A former Tisbury Police sergeant alleges she was harassed in her department for being a Hispanic, gay woman. When she attempted to leave Tisbury, she alleges, a fellow officer foiled a job prospect for her at another police department. She also alleges after trying to return to her old job, she was frozen out, and the same officer had a hand in that.
Kindia Roman joined the Tisbury Police Department in 2014, was promoted to detective in 2015, and promoted to sergeant in 2016. A 2018 complaint, filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and aquired by The Times through a public records request, outlines Roman’s allegations of retaliation and discrimination based on gender, race, and sexual orientation. A 2018 internal police report echoes Roman’s complaint, and also highlights one or more alleged “sour grapes” attitudes in the aftermath of a police union leadership change. A 2017 internal complaint appears to corroborate insubordination Roman alleges she experienced while at the department.
The town denies Roman’s allegations. “It is against town policy to comment on active litigation,” town administrator Jay Grande emailed. “All I can say is that the town denies the harassment allegations brought by Ms. Roman.”
The primary target of the complaint, Sgt. Max Sherman, declined to comment. While Sherman is the focus, the names of others implicated by Roman appear in the complaint, but have been redacted.
In the complaint, Roman states the department hired Max Sherman, a “white straight male,” as a full-time officer in 2015. Based on their respective ranks during Roman’s time at the department, Sherman reported to Roman. However, her complaint alleges, “whenever I would tell him to do something, he would call someone else to see if I could tell him what to do.”
Roman further alleges, after Sherman attained the rank of detective, he “began harassing me with comments such as she ‘didn’t know what she was doing’ and that she got her job ‘only because the lieutenant knew me.’”
The lieutenant referred to is former Tisbury Police Lt. Eerik Meisner. Meisner was demoted and terminated, allegedly because he stood up for Roman, whom he previously worked with in a Florida police department. Meisner has an active $1.2 million federal lawsuit against the town of Tisbury and current Police Chief Mark Saloio. Roman goes on to allege Sherman and a trio of other officers, whose names are redacted, all “white straight males” in union leadership roles, made her life “impossible” until her departure from the department. She alleges, “These officers would disregard my direct orders, they would fail to assist me, they made comments that I wasn’t a good leader, that I didn’t deserve to be a sergeant, and would tell me that they didn’t have to listen to me during my tenure.”
Roman specifically alleges she “overheard Sherman refer to me as [expletive of anatomy] and ‘dyke.’”
She alleges these officers weren’t subject to consequences. “I would report this to [the lieutenant], who in turn would report it to the chief of police [Hanavan], but only one officer, [redacted], was terminated, but it was not due [to] his harassment to me.”
In her complaint, Roman states she learned of a job opportunity in the Walpole Police Department in late May 2018. She alleges she was prepared to leave her job in Tisbury “because of the continuous harassment.”
Roman states she went on to be interviewed by the Walpole Police Department. The interview was conducted by “a panel of five individuals, including the chief of police.” She states that interview “went well.” On June 11, 2018, Roman states she spoke with the Walpole Police Department’s deputy chief. That deputy chief’s name is redacted from the complaint. She states she asked the deputy chief if she should move forward with renting an apartment, and alleges the deputy chief said, “Go ahead.”
On July 12, Roman states, she had a second interview with a panel of four people. “During the interview, I was informed that there was information that was alarming about me in my background. Specifically I was asked to retell my girlfriend’s back history,” Roman alleges. The next two lines of text in the complaint are redacted. Roman states she asked if the panel had obtained the information from Sherman or an individual whose name is redacted.
Roman alleges the deputy chief refused to tell her who provided the information.
She alleges she made a records request regarding the matter, and Walpole refused to comply.
“It came to my attention that Max Sherman was boasting to other officers that it was he who had given the information about my partner, and that I was in a gay relationship,” her complaint alleges.
On July 19, Roman alleges, she received a call from a Walpole Police lieutenant informing her she wasn’t a candidate for the job anymore.
On July 24, Roman alleges she went back to Tisbury to try to get her old job back, “but the town decided to freeze positions, and it was documented that Sherman stated he would do anything to stop me from being rehired.”
The MCAD complaint was signed by Roman under the pains and penalties of perjury.
Roman declined comment on the MCAD complaint. Sherman did not reply to emails seeking comment, one of which specifically asked him to refute Roman’s allegations of harassment and retaliation. In a follow-up phone call, Sherman declined comment, and when asked if he might answer questions later, he said, “Probably not.”
Select board chair Melinda Loberg (now out of office) declined to comment on Roman or Sherman, as did select board member Jeff Kristal.
“It’s a legal matter,” select board member Jim Rogers said. “I can’t comment on that.” Rogers went on to say once it was resolved, he could speak on the matter.
A 2018 internal Tisbury Police complaint obtained by The Times sheds further light on Roman’s allegations. Written by Lt. Meisner, it outlines police union struggles and divisions within the department. At the time, Meisner had an application in for the chief’s position, as Chief Hanavan was poised to retire. The police union backed Meisner, but the town did not tap him to be a final candidate.
The report states Officer Andrew Silvia informed Meisner that “Detective Max Sherman had been involved in sabotaging the efforts of Kindia Roman to obtain employment with the Walpole Police Department.” The report states Silvia told Meisner he learned the information from Officer Nick Sidoti, who had “obtained it directly” from Sherman.
Silvia alleged, according to the report, that Sherman “had contacted the Walpole Police Department background investigators, and told them Sgt. Roman had staged a ‘coup’ in order to obtain the Local 419 Union presidency, an office Detective Sherman previously held. Officer Silvia alleged this information had been ‘instrumental in denying Sgt. Roman new employment opportunities.’”
The report indicates Roman told Meisner some corroborating information, specifically that Roman told Meisner she was fast-tracked for employment in Walpole, and had packed up on the Vineyard and moved to prepare for the new job.
“She then indicated she was suddenly informed that there had been ‘disturbing information’ found in her background which caused the Walpole Police Department to rescind their offer of employment,” the report states. “Sgt. Roman had been given positive reviews at work and an exemplary background from the town of Tisbury. Sgt. Roman indicated she believed either or both Detective Sherman and Officer Jeff Day had been involved in the providing of the ‘disturbing information’ involving a ‘coup’ of the union presidency. At the time of my conversation, she could not provide any information to support her beliefs.”
The report indicates Sidoti told Meisner that he’d been in the squad room talking about the situation that had befallen Roman with Officer Charles Duquette, and doing so in a “raised voice” to connote his displeasure with those circumstances. At one point he recalled saying someone had made a call to relay information. Sherman then came into the squad room, Sidoti reported, and said, “‘I told them, they contacted me, and I told them the truth,’” the report states. Sherman went on to say he’d been “removed” from the presidency of the union, the report states.
Sidoti recalled Sherman said “he was going to ‘fight’ any attempt to reinstate Sgt. Roman to the Tisbury Police Department.”
At some point Silvia told Meisner Sherman’s position on union events “was not factual,” and that Sherman lost his presidency through a vote, and meeting minutes reflect that.
On Aug. 8, the report states, Meisner met with then–Chief Daniel Hanavan and apprised him of the matter.
“We both agree if these allegations are factual that Detective Sherman has interfered with Sgt. Roman’s ability to obtain employment, and has provided information which is not truthful,” the report states. “This situation has the propensity to cause severe morale issues within the department if it is not addressed.”
Meisner requested the chief brief town administrator Jay Grande, and also talk with Walpole’s chief to see what could be confirmed. The next day, the report states, the chief [Hanavan] told Meisner it would be “interesting” to question Sherman, but that he would “leave that for the next chief to deal with.” The report states the chief went on to say, “He believed Detective Sherman has set himself up for legal trouble based on his conduct.”
On Aug. 10, the report states, Chief Hanavan informed Meisner he’d just returned from a meeting with Grande, where he was informed “Kindia Roman had been removed from the agenda for August 14, 2018, selectmen’s meeting.”
Hanavan could not be reached for comment.
As The Times previously reported, Roman came before the selectman at their next meeting, looking to return as a special police officer.
“The board was asked to consider appointing Kindia Roman as a special police officer. Roman had been a sergeant, but left the department for an off-Island job,” The Times reported. “Selectmen appeared to support the idea of appointing Roman, but delayed action until next Tuesday because of the town’s procedure for hiring special police officers, Loberg said. ‘I’m happy to see you back,’ Loberg was quoted as saying.
Former Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel, the current chair of the Dukes County Commissioners, said he couldn’t speak about Roman’s MCAD complaint, as he wasn’t privy to it. Generally speaking, he said, Roman attempted to return to a department he was trying to shrink.
“I wanted a smaller department,” he said. He also said he didn’t want to bring anyone aboard with a new chief coming — that he wanted the new chief to choose whom he wanted. “I was reluctant to bring anyone on at that point,” he said. “She was a very capable policewoman, as far as I know.”
The report went on to state Hanavan was told by Grande “that Ms. Roman would need to reapply just like anyone else in order to obtain employment at the police department,” and that no further information was given by Grande.
“Chief Hanavan then told me it was my responsibility to contact Ms. Roman and inform her of the decision,” the report states. “I inquired whether or not Mr. Grande or the chief were going to inform her in writing; the chief replied, ‘No, you are going to call her and tell her.’”
Upon phoning Roman, Meisner described her as “extremely upset,” and also perplexed. “She was under the impression, based on what Mr. Grande and the chief had told her, during a meeting between the three of them, she was going to be reappointed to her position with the Tisbury Police Department,” the report states. “She demanded to know what had taken place to change their minds. I informed Ms. Roman that I was not privy to their meeting, and did not know what had been actually discussed.”
The report notes Meisner asked Roman if she felt the allegation that Sherman sent negative information about her to Walpole was credible, and she said she did, based on a records request a lawyer had made.
The last entry of the report indicates Meisner received a call from Special Officer Brian Cioffi, who expressed his displeasure at what he understood the situation to be regarding Roman.
“He had heard what Detective Sherman had done to Sgt. Roman, and wanted to know how he, Sherman, had this much power/pull,” the report states. “He further iterated that it was unfair that Detective Sherman destroy someone’s career and chances of employment because he had lost a union election and was upset.”
Two months later, a federal complaint would be filed against Cioffi, based on allegations he inflicted emotional distress on a subordinate through a coercive sexual relationship when he was Chilmark’s police chief. The case was settled.
Meisner’s report ends there, and indicates it “will continue based on investigation.”
Saloio, who wasn’t chief when Roman’s MCAD allegations are said to have occurred, didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.
Reached by phone, Sidoti declined to comment on the spot, and said he would reach back out to The Times the next day. No call ever came. Silvia said he was “not at liberty to respond.” Duquette said he would have to check with his boss, but that it was unlikely he would call back.
Records indicate another officer was allegedly insubordinate to Roman — Mark Santon, a 25-year veteran of the department, terminated in December 2017. Santon proved problematic to Tisbury on several occasions. Independent and internal investigations revealed Santon to allegedly have exhibited “blatant disregard for the truth,” to have allegedly left a female prisoner unattended in a cruiser, whereupon she nearly killed herself, to have allegedly filed a false police report that triggered OUI charges against someone, to have spread false rumors, and pursuant to what Roman alleges, to have allegedly disobeyed Roman and made comments “detrimental to the sergeant’s leadership and morale of the department.”
A 2017 internal investigation by Chief Hanavan found that Santon allegedly manipulated reporting duties Roman assigned to officers following an auto sales dispute, and further found Santon allegedly lied about what he’d done when interviewed about it. Hanavan noted Santon questioned Roman’s choice to follow standard police practices.
“Later on during the call,” the report states, “Sergeant Roman directed SPO [Special Police Officer] Stobie to run a person’s check on the people involved at the scene, which is a standard police practice. Officer Santon made comments at the station to the special police officers that the whole thing could have been taken care of a lot faster, easier, and should not have taken so long. Making comments to special police officers about a supervisor’s performance is detrimental to the sergeant’s leadership and morale of the department. If Officer Santon had an issue with the way the call was handled, he should have brought up his concerns to Sergeant Roman in private, as any officer with Officer Santon’s years of experience should know. Officer Santon has been given a written warning in the past for making inappropriate comments about Sergeant Roman. In the past, Officer Santon appeared to be jealous of Sergeant Roman, who bypassed him in obtaining the rank of sergeant.”
The Times attempted to corroborate the allegations against Sherman with the Walpole Police Department. Page captures from previous versions of the department’s website indicate Deputy Chief Chris Mackenzie was the sole deputy chief of the department from 2017 to his resignation in 2019. It was a deputy police chief that Roman alleges told her she could secure an apartment, and later declined to tell her who passed information to the department.
Walpole Deputy Chief Richard Kelleher declined to comment on Mackenzie. Archived web pages indicate that among Deputy Chief Mackenzie’s duties was “hiring.” As has been widely reported, MacKenzie departed the department following what emerged as allegations of sexual assault. He had been a candidate for Seekonk Police chief. Earlier this year, he was charged with the sexual assault of a police officer.
Sherman remains an active police sergeant in Tisbury. Oak Bluffs resident Linda Carnegie, who said she’s known Sherman since he was born, described him as “a marvelous person and a great father — I’ve never known him to be anything but wonderful to women.”
Roman now works for the Westwood Police Department. Westwood Police Chief Jeffrey Silva said Roman, who has been there roughly a year, was “a top candidate out of over 200 applicants.” Chief Silva said he was “ecstatic to have someone of her qualities working here.” Silva described Roman as a “highly intelligent” and “highly credentialed” officer who gets along well with her fellow officers, and is well-liked in the community.
MCAD has not yet made a determination regarding Roman’s complaint.