After four months on paid leave, Roger Wey is finally out as director of the Oak Bluffs Council on Aging. It was almost a foregone conclusion that things would end badly for Mr. Wey as far back as February when the town selectmen called for a police investigation of the council’s accounts at a meeting to which he was not even invited.
As far as the public knew, the entire issue with Mr. Wey concerned his handling of the Quilting Fund, so called because it was generated by sales of quilts made by residents who frequented the senior center. Proceeds were used to provide fuel and other emergency assistance to needy citizens.
Why police were brought in was never clear, but it quickly became apparent that they were not the best choice to conduct a forensic audit. After the police probe failed to find criminal wrongdoing, outside accountants found that Mr. Wey had violated laws by managing charitable funds outside of the town treasury. The audit uncovered multiple financial and recordkeeping irregularities, but did not find any evidence that Mr. Wey had gained personally from his actions.
This week, however, it became clear that the town’s problems with Mr. Wey did not begin with the Quilting Fund.
In a report prepared for selectmen and made public this week, town administrator Robert Whritenour disclosed longstanding tensions at the council on aging, noting that the director and assistant director had leveled grievances against each other over a period of time, including charges and counter charges of harassment.
In 2012, an investigator hired to study the conflict found that the director had engaged in bullying behavior toward the assistant director, according to the report. When Mr. Whritenour tried to stop the bullying, Mr. Wey filed a grievance against the town administrator, his report says.
Mr. Whritenour’s report begins to fill in the gaps that prevented a clear picture of the minor tempest known in some quarters as Quiltgate. It is difficult to get rid of a public employee who doesn’t want to go, and that was clearly the case with Mr. Wey. In the weeks and months after the original accusations were brought against him, a variety of Oak Bluffs residents came to his defense, calling him honest, caring and concerned.
Mr. Wey’s tenure at the council on aging may be more complicated than we knew, but we can’t help but believe the whole unfortunate episode could have been handled better. If the town’s goal was to part company with Mr. Wey, embarrassing him with a pointless police investigation in retrospect seems like exactly the wrong way to start. In the end, the town resorted to a time-honored management technique of reorganizing Mr. Wey out of a job rather than firing him, but the long road leading to his eventual ouster added up to an ignominious departure for a man whose heart, at least, seemed to be in the right place.