Acting behind closed doors, the Tisbury selectmen voted without dissent Monday to fire a Tisbury police officer who is the subject of a criminal complaint and who has had a recent history of misconduct.
Kelly Kershaw, 30, was terminated following a nearly three-hour executive session that was attended by the three town selectmen, their town administrator, Ms. Kershaw and her attorney. Her attorney told the Gazette later in the week that Ms. Kershaw, who had been employed with the police department since 2004, will take action to dispute the decision.
The hearing was to “consider the discipline, dismissal or complaints brought against an employee [as well as] union negotiations with the police union with respect to that employee,” Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel said at the start of the meeting Monday.
Ms. Kershaw’s attorney, Jennifer Smith, requested that the hearing be held in executive session. Ms. Smith had no comment after the meeting had ended, but later told the Gazette that “Ms. Kershaw should not have been terminated and we will take any and all action necessary to restore her.”
Ms. Kershaw is the subject of a pending criminal complaint in Edgartown district court. She is facing several charges after allegedly interfering with firefighters trying to fight a dryer fire at her home last month. She is charged with interfering with a firefighter, assault and battery on a police officer, disorderly conduct and threat to commit a crime. A complaint was issued three weeks ago. An arraignment is set for June 28.
She has been on administrative leave since November of last year following an incident where she was the driver in a one-car crash in town. Alcohol and texting were not factors in the crash.
The executive session Monday began at 6:36 p.m. and ended shortly just before 9:25 p.m.
Tisbury town administrator John (Jay) Grande said he could not comment more on the matter, but he did confirm that the board’s decision was unanimous.
“We decided to end our employment with Ms. Kershaw due to a disciplinary hearing,” selectman and board chairman Jeffrey Kristal told the Gazette Thursday. “It’s part of the process that we did Monday evening, and after we went through this stage of the process, the selectmen voted unanimously to end the relationship with Ms. Kershaw.”
He added: “We’ve got a wonderful police department in the town of Tisbury and they should be proud of their service to the town and the community.” He had no further comment about why Ms. Kershaw was fired.
Police chief Daniel Hanavan was out of the office and unavailable for comment Thursday.
In 2009, Ms. Kershaw filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), alleging that she was sexually harassed by a fellow officer and that retaliatory action was taken by the police chief and town administrator when she complained about the harassment.
In a statement to the MCAD, Officer Kershaw claimed that Sgt. Timothy Stobie made comments of a sexual nature and unwanted physical contact, and claimed that she received low scores on her performance reviews because she complained.
In September 2011 an MCAD investigation found probable cause for some of the complaints in a split decision, saying that some aspects of the case did not reveal enough evidence of unlawful acts of discrimination to continue proceedings. Sexual harassment claims against the town and former police chief John Cashin were dismissed for lack of probable cause.
Investigating commissioner Julian T. Tynes found “probable cause” or merit to continue proceedings over the claims of sexual harassment after the investigation, saying that whether she was harassed by Sergeant Stobie was left to be determined. The commission said Sergeant Stobie denied the allegations.
MCAD spokeswoman Barbara Green said that Ms. Kershaw withdrew her complaint in November 2011 in order to file the case in court. After the administrative case was withdrawn, she said, the case was dismissed and no further action was taken.
Ms. Green said complaints are often withdrawn once the commission has made initial findings of probable cause.
Ms. Kershaw filed a civil lawsuit in 2011 in Dukes County superior court against the town of Tisbury and several individuals claiming employment discrimination. That case is pending.