MCAD complaint publicity irks Tisbury leaders
In response to news coverage of a complaint filed by Tisbury police officer Kelly R. Kershaw with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), various town leaders have reacted with a combination of caution, irritation, and anger.
On April 28, copies of Officer Kershaw's complaint were delivered to the town of Tisbury, the Tisbury Police Department, and Sergeant Timothy Stobie, who is named in the complaint. Ms. Kershaw alleges that in addition to sexual harassment by Sgt. Stobie, she was subject to a pattern of harassment and work actions not applied to male officers.
Ms. Kershaw also alleged that Chief John Cashin and town administrator John Bugbee ignored a written request dated October 26, 2008, asking town officials to address her complaints.
In her complaint she said a promised interview with Chief Cashin, in connection with an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing she described as an attempt to force her to quit her job, also never took place.
After the town received the complaint, on April 30 selectman Tristan Israel asked John Bugbee, who was due to leave on vacation, to write a statement for the town that he could bring to the board for approval.
In response to inquiries by The Martha's Vineyard Times on May 5 about the complaint, the Tisbury selectmen approved the town statement that night but instructed the assistant town administrator to only provide it on request.
Upset at the publication of a May 7 news article, "Tisbury officer files MCAD charge," Chief Cashin called The Martha's Vineyard Times to ask which member of his department was the source of the story. He also issued a department bulletin banning members of his department from talking to the media.
Prior to the selectmen's meeting on Tuesday, May 5, Mr. Israel, newly elected as board chairman, told The Martha's Vineyard Times there would be no comment on the specifics of the complaint because it is under investigation. But he said that the selectmen would be issuing a statement shortly, after meeting as a board to discuss the issue.
At the meeting, Mr. Israel and selectman Jeffrey Kristal met for the first time with Geoghan Coogan, who was elected selectman on April 28. At the close of the regular meeting, the selectmen went into executive session, and approved the statement Mr. Bugbee had drafted before leaving on vacation.
"Although this is an internal personnel matter, the Town will cooperate fully with the Commission and their investigation," Mr. Bugbee wrote in the statement, dated May 6. "There is a clear process for handling claims of this type of claim and we are now in the initial stages of that process. I speak for the entire Board of Selectmen when I say that the Town rejects any type of discrimination. We treat these claims very seriously and will handle this case accordingly."
Asked on Friday, May 8, why the town did not provide The Martha's Vineyard Times with a copy of the statement on Wednesday to be included in the news story he knew would be published on May 7, Mr. Israel said the three-paragraph, one-page document was not a press release to be sent out to the media, but rather a statement.