Tisbury select board chair Jeff Kristal has responded to police allegations he targeted a local businessman with a written statement calling The Times’ story “irresponsible.”
The response from Kristal came via email from town administrator Jay Grande, even though The Times reached out to Kristal as much as 24 hours prior to publishing the story by phone, email, and even showing up at the door of Crocker House Inn, where Kristal lives and works.
“Recently I spoke at this past town meeting about how we have become divisive on certain issues, be it the school, a town employee’s actions, or simply designating parking spots for pickup or takeout orders on Main Street. I believe in working through issues with a positive and informed attitude. I also believe that most appreciate that I am forthright in my positions and transparent, I am not wishy-washy, and have never been a fence sitter,” Kristal’s statement reads in part. “I strive to create an equitable playing field for everyone. I know that sometimes an individual might be considered a good person or well-liked in the community, and while I do not necessarily disagree, I have an obligation not to overlook any facet of local government. This includes life safety codes, parking regulations, or illicit connections to the wastewater system. Likewise, I don’t think telling town staff or departments to enforce established laws, rules, and regulations is targeting anyone, irrespective of who the individual might be. I believe the allegations by the paper are irresponsible.”
The story detailed a report written by Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio about his investigation, which was initially prompted by Kristal. According to the report, which was released July 5 after a public records request, Kristal approached Saloio on July 29, 2020, to report a verbal altercation with Elio Silva, owner of Bobby B’s, a takeout restaurant at 22 Main St. Kristal alleged that Silva made profane comments about the town and police, which Silva has denied in an interview with The Times.
The following day, July 30, 2020, Kristal allegedly approached a traffic officer and in profanity-laced comments told him to target Silva and Bobby B’s customers with tickets, according to Saloio’s report. Saloio met with Kristal, and told him not to approach staff directly and instead to bring any traffic complaints to him as chief.
In an interview with The Times, Silva said he was unaware that Kristal had attempted to have him targeted, but he wasn’t surprised. He called Kristal a “bully.”
The story has prompted dozens of comments from readers, some of them recounting their own interactions with Kristal they also described as bullying behavior.
“I have been a resident of the Island for many years. As a resident of Tisbury, I care deeply about our community, the people that live and work here, and I am extremely honored to serve the residents of the town of Tisbury,” Kristal’s statement reads. “I enjoy helping people, working through issues to get solutions, and giving back to the community that has given so much to me. I take my role as an elected official seriously. I do my homework, and I do more than just show up at meetings. I put in time to represent the town of Tisbury 24/7. I meet with year-round residents, summer residents, business people, taxpayers, and nontaxpayers all the time, and listen to their concerns at any time of day and night.”
The Times has attempted to ask Kristal questions on multiple occasions since one of his former colleagues, Melinda Loberg, alleged that Kristal attempted to keep quiet the issue of illegal pumping of groundwater from the Mansion House into the town’s wastewater treatment plant. He hasn’t returned calls, texts, or emails.
“Concerns that mean little to someone living off-Island but is what gives us the quality of life we enjoy here on-Island,” Kristal’s statement continues. “Parking issues, speeding concerns, blight, noise, and how to navigate the red tape of a permitting process. I make no excuses for being proactive and speaking directly, and have always been respectful and empathetic. I am goal-oriented, and will push to see that things get done. I have tried to improve the safety and quality of life we enjoy here in our community.”
Kristal concludes, “I respect the process in which my jurisdiction, duties, and responsibilities fall. I do not believe my view varies very much from others that have been elected or appointed that are committed to public service.”
The statement comes just two days after the board held a special meeting to appoint Christopher Habekost as interim police chief, a move that hastened Saloio’s departure. Saloio had announced his retirement effective Nov. 5.
In a Friday afternoon telephone interview, Grande shed little additional light on the subject. Grande had previously been consulted by Saloio on the parking matter, but he allegedly told the chief to talk with Kristal directly, according to Saloio’s report. Grande told The Times he was unaware of any ethics inquiry into Kristal.
“My sense — it in all likelihood did not rise to the level of an ethics violation,” Grande said. He indicated the town clerk would be among the town officials the commonwealth would inform if one was afoot. Town clerk Hillary Conklin couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Asked how the town itself might investigate an elected official such as a board chair, Grande said, “That’s a good question. I would have to consult with town counsel on that.”
Asked why he conveyed Kristal’s statement as opposed to Kristal doing it himself, Grande said, “He forwarded it to me to submit it to The MV Times.”
Grande was asked why he had not initiated an inquiry himself, based on the possibility of intimidation or a coercive act: “I don’t think it rose to that level, based on my conversation with Chief Saloio. If it did, I assure you, Chief Saloio would have followed through.”
Grande also said human resources coordinator Pam Bennett would have informed him of something meriting such an inquiry. Bennett couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Reporter Rich Saltzberg contributed to this story. Story updated to include comments from Grande.