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County Commission Minutes 07/24/02

A regular meeting of the County of Dukes County Commissioners was held on Wednesday, July 24, 2002 at 7:30 p.m. in the Conference Room of the County Administration Building, notice of such meeting having been posted as required by law.

Commissioners Present:  Leslie H. Leland, Chairman
                                Robert Sawyer
                                E. B. Collins
Roger Wey
Absent:                 Daniel Flynn
                                John Alley
                                Leonard Jason, Jr.

Also Present:           Carol Borer, County Manager     
                                Marsha Smolev, Executive Assistant      
                                Sheriff McCormack
                                David O’Sullivan, Special Sheriff
                                Dianne Powers, Register of Deeds
                                Noreen Flanders, County Treasurer               
                                TJ Hegarty, Rodent Control Officer              
                                Josh Sabatini, Vineyard Gazette
                                George Schiffer
                                Shirley Smolev
Chairman Leland called the meeting to order at 7:40 PM.

Commissioner Collins Moved that the Minutes of the Meeting of
July 10, 2002 be approved as written.   Commissioner Sawyer Seconded the Motion.  The Minutes were approved Unanimously.  

The County Manager began her report by noting that the Commissioners received, in their packets, the appraisal of the Communications Center building, the Administration Building and the Ropes Course.   She recommended that a small committee, namely Commissioner Jason and a member of the Airport Commission be designated to review the appraisal.  Commissioner Sawyer said that he was an instructor of real estate appraisal and would like to sit on the committee.  Chairman Leland agreed.  Two Airport Commissioners would be asked to sit on the committee then as well.  

Mrs. Borer reported that the grant writer is working on preparing 418 Housing Certifications and will be applying for year two of the Housing Grant.  The grant writer is also working on a NOAA grant for water testing monitoring and a grant for Chilmark regarding ADA compliance.  The two staff members are now running the Housing Grant program and Oak Bluffs Selectmen have signed their request for first round funds.

Mrs. Borer signed the DMA Reimbursement Agreement that will bring reimbursements to the Health Access Program.  Commissioner Sawyer asked if this would increase the Access budget.  Mrs. Borer explained that it was a revolving fund. Commissioner Collins asked if the Commissioners should consider the other half of the funds that were requested now that the reimbursement plan was in place.  Mrs. Borer said she wanted to wait to see what the reimbursements were, to have them in hand, and that she would look at it after the first quarter.  

A Cape Light Compact meeting of Island members will be held August 5 and include discussion of a draft contract for Scott Ridley’s technical assistance.  Commissioner Sawyer asked about Tisbury’s role.  Mrs. Borer answered that Tisbury had still not paid its portion of the Cape Light Compact Agreement, but would be invited to attend and hopefully would begin participating again. Commissioner Wey asked if Tisbury was the only town not to have paid and it was.

Mrs. Borer reported that she was working on an RFP to lease property at New York Avenue to accommodate COMSOG.  The permit to demolish the white building was issued and demolition was being scheduled.  Mrs. Borer continued that there will be Airport Union mediation on August 6th.  Commissioner Collins asked if once the white building was demolished, the County would still have building options open. Mrs. Borer said options would remain for one and a half years, but six month extensions were possible after that.  Discussion followed with Commissioner Collins reminding the others that 1 ½ years would pass quickly and they needed to plan accordingly.  The County Manager said that as long as some activity took place towards building, an extension wouldn’t be a problem.

Mrs. Borer reported that the Treasurer borrowed $750,000 in advance of funds for FAA and MAC committed projects as was authorized at the last meeting.

The County Manager also mentioned that there would be a County information tent at the Agricultural Fair.  Commissioner Sawyer urged that Sandra Lothrop or Anson Krickl participate with Universal Access information.

Chairman Leland asked for an explanation about the $750,000 borrowed for the Airport.  Mrs. Flanders explained there were cash flow issues at the Airport and funds were needed to cover projects already started: fencing, piping, roadwork in the Airport Business Park.  

Chairman Leland asked that people sign up for the Commissioners’ Annual Cuttyhunk trip scheduled for August 21.  Also, if Commissioners want snacks at meetings, they were invited to contribute some money to purchase them.

Treasurer Flanders reported that the Trial Court Administration Office said only 95.7 cents on the dollar would be reimbursed for Courthouse expenses.  So it was costing the County $2000 to house the Courts.  Also, no administration costs would be seen this year, bringing the total cost to the County to $8000.  This news came at a time when the County was renovating the Courthouse.

The Chairman invited Sheriff McCormack to present his report on the Jail.  The Sheriff reviewed the recent events at the Jail, namely an escape on May 3rd that revealed 3 other previous escapes by the same inmate.  The Sheriff said he was aware there were questions in the public about what happened and how staff responded, so he wanted to inform the County Commissioners and the public about the facts.  He reported that when he got the call at about 2:30 or 2:45 AM May 4th that an inmate was missing after a bed check, he responded to the Jail, called staff in and set up a Command Center. A police notification was sent out through the Communications Center.  Representatives from each Department were asked to respond to the Command Center.  Officers were placed at the SSA and at the Airport and any place of egress off the Island, and a search began.  A State Police Search dog was called in and information gathered.  In less than 12 hours after setting up the Command Post, the inmate was back in custody.

While the inmate was being questioned, the Sheriff began to consider that there may have been some neglective duty on the part of some of the officers.  At that point, the Sheriff called in the State Police and asked them to do an independent investigation.  Some of the things the Sheriff asked the State Police to look into were: dates and times of the escapes, individuals assisting any escape and/or parties visiting during the escape, implements used during the escape and how the inmate gained access to those implements, routes taken to and from the Jail, materials (contraband) that may have been brought back to the Jail after the escapes and what happened to that contraband, the inmates psyche during the escapes (What was he thinking – how did he think he’d get away with the escapes, were officers’ schedules being watched?), officers’ duties during the escapes, were bed checks being done, transportation (how the inmate got from point A to point B), any assistance gained.  State Police were asked to interview the deputies that work at the Jail, to offer any recommendations regarding security.  The Sheriff said he asked that they look into any contributing factors of staff.   “What was our part?”  Were bed checks made?  Were inmates seen during bed checks or was it just a bump in the covers?  The Sheriff asked them to look into any evidences of security lapses, who was on duty at the time (the same person? different people?).  The Sheriff was looking to the State Police and deputies who work at the Jail for any recommendations that could be made to daily operations of the Jail.  

The investigation revealed and the inmate admitted that he left the facility on 3 occasions in addition to the one during which he was caught (April 11, April 13, April 28 and then in May during the one in which they discovered he was coming and going.)  

The report from the State Police took about 3 weeks.  After receiving that report, disciplinary action and preventative measures were taken.  Disciplinary action resulted in the person who was in charge of the shift (who happened to be in charge of the shift on all 4 occasions) lost his job.  Another person who was on duty on more than one occasion received a suspension without pay. He wasn’t in charge and it wasn’t clear whether the person in charge of the shift who resigned actually made him responsible for making bed checks or whether he said he did make some bed checks during the times during the times when the inmate was absent, so because of that neglective duty, he received a suspension without pay.  Two trainees were spoken to verbally and instructed in proper procedure.  

Preventative measures were also taken to increase accountability.  A Captain was assigned to some evening and weekend shifts to act as an administrative presence. Security was increased.  Bars were installed on the pre-release modular unit.  Prior to this there were only security screens and it didn’t appear that it needed security bars.  (After finding that the inmate escaped through these windows, the bars were installed and the windows secured.) More fencing was installed.  During this time a construction project was going on to create a new booking area and some of the fencing had been taken down.  (That was how the inmate left the facility the first times.) So fencing was put back up and additional new fencing added to prevent escapes of that nature.  

The responsibility of the staff was increased.  In the past, only the Shift Commander was responsible to do bed checks (at least once an hour.) Now it is the responsibility of every person on the shift to do at least one bed check per hours.  So depending on how many people are on duty, that’s how many people do bed checks per hour.  They are to be random and sporadic checks but at a regular frequency.  

Training was increased.  Post orders were redefined.  How bed checks are done, what they are, was redefined.  

The Sheriff said he believed he and his staff acted in a responsive, decisive, responsible and appropriate manner.  He realized there was an undercurrent of dissatisfaction in the community, exemplified by the editorial in the paper.  He remained open to suggestions by dissatisfied community members or anyone interested.  He added that he believed he had dealt with the matter in an open, informative way.  He not only notified police, but he issued press releases, and reported to the Commissioners.  He was still awaiting the full report by the State Police on recommendations for the staff.  The Sheriff said he took full responsibility for the events and believed he and his staff had dealt with the issues appropriately.  

The Sheriff stated that he believed there were serious issues with the facility itself.  He reviewed the history of the issues with the Jail, starting in 1988 when Sheriff Look pointed out problems to when he took office in 1999.  He mentioned that a Task Force had been appointed to investigate the issues and the Task Force met for eleven months.  In the Task Force Report of February 2000, it was declared that the facility was outdated, unsafe for inmates and employees, and should be replaced at another site.  The present site was out of town when it was built in 1873, but was not at the entrance of historic Main Street in Edgartown.  The Sheriff then discussed the delay that has since taken place regarding the chosen new site in the Northeast Quadrant of the Airport, due to the Airport’s Master Plan Study.  

Sheriff McCormack asked the County Commissioners to help him pursue an answer from the Airport Commission on the status of the Master Plan Study and whether or not the Airport site is deemed suitable, so he can proceed with constructing a Jail that is a safe and secure facility.  At the present site, he is not able to construct double fencing with wire at the appropriate height to maintain security.  There is the possibility too, at the present site, that the public could approach the facility and introduce implements or contraband.

Chairman Leland asked about the State’s five year plan for funding.  Sheriff McCormack said the State was aware of the County’s situation and that we were on their list.  Treasurer Flanders noted the increase in liability insurance for the Officers in the Jail, from $7,500 to $32,000.  She said this was due to the fact that the facility was considered unsafe, overcrowded, and ‘an accident waiting to happen.’

Commissioner Wey asked how to get a commitment from the Airport Commission.  He suggested asking the Airport Commissioners to attend a meeting to discuss this.  Others agreed.  Commissioner Sawyer thanked the Sheriff for his report and his work and added that he and the other Commissioners had tremendous confidence in him.  He added that the real issue was the impossible situation of having to use that facility.  Only a new facility with modern technology would solve the problems.

TJ Hegarty asked about private funding for the Jail.  Commissioner Sawyer said funding wasn’t the issue.  The issue was location, the approval of the use of land at the Airport.  Commissioner Collins asked what would happen if the Airport denies the land use for the Jail.  The Sheriff said he’d have no choice but to renovate the present site, that other sites had already been studied and found unacceptable.  Commissioner Collins concluded that the Commissioners had to press the Airport to move forward.  The Sheriff added that nobody had ever escaped from a locked cell at the County Jail.  

Mrs. Borer reviewed the Carryovers from Fiscal Year 2002 to Fiscal Year 2003 (attached.)  

Commissioner Collins Moved that the Carryovers be approved.   Commissioner Sawyer Seconded the Motion.  The Vote to Approve the Carryovers was Unanimous.

        Commissioner Sawyer Moved to Adjourn. Commissioner Wey
        Seconded the Motion.  The meeting Adjourned at 8:30 PM.

Complete text of meeting is available on tape at the County Commissioner’s office.


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