Wednesday night, Dukes County Commissioners reaffirmed their support for Jim Malkin, the representative to the Steamship Authority they appointed in March to replace outgoing board member Marc Hanover.
Following a report Malkin gave the commissioners on May 6 in which he erroneously described the votes of board members Kathryn Wilson (Falmouth) and Moira Tierney (New Bedford), and later apologized for doing so, the new chairman of the SSA board was excoriated in an open SSA meeting on May 12. Tierney leveled particularly harsh and lengthy criticism.
Asked by The Times if they believed the rebuke Malkin got was justified, commissioners said it wasn’t.
“You can say whatever you want about the mistakes that were made, and there clearly were, and he apologized for them,” commissioner Keith Chatinover said. “If I got lambasted for half an hour at the beginning of a meeting, I would not feel very well supported by a group who are also really my colleagues. I can’t imagine any professional scenario where that’s appropriate.”
Commissioner Christine Todd backed Malkin fully. “I have to say I support our appointed official to the Steamship [Authority],” she said. “I think he’s instrumental in pointing out some issues that may be uncomfortable for the current board to be publicly discussing.”
She went on to say she believed differences could have been handled a better way. “I have faith that he is working in the best interests of his constituents here on Martha’s Vineyard,” she said. “You know there’s a learning curve with everything, and maybe he’s experiencing some of that, but I have absolutely no doubt that he is the best person for the job. When you have an issue or a disagreement with someone, there are ways to handle it that, in my opinion, are professional and mature, adult ways to handle it. And I think that the Steamship Authority representatives that disagreed with Jim have every right to feel the way they do, but there are ways to address it where it is more respectful and productive.”
Representative John Cahill said he thought the commission should speak in a unified voice through the chair on this and other matters.
Chair Tristan Israel threw support behind Malkin, and said he’s doing what commissioners and Vineyarders expect of him.
“I think we voted to appoint Mr. Malkin as the Island’s representative to the Steamship Authority based on his credentials, his résumé,” Israel said. “And we also appointed him not to go there and just continue the status quo with regard to the Island of Martha’s Vineyard. And I think, yes, there is a learning curve for our representative, but I hope that he will continue to take a hard look at the issues surrounding the Steamship Authority, and advocate for not only for the Steamship Authority but for the Island of Martha’s Vineyard.”
Israel went on to say issues have come to light that demand Malkin’s scrutiny. “And some of the things that have come to light in the past months, to me, with regard to the Steamship Authority, are eye-opening,” he said. “You know, there were things that were going on prior to Mr. Malkin being there … they were things I found disturbing, and I’m glad that Jim is taking them on and looking at those issues. He was put into that position in the middle of a maelstrom, if I can use that word. I think he’s doing a good job, and I support him entirely … He may have to adjust to the board that he’s on, but the board also needs to understand Mr. Malkin and who he represents. And I still think the Island is behind Mr. Malkin 100 percent.”
In other business, the commissioners appointed former Dukes County commissioner Bob Zeltzer to the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission. Zeltzer, a former candidate for the appointment, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, and wasn’t present at the meeting. Zeltzer will take the place of Fred Fourner, who was appointed to fill a vacancy but later resigned. Per a letter he sent commissioners, Fournier bowed out to focus on his landscaping company during the pandemic, and because he believed he would be a more effective advocate for the Airport Business Park by staying on as president of its tenants’ association.
“I’m very happy,” airport commission chair Bob Rosenbaum later said. “I’ve known Bob for a long time. I have great respect for him, for his business acumen, his common sense. And I think he’ll be a great addition to the airport commission.”