Tisbury strikes deal with fired police officer

Ms. Kershaw (left, seated at table) at a June 10 disciplinary hearing. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The town of Tisbury agreed to pay former police officer Kelly Kershaw an additional seven weeks of pay following a vote to terminate her employment, in exchange for Ms. Kershaw’s agreement not to pursue any other legal action against the town, according to a settlement agreement.

As part of the agreement, made public this week in response to requests from The Times, police Chief Dan Hanavan agreed to withdraw a criminal complaint against Ms. Kershaw, following her May 9 arrest on charges she interfered with firefighters trying to extinguish a fire at her home and threatened to kill two fellow police officers, according to police reports.

Ms. Kershaw agreed to withdraw a union grievance disputing her termination, and withdraw an unfair labor practice charge filed with the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations.

The agreement did not require Ms. Kershaw to drop her lawsuit against the town, town officials, and police officials, alleging employment discrimination and retaliation for pursuing legal action in previous, unrelated disputes with the department. That lawsuit is still pending in Dukes County Superior Court.

According to the terms of the agreement, on August 1, Ms. Kershaw was placed on unpaid administrative leave with no benefits and prohibited from acting as a police officer in any capacity. If Ms. Kershaw files an application for a disability retirement, she would remain on unpaid administrative leave until the Dukes County Regional Retirement Board rules on her application. If the board denies her application, Ms. Kershaw agreed to voluntarily resign from the department.

As part of the agreement, the town agreed to give potential employers asking about her record a neutral reference.

The agreement declares the settlement is not an admission of fault, liability, wrongdoing, or unlawful conduct on the part of either the town or Ms. Kershaw.

The details of the termination are included in a settlement agreement obtained by The Times following several months of requests to the town for the public document. The selectmen convened in executive session Tuesday, when they decided to make the agreement public.

The selectmen voted unanimously to fire Ms. Kershaw at a disciplinary hearing on June 10, held behind closed doors. The cause for dismissal, according to town officials, was that Ms. Kershaw left Tisbury on multiple occasions, for long periods of time, during her scheduled shifts, in violation of police department policy.