O.B. gun incident triggers whistleblower suit

Sergeant claims retaliation after allegedly unearthing deficient gun records.

Oak Bluffs Police Sgt. Mike Marchand, shown in this file photo, says he was retaliated against for blowing the whistle on firearms issues. — File photo by Michael Cummo

An Oak Bluffs Police sergeant says he was forced to resign after alerting the chief and town leaders that a police assault rifle was missing, a letter from his attorney alleges. That rifle, a Bushmaster M4, was later reported found. 

Oak Bluffs Police Sgt. Michael Marchand has notified the town he intends to sue for retaliation under the Massachusetts Whistleblower Protection Act. The town erroneously blamed Marchand for the rifle’s absence, according to Marchand’s attorney, Tim Burke. Burke told The Times Marchand was placed on administrative leave following internal discoveries he made, and was told he would be terminated if he didn’t resign. Such a termination would have upended health insurance for Marchand and his family, Burke said. Marchand did resign, Burke said, and in doing so lost all access to the Oak Bluffs Police Station. The day after he resigned, Burke alleged, the rifle was discovered in the station. Burke described both the timing and the situation as “outrageous.” Marchand later rescinded his resignation, but was kept on administrative leave, Burke said. 

In a letter to the Oak Bluffs select board and town administrator Deborah Potter, Burke alleges Marchand discovered a number of records deficiencies and other problems related to department firearms — including the missing rifle being falsely assigned to him. Burke alleges Marchand notified his superiors of his findings, and was subsequently “forced or coerced” to resign. 

“One of Sgt. Marchand’s first inquiries following the retirement of Lt. [Timothy] Williamson was to conduct an audit of the department’s firearms and establish stricter controls over the departmental issuance of weapons,” the letter states. “On or about Oct. 19, 2021, Sgt. Marchand discovered that there was a missing M4 assault rifle that had been erroneously categorized as ‘assigned’ to Sgt. Marchand, despite the fact that the weapon had been returned three (3) years prior. Sgt. Marchand immediately notified his supervisors, retired Lt. Williamson, as well as Chief Erik Blake of the missing M4 rifle. Shortly after making the disclosure of the missing firearm, as well as the disclosure of other complaints regarding illegal conduct within the OBPD discussed herein, the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen, under the threat of termination, forced and coerced Sgt. Marchand to resign from his position with the OBPD. Sergeant Marchand’s complaints and objections to his supervisors also include, but are not limited to, the following incidents:

  • Disclosure of the OBPD’s failure to properly account, record, and secure an M4 Assault Rifle;
  • Failure to complete an audit of any of the Oak [Bluffs] Police Department–issued firearms for the past twenty (20) years despite the accreditation requirement;
  • Failure of the annual firearms training to record serial numbers for firearms utilized during yearly qualifications;
  • No Armorer’s report conducted, including, but not limited to, a failure to complete weapons function checks on issued M4s.
  • No documentation of firearms being taken or issued by the Oak [Bluffs] Police Department;
  • No documentation of firearms being issued to officers for personal reasons including, but not limited to, hunting and target practice;
  • A deficient security system surveilling the exterior and interior of the Police Department;
  • No log entry for take-home cruisers being issued or returned;
  • Failure to properly secure the storage vault off the Sergeant’s office, where firearms are
  • A Special Officer who currently works for the Chilmark Police Department, who was
    issued a firearm by the Oak Bluffs Police Department, has never been subjected to an armorer’s check or inspection of any kind.

As part of its alleged retaliation against Marchand, the letter alleges, the town ignored other potentially culpable people. 

“Despite the subsequent discovery of the firearm within the station,” the letter states, “as well as information regarding the improper issuance of this weapon by another member of the department to be taken off-Island for academy training, Sgt. Marchand continues to remain on administrative leave while the other individuals identified remain in their positions.”

Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake declined to comment on Marchand, the rifle, or records matters related to Lt. Williamson. Chief Blake asked that all inquiries be channeled through Potter or attorney Jack Collins, whom the town seems to have retained as labor counsel for this matter. 

Reached by phone, Williamson declined comment. 

According to Burke’s letter to the town, Marchand faced no disciplinary action in his 30 years as a police officer — the past 16 in Oak Bluffs. He wrote that Marchand would have been in line to take over for Williamson, and possibly a candidate for chief when Blake retires.

In a companion letter to the Oak Bluffs personnel department, Burke requested a copy of Marchand’s personnel file.

“We request a full and complete copy of any and all written documents contained in Sergeant Marchand’s personnel file within five business days following receipt of this request. If there are additional ‘personnel records’ maintained by multiple offices outside of the Town of Oak Bluffs Personnel Department, we request any and all copies and/or versions of Sergeant Marchand’s disciplinary and/or personnel file including, but not limited to, any ‘personnel records’ in the possession of the Police Department,” the letter reads in part.

Additionally, the letter asks for written or recorded statements provided by Marchand relating to a missing M4 rifle and relative internal investigation records. The letter further requests evidence such as emails and documents be preserved.

The rifle in question was found by Blake earlier this month, according to a press release signed by select board member Brian Packish. Blake previously told The Times the gun was semiautomatic and a “.223 caliber patrol rifle,” and is commonly referred to as an assault rifle. The rifle was checked out nearly three years ago, and was claimed to be missing after a routine inventory.

Packish could not immediately be reached for comment.

After the gun was designated missing, the town launched an independent investigation, and placed an unnamed police department employee who checked out the gun on paid administrative leave. 

That turns out to be Marchand.

The select board has met several times in executive sessions, most recently on Tuesday, to “discuss the reputation, character, physical condition or mental health, rather than professional competence, of an individual, or to discuss the discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member, or individual, and not to reconvene in open session.”

The Times made a public records request on Nov. 29 for the report done by the town’s independent investigator, and minutes from the select board’s Nov. 24 executive session, but both requests were denied. Town administrator Deborah Potter could not immediately be reached for comment.


  1. Goodness, rats leaping from a sinking ship. It is great to see Sgt. Marchand has hired an excellent legal representative. This of course brings the point to the chief of police, I think it would be best if he resigned. The chief is responsible for allowing this nonsense to take place and therefore should accept the responsibility and remedy it with his resignation. As for Mr. Williamson, he was supposed to also be a role model for officers, if he didn’t follow the rules then the town is better off without him. Time to clean house and hold the leadership of the town and department accountable.

  2. Mike Marchand is one of the BEST there is on this Island! He is professional, fair, honest and Oak Bluffs is lucky to have him. MV is lucky to have him and his family! OBPD is hiding something. This story is lacking. Let’s get to the bottom of this ASAP!

      • I have known Mike for at least 20 years, he is likely the most upstanding member of the community we could find. His integrity and professionalism reach far beyond his public reputation. I would trust that man with my family’s life in a heartbeat. im sure there is more to the story than what we are reading. his reputation should not suffer at the hands of another’s mistake. All the names mentioned in this article are people of integrity and honor. Before we go asking people to step down, we should know the facts. I would hate to see the lives of people that have defended and protected us all, go down hill because of conjecture and hearsay.

    • I agree Kelly! Mike Marchand has a stellar reputation. The fact that guns weren’t inventoried properly is scary. The retaliation to a decent officer is terrible.

  3. In their own Irving Berlin-esque moment, the Oak Bluffs PD tells the Tisbury PD, “Anything you can do, I can do better.”
    Like any Broadway play, you need to have purchased your tickets in advance. But here, you already have front row admission. Tax dollars have paid for this show.

  4. Sounds like an unfortunate rush to judgement on the part of the Town, and the near ruin of reputation of an officer that has given a lot to this island. As the School Resource Officer, he was able to connect with the kids in the high school in a way few others could, and really made a difference. The Town owes someone of his caliber and professional record better – and I truly hope they fix it. A public apology is in order.

    • Mike Marchand is the epitome of integrity. He is an exceptional leader of the OB police force. This case needs time to breath, so we can assess exactly what happened. It’s not fair to rush to conclusions without the full evidence.

  5. So relieved that this ‘missing firearm’ has been accounted for, and by none other than OBPD’s —- ̶G̶u̶n̶ ̶N̶u̶t̶ Chief!

    Clearly, policing on Martha’s Vineyard has produced a toxic subculture, rife with internecine intrigue, and antithetical to the civic values we hold dear.

    It is past time for this situation to be taken in hand.

    Here’s a start: How about prohibiting the use of department-issued firearms for personal purposes, unrelated to police business?

    They’ve got (WELL-PAYING, YEAR-ROUND) jobs.

    Let them buy their own damn hunting rifles.

    • Exactly.
      Also don’t allow them to take a gun in their possession and care out to play with.
      I don’t care if they want to play with them if it’s not THEIR OWN PERSONALLY OWNED and PURCHASED then they should NOT EVER BE ABLE TO REMOVE it FROM THE BUILDING.

    • Brian,

      You should know the facts before you start calling people names. ” Gun Nut Chief” Really are you a third grader? The MV times was miss informed on who actually found the missing gun.
      Shame on the selectmen for not having the chiefs back, a 30 year vet of the OBPD.

      • Considering your spelling and punctuation, I’ll defer to your expertise on all things third grade.

      • Who is actually responsible for the gone missing?
        It certainly is not the Chief.
        Or any of his carefully vetted officers…

  6. I agree Kelly. Something has not been right in that department long before this weapon went “missing” and it’s a shame. Instead of circling the wagons, maybe someone could admit there were mistakes made and some real and long over due change could be realized.

  7. ​”Outstanding Investigative Reporting” by Brian Dowd and Rich Saltzberg!!
    This is exactly the type of reporting our island has desperately needed from our newspaper(s).
    We voters are trying to clean up VH concerning our leaders and it seems OB needs their closets to be cleaned also and if the selectmen there don’t get it together for their people then maybe they will take an example of what our next election results in VH will be.
    “Happy New Year Folks”

  8. Mike Marchand is the epitome of integrity. He has been an exceptional leader of the OB police force. This case needs time to breath and assess what exactly happened. It’s not fair to rush to conclusions without the full evidence.

  9. I have known Mike Marchand for 17 years and he is one of the most honest men I have ever met.The police department needs to be supporting him and not accusing him.Out of respect for his service to our community the town and department should have researched this matter before asking him to resign. My family and I support Mike full heartily and i hope the rest of the community will stand up and say the same thing. Shame on you Oak Bluffs. I am tired of watching people on this island get persecuted without full disclosure.

  10. Having known Mike Marchand for a brief period of time, it is not hard to understand how much of his time he gives to this island and to this community. Given over 30 years of service and dedication, Sergeant Marchand deserves a fair re-evaluation of the events that have taken place. I hope the community understands how much this man does to make the environment around him as pleasurable as it is known to be. I hope the people of Oak Bluffs come together to show appreciation for Mr. Marchand’s tenure and hard work that has been cut short through an unruly judgement by his hierarchs.

  11. The fact is Mike Marchand was a scapegoat. In an effort to clean up the protocols he discovered the discrepancy and was wrongly accused and forced to resign. Upon realizing the error, instead of righting the wrong immediately the Selectboard chose to stay their course?! We should all be asking ourselves how this can happen. These elected officials need to take a good long look in the mirror. A good man’s reputation is at stake. I would question why they were in such a rush to close the door on this investigation without closer examination of ALL possible parties involved. Our family knows Mike well and we have the utmost respect for him as a gentleman and a civil servant. We support Mike. An apology and reinstatement are the first steps.

  12. During his service at MVRHS I always found Mike to be a competent and ethical officer as well as a kind person. I don’t understand this at all.

  13. I ran the travel basketball program on the island for middle school boys and girls for 8 years, in that time I got to know Mike Marchand, and the program owes him and his family so much for everything they did! As anyone on the island who runs a strictly volunteer program, it is always the same parents that go out of their way, and let me tell you Mike was always there for me and the kids. He coached, he drove kids to games off island, picked up opposing players parents from the boat, got us gym space for practices/games, ran the clock at games, bought kids & coaches pizza after the games, and was always the kids biggest fan. He did it all, and he did it with a smile. In all the years I have known him he is level-headed, smart, calm and always has great advice. I hope the OB police department gets this right, b/c Mike has proven himself to be an exemplary citizen to the town and the island.

  14. Mike Marchand is one of the most honest, hard working, and caring people I have come to know in my life so far. I met him and his family over 5 years ago and have only come to respect him 100x over in this 5 years. The dedication he shows to the island community and his family is unmatched. The “leadership” at OBPD and the Town of OB have some SERIOUS self-reflecting to do as we prepare to enter 2022. As a Human Resources professional who has conducted workplace investigations, I can confidently say that the treatment Mike is receiving is nothing short of retaliation on the boarderline of harassment. OB/OBPD should do the right thing and publicly address this situation. Forcing Mike to resign or involuntarily terminating him would only further tarnish the reputation and credibility of the OBPD.

  15. Mike Marchand is the epitome of integrity. He is an exceptional leader of the OB police force. This case needs time to breath, so we can assess exactly what happened. It’s not fair to rush to conclusions without the full evidence.

  16. I will dissent on current opinions in this case until I have further information. This is not about Marchand’s character or good reputation. It has to be something else that the Selectmen know about and they have asked for a separation. Whistleblower strategies are often used by aggrieved defendants when they have been fired for cause or asked to resign as a more lenient separation. Some of you are implying that the entire Selectmen Board is engaged in an unfair transaction as it relates to this officer and that defies good reason.

    • Well this sentence makes zero sense, “I will dissent on current opinions in this case until I have further information.” No surprise for Andy, just amusing.

    • Who has been asked to resign?
      Should the Selectman tell us.
      That transparency thing.
      Like the White House on J6.

  17. Lots of good comments here. Let’s cut to the chase. Who exactly had the weapon in their possession and how did that happen? The Chief is ultimately responsible. That’s why he gets paid the big bucks. Did he have the weapon or know who did???? Officer Marchand should be applauded for his actions. There is more going on here than meets the eye. Keep digging. Keep asking questions. They can’t silence or intimidate an entire community.

  18. I can remember when Erik Blake, Tim Williamson, and Mike Marchand all started out pretty much at the same time. I can remember a lot of laughs, teamwork, and friendships over the years. Now I read a story where what is being written and stated just doesn’t add up. We have 3 very good, very dedicated officers of our department. 3 of the most outstanding citizens in our town. 3 individuals that have known each other and each other’s families for a long time. And we have a story that makes one’s stomach sink after so much time.

    So, this leaves us with the one thing that is missing from the statement above……. Politics and Power. Shame on anyone who would use such a tactic to cause the word lawsuit to be used when discussing these officers.

    • I too remember these three individuals. You must also be aware that there was some pretty significant conversations about the character of one of them way back when. Something about domestic abuse? I need someone to give me more info on why Officer Williamson was mentioned in a comment. Can’t seem to find the connection.

      • My Apologies, Officer Williamson should of been left out of my comment. I just find the whole situation sad. And you’re right, I too remember those conversations as well.

  19. I was a student at MVRHS at the time of Mike Marchand being the school resource officer and can say he was always the warmest, most appreciated presence in the building. We were so lucky to have him when he was there. To see the way the Town handled this is incredibly maddening and concerning. We have been incredibly fortunate to have him working to protect and better our community, and this is what the people elected to represent the community have given him in return?! The rush for a definitive answer and the impulsivity have been incredibly harmful. There are many things that should happen, but public acknowledgement of the mistakes made and a sincere (and prompt) apology are in order.

  20. A good man should not be punished for doing the right thing, and punishment should not fall on someone who is not to blame. The Town should be searching for more people like Mike to protect and interact with our community instead of using him as a scapegoat! I’m sure many others would like to see both an apology and a reinstatement.

  21. As a close family friend to the Marchand’s I have seen first hand the kindness and the “ root for the underdog” compassion of Mike Marchand. Mike’s positive influence on others is unmeasurable. His love and dedication for his family and career have never waivered. He is kind, patient, loyal and always thinks of others first.
    I fully support Mike and will proudly stand up for him, as he has done for so many other people.
    It is sad and disappointing that our town select board has made a choice to take the path of decimating the reputation and character of one of the most loving,caring,dedicated and honorable men in our community.
    I hope that the board takes a hard look at this situation,reflects, processes the facts and publicly apologizes to Sergeant Marchand and his family.

  22. Let the facts come out. More investigation and transparency should clear things up and hold the right people accountable. In the meantime, I have known Mike for about 15 years, as a father, a coach, a family man, a school resource officer, and a steady, visible presence in OB. Let me add my voice to the chorus of support for him in all these endeavors. I consider myself and my son lucky to have crossed paths with him and his family.

  23. Like so many others I feel fortunate to know Mike, and must voice my strongest objections to his being smeared. He is one of our good guys. No way this man has put anyone in jeopardy; this man has, for decades, been all about keeping people safe. It is very disturbing to hear that his exemplary character is being questioned.

  24. Thanks Mike for being a real man and doing the work that should have always have been done! Like simple day to day paperwork that wasn’t done. Let’s see all the paperwork on everything the selectMAN has bought up in town?

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