-page decision dated August 7, Judge Chin ruled in favor of the airport commission on every point in its request for a preliminary injunction against the County Commission, county treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders, and county manager Martina Thornton based on his view that the airport commission has shown “a likelihood of success on the merits.”

In issuing his preliminary injunction, Judge Chin said the county commission is enjoined from appointing the county manager to the airport commission as an ex-officio, nonvoting member; the county manager is enjoined from serving in such a capacity; and the county treasurer is enjoined from refusing to pay invoices duly approved for payment by the airport commission, from obtaining privileged or confidential communications between the airport commission and its attorneys without notice to, or the consent of, the airport commission, and from releasing those communications between the airport commission and its attorneys to the public.

In a separate three-page decision, Judge Chin denied an airport commission request to dismiss the county commission’s counterclaim, filed May 30, which mirrored the airport claim, and rests on the county argument that the airport is under the jurisdiction of Dukes County, as a subdivision and department of the county, according to Massachusetts law.

That decision would allow the case to proceed toward a trial, unless the two sides settle the issues out of court.

“In this case, the MVAC does not argue that the counterclaims should be dismissed because the facts are insufficiently pled,” Judge Chin wrote in his August 7 ruling. “Instead the MVAC argues for their dismissal on their merits and asserts its own position is correct. This is better decided when both parties have fully briefed and argued the substantive issues.”

However, there is little in the judge’s decision that would indicate a ruling in favor of the county. Judge Chin said that the county charter “does not supersede the narrowly tailored airport act even though it was enacted afterwards.”

The latest battle in the lengthy history of county efforts to exercise control over the county-owned airport began with a13-page civil complaint filed May 5. Airport commission lawyers from the Cambridge law firm of Anderson & Kreiger asked the court to prohibit county officials from seeking to “unlawfully interfere with, and obstruct the functioning,” of the airport commission. The seven members of the airport commission are appointed by the elected members of the seven-member county commission.

Judge Richard Chin listened to arguments at the hearing on July 27.
Judge Richard Chin listened to arguments at the hearing on July 27.

In his decision, Judge Chin said the standard for issuing a preliminary injunction when a government brings suit to enforce a state law has two parts. First, the judge said he had to decide whether there is a likelihood of success on the merits of the airport commission’s claims against the county commission. Second, he had to determine whether the preliminary injunction promotes the public interest, or at least does not harm the public.

Familiar route

The Dukes County commissioners met in executive session Tuesday to discuss the judge’s decision. Reached Wednesday by phone, county commission chairman Leonard Jason, Jr. declined to comment on the discussion or indicate if the county commission intends to continue its counterclaim.

In earlier comments Monday, Mr. Jason said the ruling was a split decision.

“It looks like the judge split the baby in half,” Mr. Jason said in a phone conversation Monday. “The judge did two things. He said I want to hear the case, because they [the airport commission] asked to dismiss it. And he said the county manager can’t sit on the airport commission, and Noreen has to pay the bills, until I hear the case.”

Attorney Robert Troy of the Sandwich law firm Troy Wall Associates represented county officials at the July 29 hearing before Judge Chin.

“Judge Chin is one of the most respected judges in the Commonwealth and the County appreciates that he recognized that its defense of county government asserted in its counterclaims is entitled to go forward and be adjudicated,” Mr. Troy wrote in a statement emailed to the Times Friday. “The Dukes County Airport is the only county airport in the Commonwealth and as such has unique status under Massachusetts law. I intend to confer with county officials about the most effective steps that can be taken to defend the county government structure that was approved by the Legislature and the voters of Dukes County.”

Attorney David Mackey of the Cambridge law firm Anderson & Kreiger, who represents the airport commission, said the judge affirmed the airport commission’s position.

“We’re pleased by the judge’s preliminary ruling that recognizes, once again, the airport commission, not the county, has responsibility for the care and management of the airport,” he said.

“We’ve been down this road before,” Dukes County commissioner John Alley of West Tisbury told The Times Friday afternoon, in reference to a 2005 decision by Superior Court Judge Robert H. Bohn that upheld the statutory authority of  the airport commission. Mr. Alley had served on the airport commission for more than three decades until his fellow county commissioners, angered over airport commission decisions, in April refused to reappoint him to the airport commission.

Mr. Alley said he expects to urge his colleagues on the county commission to end the legal action. “It’s almost like, what part of no don’t you understand,” Mr. Alley said.

Ms. Mavro Flanders declined comment until she consults with her attorney. Ms. Thornton was on vacation and unavailable for comment.

Public interest

In issuing his injunction, Judge Chin reviewed the foundation of the complaint and cited legal decisions and documents that have been cited repeatedly in the long-running feud between the county commissioners and their appointed airport commission over control of the airport.

These included the grant assurances, or contract agreements, that state aviation officials obliged the county commissioners to sign in an earlier legal battle. The assurances, signed most recently by the county commissioners and the county manager in 2012, defined the conditions for the airport and business park to receive millions of dollars in state and federal funds, andit  wrung an agreement from the county commissioners “not to take any action to reorganize the airport commission, or in any way to interfere with the autonomy and authority of the airport commission….”

In his decision, Judge Chin cited the grant assurances in underpinning his decision to grant a preliminary injunction in the public interest. “The county’s alleged violation of the grant assurances may also cause the MVAC to violate the grant assurances, putting its funding at risk and interfering with its ability to operate the airport safely and efficiently to the detriment of the public,” he wrote.

Judge Chin also cited Judge Bohn’s 2005 decision, known as the Weibrecht decision, in which Judge Bohn ruled that the legislation establishing the airport commission trumped the county charter, and the airport commission alone is responsible for the custody, control, and management of the airport, and is empowered to expend its own funds to pay salaries. That protracted legal battle began when then county manager Carol Borer, with the support of the county commissioners, refused to pay airport manager William Weibrecht and assistant manager, now manager, Sean Flynn, the full salaries agreed to in a contract signed by the airport commission. That legal decision cost taxpayers $525,000.

In a legal opinion sought by county commissioners in 2012, the county’s own attorney affirmed that the county commission has no authority over airport operations.

“The county commission argues that the Weibrecht decision is narrow in scope, addressing only the power to set salaries for the airport manager and assistant manager, and is consequently irrelevant to the issues before the court in this case,” Judge Chin wrote. “The court disagrees.”

With regard to the county charter, Judge Chin said, “The court agrees with Judge Bohn that the [county] charter, a broad enabling statute, does not supersede the narrowly tailored Airport Act even though it was enacted afterwards.”

Treasurer is grounded

The dispute with Ms. Mavro Flanders, the elected Dukes County treasurer, began when Ms. Mavro Flanders refused to pay redacted legal bills that the airport commission submitted from law firms it had retained. The airport commission redacted what it contends are details protected by attorney-client privilege, or health privacy laws.

“The County Treasurer has acknowledged that, in many cases, and apparently without notice to and without the consent of the MVAC (Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission), she has communicated directly with staff at the law offices of the MVAC’s attorneys to obtain unredacted copies of the invoices,” stated the airport complaint. “In sum, the County Treasurer believes that she has the legal authority to refuse to pay invoices which have already been duly approved by the MVAC, to obtain privileged and confidential communications between the MVAC and its attorneys without notice to and without the consent of the MVAC, and to release those privileged and confidential communications to the public at large.”

Judge Chin rejected the county treasurer’s claim that invoices approved by the airport commission for payment were lacking detail required by state law.

“Where the MVAC is not using any of the county’s funds to pay its invoices for legal services, it may expend its funds without the county’s oversight,” Judge Chin wrote. The invoices “are not so deficient in detail that they fail on their face to comply with the statute.”

The judge said the law does not require release of confidential communications.

“The county treasurer has no authority to decide otherwise in this case, especially since the county treasurer has no decision-making authority with respect to the invoices.”

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Leandro Miranda appeared in Edgartown District Court Friday. — File photo by Susan Safford

Edgartown police, acting on information provided by Oak Bluffs police, arrested Leandro Miranda Friday afternoon on a default warrant at a Millers Professionals Inc. jobsite on Clevelandtown Road in Edgartown, according to a press release.

The court issued a default warrant for his arrest after Mr. Miranda, 23, failed to appear in court Monday, August 11, for his scheduled arraignment in connection with his latest arrest Sunday, August 10 for operating a motor vehicle without a license. Mr. Miranda posted $600 cash bail Sunday night and was released from the Dukes County jail. On Monday, the court forfeited his $600.

Police have now arrested Mr. Miranda, most recently of Oak Bluffs, five times since March 2. In two of those arrests, he was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, and fleeing police in his vehicle at high speeds.

At a hearing in Edgartown District Court Friday, presiding justice H. Gregory Williams ordered Mr. Miranda held without bail.

“I’m going to be holding Mr. Miranda on the warrant until Monday, August 18,” Judge Williams said. A court officer interpreted for Mr. Miranda, a Brazilian national, who sat in handcuffs and leg shackles. “Probation has moved for detention. The Commonwealth will be moving to revoke bail, and requesting bail in the new case. We’ll see what happens at that time,” Judge Williams said.

At a July 10 hearing following Mr. Miranda’s third arrest on a charge of driving without a license, Judge Williams made it clear that if he got caught driving without a license again, the consequences would be severe. “If you even think of driving a car without a valid license, which you won’t get for a quite a while, you’re going to jail,” Judge Williams said at the earlier hearing.

As part of a plea agreement disposition of his first two cases at the July hearing, Judge Williams issued a six month suspended sentence, along with two years of probation. Mr. Miranda was free after posting $5,000 bail, which he may have to forfeit because he did not show up for his last court appearance.

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Leandro Miranda listened to a court interpreter during his appearance in Edgartown District Court on July 10. — Steve Myrick

Leandro Miranda living most recently in Oak Bluffs does not have a valid driver’s license. But that has not stopped him from driving or drinking or speeding, according to court records.

In the past five months, police have arrested Mr. Miranda, 23, a Brazilian national, four times for driving without a license. Two of those arrests resulted in charges of fleeing from police at high speeds, and operating under the influence of alcohol. Following his most recent arrest on Sunday, he posted bail and failed to appear at his scheduled Monday arraignment.

Island police are on the front lines of the cycle of arrest and re-arrest of criminals who put the community and police at risk.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Lt. Tim Williamson of the Oak Bluffs Police Department said. “It comes down to how the district attorney is going to prosecute a case, and how a judge is going to sentence. It’s out of our hands at that point.”

Michael Trudeau, Cape and Islands first assistant district attorney, said that dealing with repeat offenders is a balancing act, and prosecutors work to ensure similar sentences for similar crimes.

“We have the public’s interest at heart in doing our job, to make sure there is a fair and just sentence that also keeps in mind our obligation to public safety,” Mr. Trudeau said in a conversation prior to Mr. Miranda’s latest arrest. “There are times when analysis of a particular case might make you wonder, but the overall picture is it’s still the best criminal justice system in the world.”

Chasing justice

Early in the morning on March 2, 2014, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown police attempted to stop Mr. Miranda after Oak Bluffs police officer Dustin Shaw spotted Mr. Miranda driving a 2005 Chrysler 300 on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road at over 80 miles per hour. He caught up to Mr. Miranda at Dodger’s Hole. Still attempting to flee police, Mr. Miranda backed up and rolled forward several times, striking a road sign, running over shrubs and other landscaping. Officer Shaw was able to take Mr. Miranda and a passenger into custody.

Edgartown police officer Nicholas Phelps wrote in his report. “Leandro was unsteady on his feet, and had difficulty maintaining his balance. His eyes were also bloodshot and glassy.”

Mr. Miranda refused to cooperate with police when they tried to administer field sobriety tests, and refused a sobriety test at the time he was booked into the Dukes County Jail.

He was charged with negligent operation of a motor vehicle, unlicensed operation of motor vehicle, marked lanes violation, speeding, failure to stop for police, and wanton destruction of property under $250. He was arraigned on March 3 in Edgartown District Court, and released after posting $100 bail.

In keeping with standard practice for anyone who answers that he or she is not a U.S. citizen, or is unable to provide a social security number, jail officials entered Mr. Miranda’s information into the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) database. There is no record that ICE took any action, and no record of any detainee order issued, which would have required authorities to hold Mr. Miranda for 48 hours.

On May 1, Mr. Miranda was back behind the wheel of the same vehicle, owned by Rogerio J. Almeida. Oak Bluffs Detective Jeffrey LaBell arrested him on a charge of operating a motor vehicle after a suspension for OUI. Mr. Almeida was cited for allowing an unlicensed person to drive his vehicle, and the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles suspended the vehicle’s registration. Mr. Miranda was released on $400 bail. At his arraignment on May 5, he was given a bail warning. He was warned by the court that if he was arrested on another offense, he could be held for up to 60 days without bail.

Arrested a third time

On July 4, at 1:30 pm, Oak Bluffs was packed with tourists, walking, biking, and driving on downtown streets. Detective LaBell, patrolling in a marked police cruiser with Officer Michael Cotrone, spotted Mr. Miranda driving the same Chrysler 300 on Dukes County Avenue. He activated his blue lights. Mr. Miranda failed to stop, and instead made a quick turn onto Masonic Avenue.

“I proceeded on to Masonic Ave. where I observed the Chrysler was completely in the oncoming lane of travel and over the double yellow line passing vehicles that were waiting in line for the Circuit Ave./Masonic Ave. stop sign,” Det. LaBell wrote in his report. After passing the line of cars, Mr. Miranda turned onto Circuit Avenue, and accelerated toward the downtown business district, still passing vehicles, as police pursued with sirens and blue lights activated.

Mr. Miranda stopped abruptly in a parking lot at 97 Circuit Avenue,  jumped out of the vehicle, and fled on foot into the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association campgrounds, where Officer Cotrone eventually caught up with him and tackled him.

Police seized two nips of alcohol from his pockets, and a part of a 12-pack of beer, still cold, in his vehicle. Again, he refused to cooperate with police who tried to administer field sobriety tests.

At his arraignment on July 7, the court revoked bail on the previous charges, and set bail at $5,000 for the latest charges.

Bailed out

Mr. Miranda was jailed until a pre-trial hearing on July 10, when he was brought to court in handcuffs and ankle shackles. During a lull in the court procedure, Mr. Miranda spoke in Portuguese, through a court interpreter. “Am I going to be free today,” he asked Edgartown District Court Presiding Justice H. Gregory Williams. “I don’t know, not yet,” Judge Williams replied.

The Cape & Island assistant district attorney struck a plea agreement with defense attorney Charles Morano on the charges from Mr. Miranda’s first two arrests. The agreement offered to Judge Williams included guilty pleas on the OUI charge and several motor vehicle violations, stiff fines, but no jail sentence. The probation department recommended fines, instead of the normal alcohol education program, because the department was concerned that a severe language barrier would prevent Mr. Miranda from completing the program that most first offenders are required to take.

Judge Williams refused to accept the plea. He suggested to the attorneys that he would be inclined to accept a plea that included a six-month sentence, suspended for two years of probation. Mr. Miranda agreed, and pleaded guilty to OUI, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and failing to stop for police. He also agreed to pay fines and court costs of $825, and was ordered to pay restitution for the property damage he caused.

Judge Williams told Mr. Miranda through the court interpreter that if he violated the terms of his probation on the first two charges, he could be certain of serving time.

“If you even think of driving a car without a valid license, which you won’t get for a quite a while, you’re going to jail,” Judge Williams said.

Under the bail laws, the court could have held Mr. Miranda without bail on the previous charges. But once he agreed to dispose the previous cases through a plea agreement, he could no longer be held on the revoked bail. A man identified as Jose Nascimento posted $5,000 cash bail on the latest charges and Mr. Miranda walked out of the courthouse. The district attorney could have refused to agree to a plea, but Mr. Miranda would have had the option of pleading guilty and accepting the court’s sentence, and still walked out of court after posting bail.

Mr. Miranda and an interpreter returned to court on August 7 for a pre-trial hearing on the July 4th arrest and he was asked to return for another hearing on September 4.

And again

On Sunday, August 10 Oak Bluffs police Detective Jeff LaBell was off duty when he spotted Mr. Miranda behind the wheel of a 2003 Chevy Miller Construction work van owned by Elio Nunes, according to the police report. Detective LaBell contacted Officer Dustin Shaw, who spotted the van. “The van quickly accelerated as it approached and passed my cruiser,” Mr. Shaw wrote in his report, noting that the area of Winthrop Avenue is “a very thickly settled neighborhood with a public park and many homes.”

Officer Shaw stopped the van on Winthrop Avenue where Mr. Miranda lives. When he approached the van he saw the female passenger seated in the driver’s seat. Peering through the rear van window he saw “Miranda attempting to evade detection in the rear section of his van and frantically moving items around. At this point, given his furtive movements, suspicious actions, previous interactions with police and presence of tools in the construction van that could potentially be use as weapons, I drew my issued service firearm and ordered Miranda from the vehicle.”

Mr. Miranda was arrested for operating a motor vehicle after license suspension for OUI and speeding. He was booked at the Dukes County Jail and released that night after he posted $600 cash bail.

Mr. Miranda did not appear in court Monday for his scheduled arraignment. The court issued a default warrant for his arrest and forfeited his $600.

If Mr. Miranda fails to return for his scheduled court date on September 4 Mr. Nascimento will be out $5,000. As for the $825 in fines and court costs, that has yet to be paid, according to court officials.

Wheels of justice

Repeat offenders are a source of frustration for Lt. Williamson. He reacted sharply to Mr. Miranda’s fourth arrest.

“What’s it going to take, him killing someone?” Lt. Williamson said. “This guy has fled from the police, which certainly puts himself at risk, the police at risk, and the general public at risk.”

Mr. Trudeau is also frustrated with repeat offenders, but he stressed the importance of looking at the entire criminal justice system. “There are always frustrations in dealing with repeat offenders, and how best to handle that,” he said. “It’s a balancing test that we take into account, both in charging and determining the appropriate criminal arena for prosecution.”

In Mr. Miranda’s case, speaking prior to his latest arrest, Mr. Trudeau said the plea agreements and amount of bail sought by prosecutors was consistent with similar cases.

“Often times people wonder with bail amounts that are set and posted, they think of it as punishment, and it isn’t,” he said. “It’s to ensure the defendant’s next appearance in court. This individual appeared in court. The bail statute allowing us to revoke bail was used effectively. There are often times where a sentence is handed down that takes into account a number of factors. You have public safety, mental health issues, addiction issues. The court is asked to deal with a whole bundle of causes and potential problems. The district attorney, probation, courts, and defense attorneys, do a good job trying to keep all those in balance.”

Mr. Morano, who represented Mr. Miranda in the disposition of his first two cases, declined comment.

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Chilmark selectmen discussed Community Center renovations. — file photo by Michael Cummo

Chilmark selectmen will consider a recommendation to increase fees for the use of the Chilmark Community Center. If adopted, the fees could mean significant increases for some community organizations and groups that stage events in the wooden building just off South Road by Beetlebung Corner. While many agree that a fee increase is warranted, smaller organizations fear the the proposed increases will preclude them from using the building.

Selectmen appointed a study committee to look at the use of the Chilmark School and the community center (CCC) after determining that fees were not covering necessary repairs and maintenance. Planning is currently underway to repair the buckling floor of the community center, as well as repair deteriorating exterior doors.

Jim Malkin, chairman of the town’s personnel committee and former chairman of the finance committee, chaired the use of town owned facilities committee that included Andrew Goldman and Jane Slater. After five open meetings over a three-month period, the committee presented its report to selectmen on July 15.

Currently, fees for use of the CCC include $200 for rehearsal dinners and adult parties, $400 for weddings, and $50 for children’s parties. There is also a $200 refundable security and cleaning deposit for most events. Selectmen review applications, and have the option of waiving or reducing fees.

The most significant change recommended by the committee involved events that charge admission, such as the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival and the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society.

The committee recommended a fee structure of $50 and a $50 cleaning deposit for children’s parties; $200 for rehearsal dinners and adult parties with a $200 cleaning deposit; and a $400 fee and $200 cleaning deposit for weddings. Deposits are refundable in whole or in part depending on the condition of the building.

Sponsors of events with admission fees would pay a minimum fee of $500, plus 20 percent of admission fees.

An applicant for use of the center must be a town resident, or an event must be sponsored by a town resident who would be required to be present at the event and provide the damage deposit.

In its two-page report, the committee said that it had considered a variety of issues. These included: How to harmonize and coordinate use so that the limited resources in the town center are not overtaxed by simultaneous events; how to assure that the use of the town resources benefits town residents and taxpayers; how to assure that fees for usage are sufficient to assure adequate compensation for proper maintenance and wear and tear; how to set fees that reflect the commercial or non-commercial utilization of the space; and how to assure that practices of space users are consistent with Chilmark values.

“We contacted all groups who had used the facilities over the past two years, examined all agreements and statements,” Mr. Malkin said in an email to The Times. “We looked into the issues of maintenance, wear and tear, liability, scheduling, as well as water and septic. We looked at the existent fee structure and history. We spent much time discussing the character and needs of the various user groups, some individuals, some small not for profits, some larger groups, all of them important members of the community.”

Event organizers react

Thomas Bena of Chilmark, founder and executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, stages well-attended events at the CCC. He said his organization has pitched in to improve the community center by buying a new screen, seats, and a ventilation system.

“We’re not against paying a flat rate,” Mr. Bena said. “We just believe paying a percentage of ticket sales and donations is onerous and not appropriate. We’re not looking for a free ride, but we are excited to keep using that venue at an affordable rate. I’m hopeful the selectmen are going to do something that takes into account all the nonprofits that do great things do in the community center.”

Cathy Walthers of West Tisbury helps organize events for Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard, a local chapter of the national organization that advocates for local foods and farmers. The group has hosted events at the community center often, usually at a rate of $50.

“It’s a venue we really like and enjoy,” Ms. Walthers said. “Most of our events are free or very low cost. We try to make them community events, and we want as many people to come as possible.”

Ms. Walthers said that a $500 fee would not be affordable for the small nonprofit organization. “We definitely would not be able to [afford that],” she said. “I can understand that they might want to go up, if they need additional fees. I thought a more modest increase would be more appropriate.”

In a letter to Chilmark selectmen, she suggested that an increase in the range of $75 to $125 would be appropriate for nonprofit organizations like Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard.

The committee also suggested ending the practice of some organizations which charge extra for preferred seating or parking. “The town of Chilmark believes its facilities would be available to all citizens and attendees on an equal basis,” the committee wrote in its report. “There are to be no differential charging practices for use of town sites, including parking facilities, with the exception of admission discounts for memberships.”

Selectmen took no action on the committee’s recommendations at their July 15 meeting, nor did they address the proposal at their August 5 meeting, according to meeting minutes.

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Juvenile probation officer Shawn Schofield, shown here in a 2012 photo. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

To law enforcement officials and others who work with Island kids, the recent reassignment of juvenile probation officer Shawn Schofield is a significant loss for Martha’s Vineyard and hinders the effort to intervene with troubled kids who might be inclined to commit crime. Before his new assignment began in June, Mr. Schofield spent most of his work week on the Island.

Mr. Schofield, an Edgartown resident, is one of six juvenile probation officers assigned to handle cases in a district made up of 30 towns on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket.

Mr. Schofield is now on the Island about five days out of each month, according to Coria Holland, communications director for the Massachusetts Commissioner of Probation. An assistant chief probation officer is assigned to the Island to handle court sessions.

“The work shifts of Juvenile Probation Officers in Barnstable County were changed based on the operational needs of the court and to ensure the equitable distribution of cases per officer,” Ms. Holland wrote in a statement emailed to The Times. “The six Barnstable Juvenile Court Probation Officers supervise or oversee juvenile cases in a jurisdiction that includes approximately 30 towns in Barnstable County, a portion of Plymouth County, and the Islands.”

According to the Massachusetts Probation Service, the role of a juvenile probation officer is to supervise children under the age of 18 who are involved in delinquent behavior, as well as monitor the welfare of children who come before Juvenile Court as subjects of parental abuse and neglect.

Ms. Holland said currently there are 26 juvenile cases assigned on Martha’s Vineyard. By comparison, she said there are currently 147 cases in Falmouth, where Mr. Schofield now spends the bulk of his work time. There are 654 open cases in the entire district. She said earlier published reports that stated that Mr. Schofield spends two days per month on the Island are inaccurate.

Reached by telephone, Mr. Schofield declined comment on the reassignment.

Island base

West Tisbury Police Lt. Matt Mincone has a unique perspective. He deals often with kids who are at a crossroads, about to make decisions that could determine much of their future. Head coach of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys hockey team, he takes an active role in advising the athletes on and off the ice. He considers Mr. Schofield an extremely valuable resource.

“I haven’t had a lot of players that were on probation,” Lt. Mincone said. “But if there’s something going on in the school, he’ll let me know. I can call him and say ‘hey, this guy’s at an intersection, and maybe he’s going to take a wrong turn.’”

Lt. Mincone said much of Mr. Schofield’s role is preventative. He focuses on intervening before a problem gets to the level of police and court action.

“You don’t see him in the newspaper every day, because some kid made a good decision,” Lt. Mincone said. “I’ve called at weird times; he’ll take a phone call whenever. I don’t think it will be beneficial for anybody, including the kids that know he is available. Kids make decisions every day.”

Loss felt

Theresa Manning, coalition coordinator for the Martha’s Vineyard Youth Task Force, said her organization is already feeling the loss.  “We’ve had meetings, focus groups, activities where we’ve tried to have him included and he’s not available,” she said. “He’s invaluable. Having a person who is local, who knows the kids, who knows the community was a tremendous resource.”

Mr. Schofield could often identify trends that helped the Youth Task Force set priorities and direct resources, Ms. Manning said. “When we hear kids are starting to use prescription drugs, or involved in breaking and entering to get drugs, we can go to him and he knows,” she said. “That’s helpful…more than helpful.”

Dukes County Sheriff Michael McCormack called on state senator Dan Wolf and state representative Tim Madden to address funding for the probation division that includes parts of Plymouth and Barnstable counties, as well as Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. While the chief probation officer in that division sets staff schedules, Sheriff McCormack questions whether the state is providing adequate resources.

“There are nine courts in that particular jurisdiction,” Sheriff McCormack said. “There are only six juvenile probation officers in that division. My issue is not with the chief probation officer; my problem is with the legislature not funding the positions that used to be there.”

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Judge Richard Chin listened to arguments at the hearing on July 27. — File photo by Steve Myrick

Attorneys for the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission and the Dukes County Commission presented oral arguments in Dukes County Superior Court Tuesday in connection with the latest lawsuit sparked by a long-running dispute over control of the county-owned Martha’s Vineyard Airport and its operations.

In a 13-page civil complaint filed May 5, airport commission lawyers from the Cambridge law firm of Anderson & Kreiger asked the court to prohibit county officials from seeking to “unlawfully interfere with, and obstruct the functioning,” of the Airport Commission. The seven members of the airport commission are appointed by the elected members of the seven-member county commission.

The complaint is based on two ongoing disputes that are only the latest eruptions in the lengthy history of county efforts to exercise control over the county-owned airport. Over the objections of airport officials, county treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders has refused to pay airport invoices approved by the airport commission and she has publicly released invoice details the airport considers confidential. And on April 23, the county commissioners recognized county manager Martina Thornton as an ex-officio member of the Airport Commission.

Airport lawyers asked the judge to issue injunctions to prohibit the county commission from naming the county manager an ex-officio member; prohibit the manager from sitting on the airport commission; prohibit the county treasurer from refusing to pay airport invoices; and prohibit the treasurer from releasing confidential information she had obtained between the airport commission and its attorneys.

Airport commission attorney David Mackey (standing) shares a document with county commission attorney Robert Troy in Dukes County Superior Court.
Airport commission attorney David Mackey (standing) shares a document with county commission attorney Robert Troy in Dukes County Superior Court.

In its answer to the lawsuit, filed May 30, the county commission made a series of counterclaims, including a request for the court to declare that the airport is under the jurisdiction of Dukes County, as a subdivision and department of the county, according to Massachusetts law. The county commission also asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order prohibiting the airport commission from submitting invoices without proper documentation. The county commission asked the court to dismiss the airport commission’s complaint, and award the county commission costs to defend itself, with interest.

In a hearing before Associate Justice Richard Chin in Dukes County Superior Court on July 29, attorney David Mackey of Anderson & Kreiger was first to make his case for the injunctions and declaratory judgement.

“This is much more urgent than it was when we brought this case,” Mr. Mackey told the court. “The county’s position has become more extreme. The county commission is attempting to take control of the airport.”

Mr. Mackey said Chapter 90 of the Massachusetts General Laws give the airport commission sole authority for custody, care, and management of the county-owned airport. He said the grant assurances signed by the county commission and the county manager with each round of state and federal funding make it clear that the county commission is prohibited from depriving or diminishing the powers of the airport commission. He also argued that a 2006 court ruling known as the Weibrecht decision reaffirmed the airport commission’s role as a body independent of county government with sole responsibility for the airport’s financial affairs.

“There is some considerable urgency about clearing up this issue about who is running the show,” Mr. Mackey said. He cited language from the law, the grant assurances, and the Weibrecht decision in support of the airport commission’s claim that each overrules the state law and county charter, when there is a conflict.

Judge Chin questioned the airport commission attorney about his requests for immediate injunctions.

“What is the urgency,” Judge Chin asked. “After reading his (the county commission attorney’s) submissions, are you going to turn the keys of the airport over to him?”

Mr. Mackey also argued that an immediate injunction was necessary to prevent the county treasurer from releasing invoices and other documents which could compromise the airport commission’s right to keep communications with its attorneys confidential.

Judge Chin also questioned whether an injunction was warranted on that issue.

“Part of the problem is the lawyers,” Judge Chin said. “Why are they just handing over privileged communication? The attorneys bear some responsibility. It doesn’t sound like you need a court order to prevent these communications. I don’t want this court used as a tool by which information is kept from people. I’m not going to interject myself in this controversy. that’s not the role of this court.”

Attorney Robert Troy of the Sandwich law firm Troy Wall Associates represented the county commission at the hearing. He characterized the disagreement between the two commissions as a political dispute. He said no injunction is warranted to prevent the county manager from sitting as an ex-officio member of the airport commission, because the provision is included in state law. He said “one person sitting at the table who has no vote, for an airport that is owned by Dukes County,” is not an attempt to diminish the airport commission’s authority.

“The real issues, that are petty issues, are due to improper practices of the airport commission,” Mr. Troy told the court. “This is about a very petty and illegal practice. The airport commission has been approving invoices that have no detail.”

As an example, he offered an invoice from a law firm in Colorado that he said the airport commission had retained.

“It says 3.4 hours at $525 per hour,” he said. “What was the work done? T-R-D, that’s all it says. The airport commission should have been communicating with the treasurer and not coming to court.”

Judge Chin noted that all the invoices were eventually paid.

“It seems to me there is no controversy before me about the bills,” Judge Chin said. “There are procedures in place to pay the bills. It sounds like the matter has been resolved. What would I rule on?”

All the parties in the lawsuit were present in the courtroom Tuesday, listening intently to the hearing. Also present was Tracy Klay, chief counsel for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Aeronautical Division. He said the issues in the case are important to state regulators, no matter what the decision.

Judge Chin told the attorneys he will take the matters under advisement and issue a written ruling.

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The Edgartown Yacht Club’s annual ‘Round the Island Race drew 64 competitors this past weekend. — Michael Berwind

We are beating upwind, against the formidable current running along East Beach off Chappaquiddick at the eastern end of Martha’s Vineyard. The horizon is full of sails, with crews all trying to decipher the ever-changing factors of wind, tide, shoals, sail choice, course, opponents, and race tactics. Aboard Wild Horses, a breathtaking 76-foot W-Class sloop flying what seems like an acre of sail, there is a spirited discussion about whether we should stay offshore, where there is more wind, or alter course toward the beach, where the adverse current might be weaker. We are sailing around Martha’s Vineyard, and we have about 49 miles to go.

2014-07_rti002The Edgartown Yacht Club’s annual ‘Round the Island Race drew 64 competitors this past weekend. In 2013, 51 boats finished the race. With the addition of big boat buoy racing two years ago, Edgartown Race Weekend is quickly becoming a go-to event for top east coast sailors.

The regatta is a favorite of Donald Tofias, top evangelist for the return of 1930s era classic big boat racing, developer of W-Class yachts, and the Wild Horses helmsman for today’s race.

“I’ve been coming to this race since I was in high school,” he told a Times reporter invited along for the race.

A chorus of accents rings across the deck. There are crew members who hail from Finland, Australia, and South Africa, mixing with an assortment of New England dialects. We are on a reach now, angling closer to the south shore. Wild Horses, if not galloping, is at least slipping through modest waves at a quick canter. Noman’s Land appears on the horizon.

We tick off familiar south shore beaches from an offshore perspective: Long Point in West Tisbury; Quansoo, Lucy Vincent, Squibnocket in Chilmark. The crew and guests hang over the rail, feet dangling just above the waves, fulfilling the mindless but necessary role of “rail meat.” The flatter the boat, the more efficient the hull through the water.

Around the bluffs on Squibnocket Point, we take aim at the Gay Head Cliffs, on a broad reach now, hugging the shore. The breeze is picking up. The perspective is striking. The whole splendid expanse of glacial deposit stretches across the horizon.

2014-07_rti003Around Gay Head, we are running before the wind now. Just getting the enormous spinnaker sail from the hold up on deck is a complicated operation. Setting the spinnaker is an intricate nautical dance with disastrous consequences for a small mistake. With a lot of muscle and little experience it is hauled up and fills on cue. Three wild red horses with green eyes gallop across the sail.

Trimming the spinnaker is an intricate operation, with a trimmer handling a spinnaker sheet from a forward position on the deck, the helmsman reacting to every tiny puff of wind, and grinders flailing away at the winches. Two athletic but unsuspecting waiters, recruited before the race for the job of grinding winches, do their best. In the sailing trade, muscle-bound winch grinders are known as gorillas. It’s a hard job, but the waiters perform admirably.

The trimmer calls a series of commands from the deck to keep the big sail on trim.

“Pressure.” (Translation: a little puff coming.)

“I need heat.” (Steer into the wind to fill the sail.)

“Very soft.” (Entering a dead spot in the wind.)

“I’ve got nothing on the kite.” (The sail is completely off trim.)

Wild Horses is at a full gallop now, topping nine knots over the bottom, against a building current. We slip inside of Middle Ground, gybing from shoal to beach and back. We have a narrow target to emerge between the shoal and the rocks off West Chop without our 12-foot keel bumping the bottom. Green can (shoal) to port, can 23 (rocks) to starboard. Whew.

Now a sprint back to the start/finish line off Cape Poge, Edgartown. After nearly eight hours of sailing, the final leg seems to zip by in seconds. The race committee boat greets us with a shrill whistle at the moment our bowsprit crosses the line marking the elapsed time as 8:14:45. A few boats ahead, many behind with hours to go.

A magnificent day on the water.

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Spinnaker up, jib sail down aboard Wild Horses, a 76 foot W Class wooden boat competing in the 'Round the Island Race. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Updated 5:55 pm Sunday, July 27, 2014

Takeshi Okura skippered his IRC 52 Sled to a first place finish in the Edgartown Yacht Club ‘Round the Island Race Saturday, completing the 52 mile course in 5:49:22. Jim Swartz, a seasonal resident of Edgartown racing for the home club, finished just a shade under 3 minutes behind, to take second place honors in Class 1.

Trimming the spinnaker aboard Wild Horses, with Stephen Besse if Vineyard Haven making good time up Vineyard Sound in his J/108 Apres.
Trimming the spinnaker aboard Wild Horses, with Stephen Besse of Vineyard Haven making good time up Vineyard Sound in his J/108 Apres.

A total of 64 boats completed the circumnavigation, filling the overcast skies with colorful spinnaker sails. The day began in light air, and a long slog to windward to reach the “hooter” buoy south of Chappaquiddick. The breeze picked up throughout the day. By the time the fleet turned around Gay Head and headed up Vineyard Sound, the wind topped 16 knots.

Among the top local finishers was Paul Stafford of the Edgartown Yacht Club, who was first in the double-handed class, finishing the course in 9:48:00 aboard his Alerion Express 38 Inik. Sandy Vietor, in his Alerion Express 33 Orpheus, was third in the double-handed class for the home club, finishing in 10:26:39.

Stephen Besse, sailing for the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club and the Holmes Hole Sailing Association, finished an impressive second in Class 3 in an elapsed time of 8:21:50.

Racing got underway Thursday in the three day regatta, with the Big Boat Buoy Races just outside Edgartown Harbor. Thirty competitors, expecting wet and wild conditions according to weather forecasts, instead found a mild northeast breeze that built to about 12 knots through the day. Two races were completed and a third was about to start when the IRC 52 Hooligan snagged a racing buoy and set it adrift. The race committee decided to call it a day.

Mr. Swartz took full advantage of his home course edge, topping the IRC 52 class Vesper after the first day of racing.

Friday the race committee set a windward-leeward course off Cape Pogue as light winds shifted to the north, and 32 boats, including eight IRC 52’s made it to the starting line. Winds were light, about 12 knots for the first race, and falling to 8 knots for the later races. The fleet completed three heats before heading back to the Edgartown Yacht Club for the awards ceremony.

Vesper bears down on the line with another win in the Big Boat Buoy Racing series.
Vesper bears down on the line with another win in the Big Boat Buoy Racing series.

Again Friday, Vesper dominated the IRC 52 class, finishing best in combined scoring for the two days with three wins and two seconds in five races.

Among other local sailors faring well in the combined scoring for Big Boat Buoy Racing were Harald Findlay from the Edgartown Yacht Club, who skippered Arrow to a second place finish in Class 4 for double handed racers. Mr. Vietor, in Orpheus was third.

Mr. Besse Besse was the top local finisher in a tough PHRF Class 2, finishing fifth.