Hours after The Times reported about an incident involving Tisbury select board chair Jeff Kristal allegedly ordering a traffic officer to target a business owner and his customers, he was at a select board meeting where he joked about being a bully.
The lights were off inside the Emergency Services Facility where the board was about to meet, and an individual suggested they be turned on so that the board members wouldn’t look like criminals in photographs. “You mean bullies,” Kristal deadpanned.
There is nothing funny about an alleged ethical lapse and being called a bully by a prominent business owner in the community.
Things are coming to light in Tisbury, and it doesn’t reflect well on the select board, the police department, or town government. There’s plenty of smoke, and where there’s smoke, there’s often fire.
We’ve heard about Kristal’s behavior in the past anecdotally, but this is the first time it was documented in an official police report with a sworn statement from an officer, under the pains and penalty of perjury. Kristal’s actions can’t and shouldn’t be tolerated.
When he couldn’t get the traffic officer to do his bidding, Kristal took matters into his own hands. Follow the timeline:
July 29, 2020: 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.
Soon after, but at unspecified times, 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. He cast his vote and said he voted against the permit because of public safety. But select board member Larry Gomez said it was “to prove a point.”
All of this happened around the same time he was trying to keep the illegal pumping of groundwater from the Mansion House into the town’s wastewater treatment plant hush-hush.
An elected public official shouldn’t have different sets of rules for different people.
Fast-forward to late June 2021, for yet another demonstration of Kristal pushing his own agenda.
On June 28, 2021: The select board meets for the first time since the town election. Kristal is elected chairman. The board discusses the next meeting date of July 13. That same day, The Times makes a public records request for a police report having to do with 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.
July 7, 2021: The select board appoints Habekost, essentially terminating Saloio — the author of the report about Kristal — four months early. Saloio, whose relationship soured with the town to the point that he was offered only a one-year contract, retired instead, but had offered to stay through Nov. 5. He was put on administrative leave in good standing.
So essentially, for the second time in three years, the town is paying for two police chiefs at the same time.
Gomez would have us all believe that the problems with the police department end with the appointment of Habekost.
Without a change in leadership in Tisbury town government, we think the problems have only just begun, and we are certain there are other issues we’ve yet to uncover.
Kristal’s behavior with Silva and the traffic officer was inappropriate, and town administrator Jay Grande knew about it. Saloio went to Grande, his direct boss, and asked for his guidance. Grande told him to handle it on his own.
It’s time for an independent investigation of the town and the department. Are you watching, Attorney General Maura Healy? Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe, shouldn’t you find out what happened to the missing gun inside the police department?
In his statement released Friday — through Grande — Kristal talks a good game about working hard for all of the people of Tisbury. He talks about being transparent. He talks about being available to answer questions and concerns. “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.”
Really? For months The Times has attempted to call, text, and email Kristal about town issues. And when this serious issue arose, we even showed up at Crocker House Inn, where Kristal works and lives.
He has ducked and dodged and made himself unavailable.
President Harry S. Truman had a famous saying: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Kristal has brought that heat on himself by his actions. We doubt he’ll resign, so it will be up to voters to remove him from office.