Editors, Vineyard Gazette:
I am not happy to have to write this, but I have been watching and supporting my friend Reynaldo Faust in the inaugural season of his very successful Fat Ronnies restaurant on Circuit avenue.
Throughout the season I have been aware of the board of health agent exercising her authority in what can be described as aggressive harassment. She has arrived several times in the midst of business, responding to a “complaint” on unsubstantial and/or and unsubstantiated issues. As example, earlier in the season there was a complaint that he dumped gray water on the street, which he did not, and for which no supporting evidence was ever presented. It is apparently the policy that those who complain are never revealed allowing a rival, or anyone with a grudge for that matter, to falsely accuse supposed infractions without fear of having to substantiate it or be revealed to the supposed offender. His accuser is allowed to remain anonymous. While this may protect the ordinary citizen, it also makes it possible to legally harass a business owner repeatedly on grounds that are either false, irrelevant and clearly if enforced would be discriminatory.
The most recent example being a complaint that his 10-year-old daughter cannot work with her dad as she does not have food handling certification when in fact the policy only requires that at least one person in the establishment on the premises must be certified and certainly not the wait staff. If Shirley Fauteux knew and exercised her proper role she would have known this, or she would have been compelled to require all restaurants to let go of all staff not certified. If she does not know this, she should be relieved for her incompetence after all these years on the job. And further, if she is aware of this policy and violated it with Reynaldo, then discrimination is established. Nor can such harassment and discrimination be discounted from the complaining party. When the complainer is always anonymous it is easy to commence a pattern of harassment with impunity, but only with a health agent who is apparently complicit in the process.
Finally, the health agent apparently arrived at his establishment several times over the summer demanding that grill people wear gloves, which is not only dangerous should there be hot splatter and the glove melts on the skin, but, I am told, is not required in the commonwealth code, or being required of any other establishment in Oak Bluffs. This is outrageous, deliberate and again totally discriminatory. Our health agent of many years is abusing her authority for which there should be consequences and remedies.
I would encourage the good citizens on our board of health to more closely observe this process and I would also encourage any other food handling establishments that have experienced unreasonable or discriminatory behavior to also document and forward such instances either to the editor here or the board of health. We all agree that our food should be safe and establishments regulated accordingly, but we can also all agree that there is serious potential for a government/municipal official to exercise her authority in a discriminatory and or harassing manner and if proven by her actions, should be dismissed. It is against the law, as well as the values we Americans and the town of Oak Bluffs would claim to hold dear.
In closing, I personally dealt with Ms. Fauteux some years back, and while her manner was often more brusque and adversarial than required, I was not told to do what was not required of others in the midst of the busy season. I wish my friend Reynaldo could say the same.
Her repeated harassment has been the only negative experience Fat Ronnies has had in its otherwise immensely successful inaugural season.
Harry Rosenzweig, Oak Bluffs