Islanders Denounce Effort To Smear MVC Officials

By JULIA WELLS Gazette Senior Writer

A growing array of residents and public officials - both inside and outside the Martha's Vineyard Commission - called this week for an end to the smear campaign that targets three commission members who voted against the Down Island Golf Club plan.

"I think we should all remember why we have the commission and how much its presence does for this community. . . . What does it say about our community that a single person can come here with $8 million or $9 million and so divide us?" wrote Kate Warner, a member of the commission, in a letter to the editors this week.

"Public attacks on people like Linda Sibley, Richard Toole and Tristan Israel, who have all demonstrated outstanding community contributions, is unconscionable and unfair. We would all be better served to focus on the good that people do and not indulge in hateful vilification," wrote Marie Allen, an Oak Bluffs resident and former longtime member of the commission.

"The current and ongoing effort to undermine the independence of the Martha's Vineyard Commission has now taken on the reprehensible role of character assassination," wrote Tom Hale, a Vineyard Haven resident.

The letters are published on the Commentary Page in today's Gazette, along with others on the same subject. The letters come against the backdrop of an ugly smear campaign that targets three members of the commission. There are now clear signs that the campaign has been orchestrated by the developers of the Down Island Golf Club and their cronies.

The central target of the attacks is Linda Sibley, a member of the commission from West Tisbury.

The latest attack against Mrs. Sibley came this week in a letter from Mikel Oglesby, a governor's appointed member of the commission. The attack on Mrs. Sibley by Mr. Oglesby is especially vicious, among other things openly accusing her of racism and prejudice.

"I am concerned and offended at the statements made by Linda Sibley. . . . It's her personal crusade to implement segregation," he wrote in part.

Mr. Oglesby voted in favor of the golf club project, which was turned down for the second time in a close vote two months ago.

The statements Mr. Oglesby referred to in his letter were in fact from a commission meeting two years ago during a review of the first Down Island Golf Club project. Mr. Oglesby was not a member of the commission at the time.

A misquote from Mrs. Sibley about "little men from Tokyo" first appeared in a political advertisement in the Martha's Vineyard Times several weeks ago.

"In doing some research, I heard a tape where Linda Sibley referred to the types of golfers who will be attracted to the Island as ‘golf fanatics from Tokyo,'" Mr. Oglesby wrote in part this week.

Mr. Oglesby could not be reached for comment, and it is not clear where he did the research he refers to in his letter.

But records at the MVC show that Mr. Oglesby never contacted the agency for tapes. The only people who requested copies of the tapes of the golf club hearings and meetings were spokesmen for the Down Island Golf Club.

A review of the tapes by the Gazette this week at the commission office in Oak Bluffs revealed that during the MVC review of the first Down Island Golf Club plan, the subject of membership in the golf club came up for discussion during one public hearing and two subsequent meetings of the MVC land use planning subcommittee.

At a public hearing on May 11, 2000, more than one member of the commission raised questions about the planned membership policy for the golf club - including Mrs. Sibley.

The subject was taken up again at two land use planning committee meetings, on June 5, 2000, and again on June 12. In every case the discussion was wrapped around the question of whether the planned golf club would permit corporate memberships.

The June 5 tape shows that members of the commission had fuzzy memories about the testimony from the public hearing.

"Wasn't the testimony that the members be Island residents - period?" said commission member Michael Dona-roma. "So if you're Bill Gates and somebody wants to just fly in and use it you could not possibly get a membership. . . . I remember we discussed all that," he added.

"I thought there was a question about whether [the golf members] had to have existing ties to the Island and the answer was no," said Mrs. Sibley. She added to Mr. Donaroma:

"You said the magic words about Bill Gates flying in. . . . This was clearly a concern of the community and it's been articulated repeatedly. . . . I found it very interesting last week reading the interview with the new airport manager, he said they are going to see more and more corporate planes coming in . . . and what we have before us now is vague enough that you could have corporate membership, and . . . my hypothetical golf fanatic from Tokyo could have a membership and could fly in, and I've got to say that a lot of people are very disturbed by that. . . . The idea of a lot of corporate jets flying in and people playing golf - it happens on Nantucket all the time, you could even fantasize: fly in, play Nantucket in the morning, play the Vineyard in the afternoon. I consider that to be a major detriment."

Mr. Donaroma replied: "I think a residents-only membership thing is fine with me."

On June 12 the commission took up the subject of membership again.

"I go back to what I said about when you're weighing the benefits and detriments. Presumably we want the benefits to accrue to the Island, and not to the mythical golf player from Japan. In my mind that affects the benefits," said Mrs. Sibley.

Mr. Donaroma agreed.

"Destination golf. This takes all that out; you've got to have a residence. . . . It makes it Island-only, residents golf. I like that. It takes all that other stuff away," he said.

"I would like a condition not allowing any corporate memberships. I frankly have a real concern about not restricting membership to Island people," Mrs. Sibley said. "I am talking about regular members that have ties to the Island so we don't encourage people to have membership and flying in and out," she added.

Again Mr. Donaroma agreed.

"I don't remember the applicant saying anything about corporate memberships, but I think that's a good one," he said.

In a letter to other members of the commission three weeks ago, Mr. Donaroma also attacked Mrs. Sibley, along with Mr. Israel and Mr. Toole - calling them arrogant and biased.

This week Ms. Warner called for a truce.

"Is this all in the guise of loving this Island? I don't think so. Instead, it is a way to tear it apart and leave us with a community much diminished. Where is the Vineyard that we all were part of, that included open-mindedness, diversity and a sense of small-town life?" she wrote.