Updated Feb. 28
After a second meeting with command staff at the fire department, the town has advertised a position for an interim fire and EMS chief following the departure of embattled Fire Chief John Rose.
At a selectmen’s meeting Tuesday, town administrator Robert Whritenour informed selectmen there has been “serious interest” in the position, which would run for two to six months. Applications for the position are due on March 2.
The town has begun the search for a new chief after Rose resigned from the department on Jan. 31, following a dramatic meeting of the board of selectmen where the board released a statement about the chief, disclosed he had been suspended previously for 21 days, acknowledged an ongoing FBI investigation, and released executive session minutes that showed a divide among board members about Rose and his ability to lead the fire department.
As part of a separation agreement, Rose will be paid a $65,882.70 lump sum. That amounts to half a year’s pay, because Rose was earning $131,736 at the time of his resignation. In addition to the lump sum Rose, is entitled to his full retirement benefits.
In January, the town also confirmed it had settled a $97,500 lawsuit with Cynthia Hatt, a former fire department employee who accused Rose of making sexual advances and then retaliating against her when she rejected them. In exchange for the payment, Hatt withdrew a complaint before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and a lawsuit she filed in Barnstable Superior Court.
In both, Hatt disclosed that she had a consensual relationship with Rose. After a breakup, she alleges, Rose persisted in his pursuit of her, and took away overtime in retaliation.
The FBI and a grand jury are also looking into the fire department’s ambulance billing. In October, the town revealed that it had overcharged Medicare and Medicaid by $37,505.
Whritenour informed selectmen the job had been posted on the Massachusetts Municipal Association website, in addition to local advertising.
Whirtenour has met with fire department staff and members of the IAFF union.
“We do have a solid command staff in place, led by Deputy Chief Manuel Rose and First Lt. Matthew Bradley, who are doing a lot of work from the EMS side and the fire side,” Whritenour said.
Consultant George Baker, a former Mashpee fire chief, has also supported the town in the transition.
Once an interim chief is hired, board chairman Brian Packish said, the two- to six-month timeframe of the position will give the town and the fire department time to establish a clear set of job descriptions for a permanent fire chief.
“Hopefully that buys us enough time to then have a conversation [about]: What does the overall leadership look like? What are the roles and responsibilities? How do we realign?” Packish said.
In other business, design development for a renovated town hall continues with Icon Architecture. Icon will hold a public forum with selectmen on March 4 at 5 pm in the Oak Bluffs town hall meeting room to review design options and take input from residents.
After the attempt to build a new town hall failed when bids came in over budget, the town is using a construction manager at risk (CMAR) to work with Icon to come up with a maximum project cost in advance of annual town meeting on April 14. Bids for the CMAR are due on Feb. 27 at 2 pm.
Selectman Michael Santoro said he was interested in being the town’s representative to the Vineyard long-range transportation task force after a discussion with Steamship Authority general manager Robert Davis and special counsel Steve Sayers.
The task force would explore and make recommendations on longer-term initiatives as well as traffic and logistics. The task force would include two members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, two members of the Dukes County Commission, two Oak Bluffs representatives, two Tisbury representatives, two Falmouth representatives, Davis and Sayers as the SSA representatives, and potentially, two New Bedford representatives. Recommendations from the task force would go directly to the port council and the SSA board.
Corrected to add March 4 meeting in the Oak Bluffs town hall meeting room. —Ed.