Peter Martell threatens new lawsuit against Oak Bluffs


Former Oak Bluffs fire department official Peter Martell successfully sued the town of Oak Bluffs following his dismissal from the fire department. In a letter to the selectmen discussed briefly Tuesday night, Mr. Martell said the town has not complied with a court order to reinstate him to his position and threatened to file suit.

The case has been costly for the cash-strapped town. In a decision May 11, a Dukes County Superior Court judge ordered the town of Oak Bluffs to reimburse Mr. Martell $35,736 for legal fees.

The case began when fire chief Pete Forend dismissed Mr. Martell, then the town’s fire inspector and also emergency management director. Mr. Forend claimed Mr. Martell was insubordinate at two fires in the winter and spring of 2008. The town also claimed that Mr. Martell misappropriated $100 in funds from fire department accounts, a claim the judge later ruled was a clerical error.

In her original ruling on June 1, 2010, Judge Tina S. Page held that neither of those claims was substantiated, and neither was a cause for termination, even if they had been substantiated. She ordered Mr. Martell reinstated to his former position and rank, awarded back pay of $2,000, and ordered the town to pay his legal fees.

In the two-page letter dated July 19, Mr. Martell said Chief Forend will not honor his rank, has not restored his radio call sign, and that he is not allowed to attend officer’s meetings, and not allowed to be involved in any firefighting operations.

“It appears that the fire chief cannot adjust to the fact that he lost the case,” Mr. Martell wrote. “It also appears I am being harassed. If this continues I have no choice but to send this information to my attorney and file another case with the court.”

Mr. Martell also said he will inform the U.S. Attorney General and Massachusetts Inspector General about what he charges are irregularities in fire department spending. Mr. Martell charges the department is using grant money inappropriately.

At Tuesday’s selectmen’s meeting, several selectmen said they had not yet read the letter. Selectmen took no action.

On Wednesday, chairman Kathy Burton said she forwarded the letter to Chief Forend, who is drafting a response. She said the town will then consult its labor attorney.