Updated July 7
Executive session minutes from the Oak Bluffs select board have revealed information about a missing handgun. Until requested by the Martha’s Vineyard Times, the minutes hadn’t been released, and the details contained in those minutes about the missing handgun appear to have never previously been disclosed by the town.
The minutes show a former Oak Bluffs Police officer allegedly researched himself and rediscovered he owned a Glock pistol that he hadn’t seen in nearly a decade. The minutes, which date from 2015, came as part of numerous sets of police-related executive session minutes obtained by The Times from Vineyard select boards. The minute sets have become central to Open Meeting Law (OML) complaints lodged by The Times against the Oak Bluffs, Chilmark, Edgartown, and Tisbury select boards.
The Times made two separate requests for executive session minutes from the Oak Bluffs select board — for 2021 to 2022 minutes pertaining to a once missing department rifle (and pertaining to the police sergeant blamed for its absence) and for various police-related minutes spanning an eight-year period. The latter request resulted in 10 sets of minutes approved by the select board for release to The Times. One of these, dated June 30, 2015, revealed an attempt to rid the department of an officer who could not account for a pistol. That officer was Jason Marathas. In the summer of 2014, Marathas transferred to Oak Bluffs from the Tisbury Police Department, and remained in probationary status for a year. Both Police Chief Erik Blake and the town’s police union wanted Marathas terminated from the department due to a laundry list of alleged infractions. The missing handgun appeared the most serious of the transgressions Marathas was accused of by Chief Blake.
“The Chief received a report from the Randolph Police Department that Officer Marathas had been running his information through the computer, so he could see how many guns he had,” the minutes state. “This is a violation. He discovered that he had a gun he had not seen in eight or nine years. A check of his parents’ house did not produce the gun, which means there is a gun in the Randolph area that is unaccounted for. No lost or stolen gun report was ever filed.”
Despite what the minutes allege, that nothing was ever filed regarding the handgun, a Randolph Police report obtained by The Times part and parcel with Chief Blake’s report to the board about Marathas shows something was filed. Dated April 3, 2015, the Randolph report indicates Marathas reported the handgun, a Glock pistol, as “stolen.” The report described Marathas as last having seen the pistol approximately a decade earlier (2005) when he was “utilizing the firearm while he was a member of the Randolph, Ma., Auxiliary Police Department.” More precisely, the gun was last seen, according to the report, in a locked case in Marathas’ mother’s closet. It’s unclear why the gun was specifically categorized as stolen. The only clue to that possibility was a recollection of a break-in to the Marathas family home. However, that break-in happened years “before he had possession” of the pistol in question, according to the report. The report is labeled as “preliminary.”
Marathas didn’t immediately return a voice message seeking comment.
In response to an email inquiry in May, Randolph Police Commander Melissa Greener told The Times she believed the report wasn’t preliminary, but final. Commander Greener also said she would have withheld the report in response to a request for it, and questioned how The Times obtained it.
A timeline attached to Chief Blake’s report to the select board indicates Marathas ran himself through the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) system on April 3, 2015, the same day he reported the pistol missing to Randolph Police.
“In April of this year Officer Marathas decided to run his name through the criminal history system, and discovered that he had a handgun registered to him that he hadn’t seen in several years,” Blake’s report states. “He went to his parents’ house, where he thought he had last left it, only to discover it missing. He then had to file a missing/stolen handgun with the Randolph Police Department. This shows a pure lack of maturity [and] attention to detail, and in many cases would be cause for suspension of his LTC.”
Marathas isn’t the only former Oak Bluffs Police officer to have been documented using the CJIS system for nontraditional purposes. As part of a 2018 internal investigation into Det, James Morse, the department found Morse allegedly tapped that system to run names unrelated to his work. Chief Blake’s report doesn’t indicate Marathas ran anybody’s name but his own.
The select board voted unanimously to terminate Marathas one day before his probationary period at the department was to end. It wasn’t just the handgun that motivated the board. Marathas allegedly lost property and evidence, failed to disclose prior injuries, failed rifle training, misused leave and sick time, and misfired a Taser in the police station without notifying a superior officer.
Blake told The Times the onus was on the Randolph Police Department to suspend Marathas’ license or to charge him. He said he never got any word from that department as to whether they intended to take action against Marathas. Blake also said it was unusual for Marathas to run himself through the CJIS system. At the point the missing gun came up, Blake said, the die was already cast for Marathas’ future at the Oak Bluffs Police Department based on other problems. On Wednesday, Commander Greener didn’t immediately respond to a voice message seeking further comment.
More recently, in neighboring Edgartown, a woman who allegedly waited over a week to report a missing handgun has not only had her gun license suspended but is scheduled to be arraigned July 15 on a criminal charge for failure to promptly report a missing gun.
As The Times previously reported, a finding of facts and probable cause order signed in February by Edgartown District Court Clerk-Magistrate Liza Williamson found that the gun owner, Catherine Tobin, “did not report [her] firearm missing or lost for 11 days,” that the whereabouts of the pistol in question “remains unknown,” and waiting as long as she did to report the pistol missing “created a grave risk to public safety.” Tobin also faced a charge of threat to commit a crime for allegedly threatening a neighbor. However that charge was dismissed prior to arraignment in June. Tobin’s charge raises the question of whether police officers are treated with a gentler hand than everyday citizens when it comes to the responsibility to report missing guns in a timely manner. Marathas appears to have faced no charges either from Oak Bluffs Police or Randolph Police for reporting a missing handgun that had not been seen for a decade. He’s not alone. Records unearthed by The Times in 2021 revealed former Tisbury Police officials pointed fingers at one another over a municipal handgun that remained unaccounted for between them. As The Times previously reported, Sgt. Tim Stobie generated a report in 2017 that stated he provided a department handgun to Chief Dan Hanavan in 2015. Chief Hanavan’s 2017 report states that he never received the gun, that it was only discussed in 2013. When Chief Mark Saloio later discovered he’d inherited a missing handgun problem from these two people, he reported it to the town administrator, and suggested an outside investigator be hired. That didn’t occur, and the gun was never found by Saloio or later by Chief Chris Habekost. Neither Hanavan nor Stobie appear to have faced any consequences over the missing gun. More recently in the Oak Bluffs Police Department, an M4 rifle that disappeared and reappeared under mysterious circumstances claimed only one employment casualty, despite several other officers having various clear associations with the weapon. This includes an officer who had been assigned the rifle, and could recall very few details about receiving, transporting, or returning the rifle.
In an email to The Times, newly appointed Oak Bluffs Police Chief Jonathan Searle wrote that going forward, the gun law will be applied to everybody equally.
“[T]he current staff of the Oak Bluffs Police Dept. were not involved in any of the topics that we have discussed,” Searle wrote.”My understanding is that then Chief Erik Blake appropriately ended Marathas’ employment with the department back in 2015. Myself, my command staff, along with every member of this agency are committed to professional standards of the highest caliber. Additionally, it is my policy that ALL persons will be held to the same legally outlined qualifications and standards relative to the issuance or revocation of a firearms license.”
Minutes from the six executive sessions the Oak Bluffs select board held over the missing department rifle were turned over to The Times in February, following a Times request and a vote by the select board to release them. After reviewing the minutes, The Times filed an OML complaint against the board. The Times found the minutes to be insufficiently detailed, and formally requested the board redraft the minutes to provide the press and the public a better understanding of what transpired at the meetings. The board, through its labor counsel, Jack Collins, rejected the request, and claimed the minutes were satisfactory as is. The Times subsequently sought further review from the Division of Open Government, which is part of Attorney General Maura Healey’s office. The complaint remains under review. The Times filed a similar complaint against the board over 10 sets of police-related executive session minutes from 2010 to 2018.
The Times has also filed complaints with Chilmark’s, Edgartown’s, and Tisbury’s select boards after receiving deficient executive session minutes, or after minutes were withheld. Chilmark was the latest board to provide police-related executive session minutes. Tuesday night, Chilmark’s select board released six sets of executive session minutes. A day earlier, on the Fourth of July, the board released two sets of similar minutes via the town administrator. Those minutes are still being reviewed by The Times.
Updated to correct information regarding a charge against Tobin.