Animal Control Officer asked to falsify log in Tisbury
A wandering Siberian husky named Mussa, currently the subject of restraining orders in Tisbury and Oak Bluffs and owned by a member of the Garde family of Vineyard Haven, was the subject of further disciplinary action this week by Tisbury officials.
The dog's owner is Rebecca Garde of West Tisbury. Her parents, Ken and Nina Garde of Tisbury, were the owners of Mussa's father, Storm, until they were forced to relocate the dog to the mainland, due to several chicken-killing incidents.
Dog ownership has proved to be problematic for the Gardes. In an effort to avoid further penalties, Mr. Garde asked Tisbury animal control officer (ACO) Laurie Clements to report that the dog she picked up last week was not Mussa but a dog named Sasha, owned by Mr. Garde's son. Ms. Clements refused and alerted town officials to the request.
Mussa's problems began after she accompanied Storm on one of his chicken-killing sprees. At a dog hearing on September 23, 2008, Tisbury selectmen voted to ban Mussa from Tisbury, until Ms. Garde put up a kennel to contain the dog at her parents' house on West Spring Street, where she works in her father's caretaking business.
The selectmen stipulated that the kennel had to be approved by Ms. Clements and imposed a one-year restraining order and required payment of a $200 bond to be forfeited if Mussa were caught running loose again. If that occurred, selectmen also said the dog would be banned from town without another hearing.
On Wednesday, February 4, Ms. Clements received a call at 2:27 pm about two Siberian huskies running loose on State Road near the Mansion House. Unable to find the dogs after driving around the surrounding area, based on the description of the dogs, Ms. Clements called Mr. Garde on his cell phone and learned he was out looking for the dogs.
According to a copy of the ACO's log, requested by The Martha's Vineyard Times, Ms. Clements asked Mr. Garde which of the family's several dogs were loose. Mr. Garde said Mussa and his son Daniel's husky named Sasha.
Ms. Clements told Mr. Garde that Mussa was not allowed in town until an escape-proof pen had been built in his yard, and that under the conditions set by the selectmen, Rebecca would now lose her bond, and the dog would be banned from town without another hearing.
Ms. Clements found the dogs on Lake Street. Daniel Garde arrived at the same time and explained that the two dogs slipped out when he and his father were bringing in firewood. Ms. Clements released the two dogs to Daniel Garde, after reiterating that Mussa was in violation of the restraining order.
Ms. Clements then went to town hall to alert assistant town administrator Aase Jones to the violation. While she was speaking to selectman Jeffrey Kristal, Mr. Garde walked in.
"He asked me if he could speak to me outside," Ms. Clements wrote in the log. "I went outside with him, and he asked me if I would say it was Sundance, [Mr. Garde's dog], not Moussa [sic] who was loose, so Rebecca wouldn't lose her bond money. I told Ken I would not lie for him."
Mr. Garde said Rebecca was off-Island with her daughter, who was in the hospital, and that both are moving back home with him and his wife. "He said Rebecca's daughter will get out of the hospital and not have her house or her dog," Ms. Clements wrote.
After her conversation with Mr. Garde, Ms. Clements told town administrator John Bugbee, the selectmen's administrative secretary Hillary Conklin, and Mr. Kristal about her conversation. Mr. Kristal advised her to record what was said in her log.
"I was disappointed - and it made me feel uncomfortable - for one public official to ask me as a public official to lie," Ms. Clements said when called by The Martha's Vineyard Times for comment on the report. Mr. Garde is an elected member of the board of health. "I knew what was right, and I wasn't going to do it."
Reached by The Martha's Vineyard Times on Tuesday for comment, Mr. Garde was obviously distressed. He characterized his actions as a defense of his daughter.
In a later conversation yesterday morning in the office of The Martha's Vineyard Times, Mr. Garde disputed Ms. Clements's account and said she had blown his comments out of proportion. Mr. Garde said he spoke to Ms. Clements because she had been unable to distinguish between his dogs in the past, and he wanted to see what the situation was.
"When she said I can't lie, I said, I'm not asking you to. I wouldn't do that," said Mr. Garde.
Mr. Garde said he asked Ms. Clements what he could do, and she told him to appeal to the selectmen.
Mr. Garde said that on Tuesday he spoke to town administrator John Bugbee and asked for a copy of the dog officer's report. According to Mr. Garde, Mr. Bugbee said he did not have the log entry and had not read it. Mr. Bugbee told him to take it up with Ms. Clements, Mr. Garde said.
In the past week, Mr. Garde made several calls to Ms. Clements questioning her actions. Yesterday morning, he received a telephone call from Tisbury Police Sgt. Tim Stobie, who asked that he make no further attempts to speak with Ms. Clements.
"I can't even call the dog officer in my own town. She said she filed her report to protect herself. From what?" asked Mr. Garde
Yesterday, Mr. Bugbee, who has supervisory responsibility for town employees, told The Martha's Vineyard Times that Mr. Garde spoke with him about the incident but did not request a copy of the dog officer's log. Mr. Bugbee said he was unaware of any tension when he suggested that Mr. Garde contact Ms. Clements for a copy of the report.
Mr. Bugbee said that after Ms. Clements made him aware of Mr. Garde's multiple calls, he contacted Tisbury Police Chief John Cashin, who asked Mr. Stobie to speak with Mr. Garde. Mr. Bugbee said there was no urgency on his part to get a copy of the report, because he was aware of what occurred and spoke to Ms. Clements.
Asked for comment, Denys Wortman, chairman of the selectmen, said, "Every elected official has been sworn in and taken an oath of office to uphold the laws of the country, the state, the county and the town - to ask somebody to lie is not something somebody should be proud of."
In an email, selectman Jeffrey Kristal said, "It appears that our animal control officer was put into an unfair position where she exercised definitive sound judgment." He said Ms. Clements is an example of how public officials should conduct themselves, and that "she should be commended for preserving the public confidence and doing her job well."
"I really don't want to comment on something that I only know about second-hand," selectman Tristan Israel said. "I know we did send a letter with regard to the dog, and what course of action needs to be taken there is self-explanatory."
Tuesday, Ms. Jones sent a letter to Ms. Garde stating that the bond was forfeited and reiterating the conditions of Mussa's banishment from Tisbury. Daniel Garde received a verbal warning from Ms. Clements about his dog. Ms. Clements said she will follow up with a written warning.