A member of the Tisbury select board was accused of using his office in an attempt to target a Main Street business owner, according to a police report obtained by The Times through a public records request.
Jeff Kristal, who was recently elected the board’s chair, reportedly approached Traffic Officer Sam Koohy on July 30, 2020, and asked him to “f______ write parking tickets in front of [Bobby B’s],” a report written by Police Chief Mark Saloio states.
According to Saloio’s report, Kristal approached him the day before, and alerted the chief to a verbal disagreement he had with Elio Silva, the owner of Bobby B’s at 22 Main St. Kristal allegedly told Saloio the dispute was over 15-minute parking signs on Main Street.
Throughout the report, Saloio spells Kristal’s name incorrectly. The Times is putting the correct spelling in brackets when quoting from the chief’s report.
“[Kristal] stated that Elio told him ‘f___ the town of Tisbury’ and ‘f___ the Tisbury Police,” the report states. “[Kristal] stated that Elio remarked he had parked his car there for six hours, specifically to see if he would be issued a parking ticket, and he wasn’t issued a ticket. [Kristal] then stated he wanted the police to ticket Elio’s vehicle, which he reported as a ‘Tesla’ with ‘Vineyard Grocer’ markings on the side of it.”
Kristal allegedly told the chief he would email other town entities and have them look into Bobby B’s. “I informed [Kristal] that he may not want to put those types of instructions in writing via email,” Saloio wrote.
According to the report, the following day, Kristal approached Koohy and made his demand about writing parking tickets outside Bobby B’s. “Koohy stated [Kristal] told him to go after the owner of the business and to ticket his customers,” the report states. Koohy went on to inform
Saloio that he was disturbed by Kristal’s comments, and that he had previously had a similar type of conflict with him when he worked for a Vineyard Haven business.
“Subsequently, I obtained a written statement from Koohy pertaining to his allegations,” Saloio wrote. “I also met with [town administrator Jay] Grande and advised him of this information, noting that it was a possible ethics violation. Grande did not indicate any type of clear plan or direction concerning this information. He referred me to meet with [Kristal] directly.”
Reached by phone, Silva said he’s not surprised about the allegations against Kristal. He remembered several confrontations with Kristal, whom he described as a “bully.”
Silva denies making the comments about the town and police. “I did tell [Kristal] to f___ himself,” Silva said. “He tried to bully me. He’s trying to tell me how to run my business, and I run my business.”
Silva said the disputes with Kristal have been over the outdoor seating in front of Bobby B’s and the 15-minute parking spaces. He said Kristal has pushed for longer times for parking, Silva thinks to help the Mansion House Inn. “He does what he can to benefit the Mansion House because they’re buddies,” Silva said.
This is not the first time Kristal has been accused of using his position to benefit the hotel. When it was uncovered that the Mansion House had been illegally pumping as much as 25,000 gallons of groundwater per day into the town’s wastewater treatment plant, former select board member Melinda Loberg told The Times Kristal asked that it be kept quiet to give the hotel time to fix the issue.
Kristal has not responded to phone messages or an email over two days. An attempt to talk to him at his business, Crocker House Inn, on Tuesday and Wednesday was also unsuccessful. A young woman who answered the door Wednesday said she would check Kristal’s availability, and then returned to say he would not come to the door. It’s been months since Kristal has responded to any inquiry from The Times.
Town administrator Jay Grande returned from vacation Wednesday morning, but was also unavailable. He did not return a call seeking comment.
Last August, just two weeks after his run-in with Kristal, Silva was blocked by the select board from getting his common victualer’s license at Vineyard Grocer. During that meeting, Kristal made a motion to approve the license, and then surprised his colleagues by voting no. He pointed to fire safety as his reason. Select board member Larry Gomez then joined in, saying it was a way to “prove a point” to Silva.
The issue over the common victualer’s license dragged on for months because Silva couldn’t get a final inspection done for his alarm system. At the time, Silva pointed out that the verbal altercation with Kristal was at play in how the board was handling his situation, but he didn’t know the levels Kristal allegedly went to to single him out.
“I know Jeff is a sleazebag, but asking the police to target me?” Silva said. “Other people have come to me and said they’ve also been bullied by Kristal. He’ll bully just about anybody.”
As for Koohy, Silva said he was appreciative that the traffic officer stepped forward and told the chief about Kristal’s demand. “It’s very disturbing,” Silva said of Kristal. “He always tries to use his public office for his own agenda.”
In his meeting with Saloio, Kristal denied making those comments to Koohy, and alleged that the traffic officer had a previous run-in with him while he was a manager for a Vineyard Haven business that Kristal said hired illegal workers. “I told [Kristal] that I specifically had Koohy submit a written statement, sworn under the pains and penalties of perjury, because I understood the potential seriousness of his allegations, and Koohy did so without hesitation,” Saloio wrote.
Saloio concluded his report stating that he didn’t think anything formal should be done about Kristal’s actions. “I merely wanted to make him aware of the allegations, and ask him to please refrain from approaching my staff member directly pertaining to any parking concerns he may have,” the report states.
It’s notable that Saloio’s own relationship with the town soured, and he was only offered a last-ditch one-year contract from the select board. He has decided to retire instead.
After The Times issued the public records request for the incident involving Kristal and the traffic officer, the select board scheduled a special meeting for July 7 to consider Chris Habekost as interim chief of police, despite Saloio’s original intention to remain chief through Nov. 6.
July 29, 2020: Jeff Kristal reports a verbal altercation with Elio Silva, owner of Bobby B’s, to Police Chief Mark Saloio.
July 30, 2020: Traffic Officer Sam Koohy reports to Saloio that Kristal approached him and told him to target Silva and Bobby B’s patrons for tickets.
Unspecified date: Saloio meets with Kristal to discuss the allegation by Koohy.
August 11, 2020: Silva’s other business, Vineyard Grocer, is on the select board agenda for consideration of a common victualer’s license. Kristal makes a motion to approve, but then votes no, and his fellow board members also vote no.
June 28, 2021: The Times requests the police report about an elected official interfering with the duties of a traffic officer under public records law.
July 2, 2021: The Tisbury select board schedules a special meeting for July 7, with the appointment of Chris Habekost as interim chief the only item on the agenda.
July 6, 2021: The town releases the report involving Kristal.