The following memo was sent to all members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the MVC staff late Tuesday afternoon (5:44 pm to be precise) by Mark London, MVC executive director. Nearly all the commissioners are either elected by Vineyard voters or appointed by elected officials. Mr. London is employed by the commission. Mr. London, reliable rumor has it, was guiding — the word “mastermind” has been used — the roundabout project years before the elected commissioners were involved. Now, it seems, he considers himself the judge and the commissioners members of a jury that must be sequestered lest they be contaminated by public opinion. My overboggled mind is boggling anew.
Subject: Reminder – No Ex-Parte Communications re Roundabout
Since there may be a motion to rescind the decision on the Oak Bluffs Roundabout on November 3, the issue is still pending before the Commission. Therefore, Commissioners should follow all of the ordinary procedures for public hearings and public meetings on pending applications. Ex-parte communications regarding this issue are still prohibited.
Commissioners should not discuss the issue with each other or with anyone else. The only discussion that may take place is in the presence of other Commissioners with proper notice to the parties and the public and opportunity for all Commissioners to participate in the communication. This includes your participation in public meetings other than Commission meetings.
If you are approached by a member of the public or an elected official, you should politely but firmly refuse to engage in conversation about the matter. You can tell them that the hearing is now closed and it is too late to submit additional information or opinions; should the hearing be reopened, the public will be given notice and people can submit additional materials at that time.
Also, you should avoid reading additional materials about this issue, including commentary in local newspapers.
Martha’s Vineyard Commission
The online Vineyard Gazette has a story about the memo, including London’s explanation for why he sent it. It offers some telling insights into the MVC’s view of its own process.
So I’m guessing that somewhere in the Commission “rules” it is stated that Commissioners should behave at all times about matters before them as a sequestered jury? That is, the only info they can have is that which is imparted at public meetings, mostly ‘mongst themselves, and sometimes by very limited public participation? That the Commission, in other words, functions as a court; the commmissioners function as a jury; that London functions as a judge? Mr. London has been channeling too many TV shows, I think. WHAT is he so scared of? Experience tells me to follow the $$$, but this is almost too complicated to be based solely on where the money is. Now, Mr. London does not (technically, except by coercion or persuasion) vote on these matters. Can he. in his role of omnipotent judge, still read emails and newspaper articles and subsequent comments? Is this what we wanted, as an Island, when the Commission was begun? This is SO bad…
They do seem to have a rule that commissioners who don’t attend the public hearings on a matter aren’t eligible to vote on it. This makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense is the notion that they can only consider testimony presented at the public hearings or during the written comment period. And part of the MVC’s mandate involves preserving “the character of the island” — that amorphous thing that everyone believes in but no one agrees on. How do you know what that is if you don’t listen to the people around you?
They shouldn’t be reading blogs either. Might give them indigestion.
The mvc cant have different gag policies for each project. How about some consistency?