Last week, Tisbury town administrator Jay Grande took the rare approach of issuing a press release to criticize our reporting on the David Thrift case. Grande knew the story was coming for months. We made our first request for public records 14 months ago. We asked town leaders for comment as we were reporting this story. When we asked acting Police Chief Chris Habekost for comment, he said he had to clear it with Grande before he spoke to reporter Rich Saltzberg. Habekost never got the OK.
What the public should understand is that Grande did not attack the facts. There was no request for a correction or clarification. Everything in that 5,000-plus word story (it could have been longer) was true and shameful.
In his press release, Grande calls our reporting “contemptible and dangerous.”
You know what’s contemptible and dangerous?
- Fighting a news organization on public records for months, using tactics of obfuscation and obstruction.
- Providing an estimate of charges for those public records — $2,901.60 — that is far beyond what is allowed under state law. The purpose, we can only imagine, was to dissuade us from pressing forward.
- Spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on legal fees to fight a news organization on legitimate public records.
- To never issue a public apology to the mother of three children and the nanny the town’s police officers left in a house alone after reporting a sexual assault, resulting in another sexual assault.
Sorry, Mr. Grande, you’re going to have to do more than change a few job titles in the police department to win back the public’s trust in you and the department. We’re just months removed from one of the department’s officers arresting the wrong individual on a warrant because he thought the man had a “distinctive gait.” In that story, we also learned that the officer involved had a serious lapse in judgment with a gun in another town, yet Tisbury still hired him. And while he was a member of the Tisbury department, he misled his superiors about the gun incident. What has Mr. Grande done with that officer? Officer Jeff Day has been promoted to sergeant.
Shall we go on? Where’s the missing Glock, Mr. Grande? The one that your former chief, Dan Hanavan, and former officer, Tim Stobie, can’t account for. The one owned by the taxpayers of Tisbury. When then Chief Mark Saloio brought this to your attention and suggested an independent investigation, you took a hard pass — ON A MISSING GUN.
That kind of failure is “contemptible and dangerous.”
You know what else is “contemptible and dangerous?” Not sticking up for your police department when a member of the elected select board attempts to bully a traffic officer into writing tickets. You sent the police chief in to do the dirty work of telling select board member Jeff Kristal to back off, and then didn’t back up that chief.
Mr. Grande, if you and the select board are hearing only praise about the police department, we’d suggest you get out of your echo chamber inside town hall and actually speak to members of the community. That is, if you can take time out of your busy schedule preparing the town’s defense of two federal lawsuits from two women — Kindia Roman and Danielle Clermont — who allege they were targeted because their sexual orientation. Those lawsuits follow on the heels of a federal lawsuit you lost because you allowed Saloio to fire Lt. Eerik Meisner. You can say you would have won, but didn’t want to prolong the case. Here are the facts: You had to pay Meisner $400,000 in a settlement. That’s a loss for the taxpayers. That kind of poor management is “contemptible and dangerous.”
So perhaps instead of blaming the messenger, answer the question that the story poses: “What has the Tisbury Police Department, which has long been troubled, done to ensure such a calamity never happens again?”
Show us the training.
Show us the policies and procedures that have been instituted.
Show us the letter of apology to the ex-wife of David Thrift and her children, who will likely deal with a lifetime of angst about what happened that night 10 years ago. Show us the letter of apology sent to the nanny who was raped that night because three officers failed to protect and serve. (It’s never too late to say you’re sorry.)
It was John Adams who said, “Facts are stubborn things.” As we said from the outset, Grande is not disputing the facts in the story. Just that it was reported at all.
To that we say: Stop whining about your “bad press” and do something about it.