State Rep. Dylan Fernandes faced a barrage of criticism from county officials last week for poor communication over a piece of legislation filed by his office to change the Steamship Authority enabling act.

In testy exchanges at the Zoom meeting last Wednesday, Representative Fernandes defended his approach to the bill, which would add a provision requiring a chief operating officer and put term limits on board members.

The COO for the boat line became a moot issue after SSA governors voted early last week to create the position, four years after it had been recommended by an independent management study.

Mr. Fernandes said at the meeting that he will now strike that provision from the bill.

But when Vineyard boat line governor James Malkin criticized Mr. Fernandes for filing the bill without first airing it with Vineyard public officials, the two-term state representative said he had in fact told Mr. Malkin.

“Jim [Malkin] was actually the first person on earth who heard about [the bill],” Mr. Fernandes said. “I did reach out to every single member of the (county) commission,” he added, noting that he had not contacted Peter Wharton because he did not know was a county commissioner.

Mr. Malkin acknowledged that Mr. Fernandes had called him, but said the call had been described as confidential.

County commissioner Tristan Israel criticized the legislation, noting the perils of opening up the SSA legislation on Beacon Hill, making it potentially subject to other changes by state legislators.

But Mr. Fernandes assured the Vineyard group that he will keep the legislation intact. He said the bill will be passed in informal session, and called it too inconsequential to warrant broader interest by state lawmakers.

The bill has passed the house and is awaiting a vote in the state senate.

Another recent bill filed by Mr. Fernandes seeks to change the Martha’s Vineyard Commission enabling act by adding a voting member from the Wampnoag tribe and eliminating the voting member appointed by the governor.

That bill too has cleared the house and awaits approval by the state senate.

County commissioners largely praised the change.

— Aidan Pollard