The Oak Bluffs Council on Aging is facing possible reorganization of personnel following a months-long investigation that found mismanagement of a fund operated in connection with the senior center.
A special auditor’s report released last week found substantial holes in record keeping and reporting in connection with the so-called Quilt Fund for Fuel Assistance. Senior center director Roger Wey, who has been on paid leave since February, was faulted for mismanagement of the fund. The report also found no evidence that the fund had benefited anyone other than senior citizens in need.
In a memorandum to the selectmen that accompanied the auditor’s report, special labor counsel John Collins said the selectmen had the option of disciplining, dismissing or reaching a severance agreement with Mr. Wey. He also wrote that the selectmen could decide to report the violations pinpointed by auditors to an array of state authorities, including the district attorney and attorney general.
The selectmen met in closed session last week with Mr. Wey and his attorney. Details from that session have not been made public. But speaking in open session on Tuesday this week, Mr. Collins urged the selectmen to continue to pursue an agreement with Mr. Wey. “I think we were really close and I think in this case it is worth a little more effort,” Mr. Collins said. Some selectmen agreed with Mr. Collins’s recommendation to continue to pursue talks with Mr. Wey.
But selectman Walter Vail took another view.
“As it relates to the session we had last week, for my money, that is off the table,” Mr. Vail said. “We had an opportunity to put some things together and that just didn’t work. I am in the stage where I am thinking we have passed really over three months of paying the director for an administrative leave, the council is working just fine, and I am thinking that for my money I would just as soon eliminate the director position and move on.”
Mr. Vail’s comment was greeted with objection from some members of the audience.
The selectmen took no vote on the matter.
Meanwhile, Mr. Collins advised the board to take steps to carefully evaluate the personnel needs and structure for the council on aging.
“I am pretty confident now that we understand what the procedural problems were and how they can be addressed,” he said. “A combination of training, supervision, rewriting of job descriptions, and I think, in fairness, anyone who holds those positions would be clear about what is expected of them, and this kind of problem would not happen again.”
He advised the town to hold off on reporting alleged violations to state authorities, and recommended that the selectmen set up a meeting with the council on aging board of directors to discuss possible reorganization of personnel. At that point, they could vote to reorganize the council on aging, if deemed appropriate, and avoid disciplinary action, Mr. Collins said.
Selectman Kathy Burton said the ultimate goal was to improve the senior center.
“I see no problem in having an open, transparent discussion for the board, to talk about what is working and what isn’t working,” she said.
Selectman Gail Barmakian said she welcomed an open discussion with the council on aging but questioned the timing.
“Why would we do this now if everything is still pending?” she asked. “We are reorganizing without a possible key person being involved, because we don’t know what the outcome of that is going to be.”
In a separate development, dredge spoils removed from Inkwell Beach in Oak Bluffs last week have been transported to the Oak Grove cemetery.
“The beach has been raked and graded and is ready for the season,” said town administrator Robert L. Whritenour.
Selectmen voted last week to clear the beach of the sand, which had been dredged from underneath the Lagoon Pond drawbridge at Lagoon Pond this spring. The decision was prompted by an outcry from a group of town citizens over the poor quality of the sand.
The removal project cost the town an estimated $1,500, and the sand is now piled at the town cemetery which spans Pacific and Vineyard avenues. The town has not yet determined where the sand will go from there, conservation agent Elizabeth Durkee said in an email to the Gazette on Wednesday.
Highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr. oversaw the operation.
“Our main goal was to get it off the beach for the summer,” Mr. Combra said by phone Wednesday.
Mr. Whritenour said at the meeting that the material was not what the town had hoped it would be. “We are still looking everywhere for high quality sand for our beaches,” he said.
New business activity in town dominated the remainder of the selectmen’s agenda.
Jimmy Seas Pan Pasta will reopen this summer in its former spot on Kennebec avenue under the same name but different ownership. The restaurant was granted a new annual all-alcohol license Tuesday. Owner William Craffey said the restaurant will open in three or four weeks.
Also on Kennebec, the owners of Offshore Ale Company are opening a retail store in the former home of the Oak Bluffs General Store. Owner Phil McAndrews said the store would be completely dedicated to merchandise.
In other business news, taxi cab proprietor Christopher J. Dacunto was granted a permit to add an eight-passenger limousine to his fleet. Mr. Dacunto told selectmen he has received repeated requests for limousine service, as eight-seat livery vehicles are not currently available for hire on the Island. “There are a couple liveries but there isn’t an exact limousine service,” he said.
Though receptive to the overall proposal, selectmen raised concerns about parking at his business which is located near Tony’s Market.
Mr. Dacunto agreed to park the limousine and the Ford Model A he plans to use in the service, elsewhere. “I think in a very brief period of time, you will be asking for more limousines,” said Ms. Burton.
Selectmen also approved a seasonal restaurant on Oak Bluffs avenue which will occupy the former home of Pirate Jack’s Burger Shack. Bee Dee’s will operate as a mostly takeout enterprise offering sandwiches, grilled meats and vegetables, raw fruits and salads. Owner Barbara Ciccolini said eventually they hope to deliver their food to the town beaches via tricycle.
“We think we have something new and a little different to offer,” she said.