Tisbury select board disobeys mask mandate

Grande gets $160k contract renewal.

The Tisbury select board met with town administrator Jay Grande Monday in person, but without masks – an apparent violation of the town's mask indoor mask mandate. -Rich Saltzberg

The Tisbury select board convened for a special meeting in the Emergency Services Building Monday afternoon. The event was a departure from the Zoom meetings that have dominated Tisbury and other local governments since the advent of the pandemic, because it was an in-person gathering. A performance review for town administrator Jay Grande was the sole item on the agenda. 

After reviewing Grande publicly and then deliberating and voting in executive session, the select board gave Grande a three-year contract at $160,000 per year.

Select board chair Jeff Kristal, select board member Larry Gomez, and Grande went maskless for the entirety of the initial 28-minute regular session. Select board member Roy Cutrer, who was slightly tardy, entered wearing a mask, but took it off a few minutes into the session. After the board adjourned to enter executive session and reconvened, Grande had donned a mask. Cutrer and Gomez were maskless, and Kristal had a mask dangling from one ear.

The Tisbury board of health issued an indoor mask mandate on Aug. 17. The mask mandate encompasses all public buildings or private buildings open to the public. 

The mandate remains in effect, according to Tisbury health agent Maura Valley. Kristal acknowledged it was in effect when asked by The Times at the close of the meeting. 

Cutrer donned a mask shortly after The Times asked about the mandate. “I’m happy to put my mask on,” Cutrer said.

Kristal said his excuse was he was drinking coffee.

Gomez noted select board members were six feet apart. He also said he had all his shots.

Kristal added, “You can’t drink coffee through a mask.”

Throughout the two sessions, Kristal took few sips from his coffee.

It’s unclear what, if any, consequences the board could face for meeting without masks. A written warning is the penalty given for a first offense in the board of health’s mandate notice. 

In the spirit of transparency, Kristal said the board would give Grande his review in public session. Gomez was disinclined to do so, and said he would reserve his comments for executive session. Kristal said executive session was reserved for deliberation about Grande’s contract.

Grande told Gomez he needed the feedback, and asked if Gomez would illustrate what his goals and priorities were so Grande could measure himself against those.

Gomez focused his comments on Beach Road, and said it looked like the town had a good handle on the project now. He described Beach Road as being his No. 1 priority since 2012. 

“I think the state has probably been bullying us into doing certain things or wanting us to do certain things that are not conducive to that road,’ Gomez said. 

Nevertheless, Gomez said, Grande and DPW director Kirk Metell have gotten control of the situation. He also said his inquiries about the project don’t go unanswered. “I feel comfortable when I ask you a question that I’m going to get an answer within three or four days,” Gomez said. He clarified that the delay was due to the turnaround time getting answers from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. 

Gomez said he was pleased with the symmetry of the layout of the Beach Road project, though he noted there may be some issues with abutters that could threaten the road symmetry. He encouraged Grande to communicate with those abutters to make sure the roadway symmetry is maintained. 

“I like the job you’re doing,” Cutrer told Grande. Cutrer added that there were “a lot of improvements” that could be made. Cutrer referenced “our issue with some of the media on the Island.” He suggested, “Instead of us being irritated with some of the media,” that the town stop doing things that will attract reporting. 

“I think that’s kind of your department — to give us direction,” Cutrer said. “I think we have a lot of open issues.”

Cutrer cited “the police chief issue,” which he said he took action on when he joined the board. He added, “That issue just went away.”

“I think we all need, I think the people in town need — want to know — what is the plan for the Tisbury Police Department, the Tisbury Police chief? Are we sticking with the direction that we’re headed? Are we planning on hiring a chief?”

Cutrer said people ask him such questions in town. He said a plan was needed. He warned that whatever needs to get done, it won’t get done in six months, which may have been an allusion to the six-month interim appointment Christopher Habekost has as chief of police.

Curter said the select board was involved in places “where we should not be involved.” He said “there should be lines” between the select board and other Tisbury committees and boards. 

“When there is a member of a select board on a committee,” he said, “that board member has more power on that committee than everyone else at that table.”

Cutrer summed up saying, “Mainly I really feel that the people in the town of Tisbury are upset and bewildered with the board.” He added that included being upset with Grande too. “Because of the press that we’re getting, and that’s our fault. We need to fix that. We need to stop doing things; we need to stop saying things that give them something to write about.”

Kristal characterized Grande’s past two years as “COVID-related,” and gave Grande “high marks” for “crisis management” during that period: “You’ve been able to articulate the changes that have been coming down to staff that have been coming down from both the state level and the local-level boards of health, which are a separate board from the select board.”

Kristal lauded Grande for executing outdoor town meetings, and for his “empathetic” management style.

Kristal described Grande as “a big instrument” in the success of the $55 million Tisbury School vote, and the success in getting a $5 million paving bond passed at town meeting. Kristal congratulated Grande for pulling together the police union contract. In years past, that contract hadn’t been forged in a timely manner, Kristal noted.

Kristal described the current police department as “an A-team that continues to move us forward.”

Kristal said Grande has been diligent in securing grants, and noted he landed a $400,000 grant over the weekend.

Kristal said Grande had in the past “challenges and tasks” associated with being personnel director and having to be town administrator too. That Grande opted to shift some duties to Pam Bennett, the town’s human resources coordinator, Kristal said, was a credit to his work.

“I’m not enamored with two things that we have going on here,” Kristal said, “consultants and attorneys, OK? Not enamored with some of the slow-walking consultants we have. I’m not going to name names, but I think you know who I’m talking about.” 

Kristal mentioned “Main Street, et cetera,” and “wastewater,” as being subject to sluggish consultancy. 

“We’ve got some great attorneys,” he said. “We just need to make sure we light a fire under them, and we need to become the priority.”

Kristal said successes to date with the Tisbury School, the paving, and Beach Road aren’t the end of the road for the projects. He reminded Grande he must monitor all of them.

“The police department,” Kristal said, “I hate to say it, but I’ve been around for many years, the police department is in the best shape it has been in that I can remember — in 25 years. We have turned the corner. And just because you don’t read about it in the press, everybody out there knows it. I hit people up in the street, I hit past selectmen, I hit past management, I hit past employees — there wasn’t anyone that said anything bad, that they wanted Jay Grande to go and that he didn’t perform this year. You performed. And I think you’ve been doing a great job.”

Grande said he “concurred” with all the comments the select board made. Grande said he was pleased to “take the positive and the negative” that come with his job. He said all roads in town lead to his office. 

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this town,” he said, and to move it forward into the 21st century.

Grande said accomplishments thus far aren’t by his hand alone — “it took a lot of people working together.”


  1. Just another example of the people running Tisbury’s government sense of entitlement! They think they are above the laws/rules they expect everyone else to follow.

  2. Rich, that video is amazing. You’re a legend.
    Call them out on not being in compliance and watch them run away!

  3. How delusional can one board be, it is painfully obvious that the only reason the “big instrument” Grande got his new fat contract is because he and the chair of the board are buddies. One cannot imagine anyone getting anything but poor to marginal marks for the mind numbing chaos that is Tisbury government. Larry once again is unable to process basic information, like wear a mask and know what’s going on. It also appears that Mr. Cutrer might be faltering here… it’s not ‘stop saying things’ the news paper can right about, it’s called do THE RIGHT THING AND THEN WHEN THE NEWSPAPER WRITES ABOUT YOU ITS GOOD! This board is so flawed it just needs to be removed! It also needs to publicly apologize for being flippant regarding health safety measures during a pandemic! At least we know if Gomez bites anyone he’s had his shots and can be quarantined at home instead of the Tisbury pound!

  4. Grande and his collection of sycophants. How terrible for the town. Oh well, at least we’ll start by voting Krystal out soon.

  5. I know of another person who is in public life and like the Tisbury select board, considers himself to be above the law. He also appears maskless and he is certainly not one to emulate.

  6. Tisbury Select board chair is following the lead of many other rogue, arrogant & incompetent elected officials by flaunting public health mandates during a still very active global pandemic. Monumental immaturity and total lack of respect for the hard working Board of Health officials who are trying their best to keep our COVID numbers in decline. What an embarrassment for the Town of Tisbury.

  7. Vaccination is the only known way to clear a virus non-invasive procedures are just holding line the Vineyard is showing a difficult access to the Pfizer booster shots as long as the availability remains difficultNon-invasive procedures are all that we have our leaders need to be proponents of that

    • Masks don’t “clear” a virus. Properly fitted masks help stop spread of an active, spreading virus that has not yet been contained by immunity through vaccines and recovered cases, and sadly, death. Masks can only work best if everyone complies. You can get a booster appointment off island pretty easily. Moderna and J and J boosters will be available soon. Patience. And meantime, wear your mask in public around other people. It’s a tiny thing to do and good for everyone.

  8. The Open Meeting Law states that all Performance reviews are to be done in a public open meeting before negotiating in executive session. Despite what Board members said, it’s not a choice and comments on performance are to be made public. But this Open Meeting Law is mostly ignored. This was unusual.

  9. Thanks, Rich, for asking the question about the mask mandate, the effectiveness of which is proven and is surely increased when people sit six feet apart and are vaccinated. Why would town “leaders” think they should ignore public safety laws?

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