The Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation (SMF) — a Vineyard conservation nonprofit that has long since lost sight of its founder’s mission — is still trying to steamroller Ben Ramsey and Nisa Counter into giving up their land on Blue Barque Road in Chilmark.
For a summary of the case, see “Slantwise.” It includes links to all my previous reports on the topic at the end.
Through the winter and spring I’ve been often asked what was going on with the case. Through the winter, the answer was “Not much.” Ben and Nisa were in Panama, where Nisa’s family lives and Ben had work. With the advent of spring, the slow grinding of Land Court law resumed.
Judge Alexander Sands has been consistently urging the parties to mediate. SMF has just as consistently refused. When the land dispute arose, Ben and Nisa tried to persuade SMF to agree to mediation. No dice, said SMF. They sued Ben and Nisa instead.
Through its high-powered lawyer, Diane Tillotson, SMF said it wouldn’t mediate because it was afraid that the mediation sessions wouldn’t remain confidential. It fingered blogs (including this one) and “social media” as the potential blabbermouths. This is transparently a crock. (1) Ben and Nisa’s supporters (including me) have been using blogs and social media to get the word out because the island media, notably the Martha’s Vineyard Times, have been such staunch cheerleaders for SMF. (2) SMF’s real problem with blogs and social media seems to be that SMF can’t manipulate us the way it does the print media. (3) If small-town living teaches you nothing else, it teaches you when shutting up is the best thing to do. We’re not going to endanger the mediation process by spilling any beans.
Nevertheless, I and others decided to lay low. We didn’t want to freak Ms. Tillotson out. Maybe if Ms. Tillotson wasn’t freaked out, SMF would agree to mediate?
In your dreams, honey. Hasn’t happened. All that’s happened is that many people who’ve been following the case and haven’t heard anything in months think it’s all over and that Sheriff’s Meadow won.
Not so. The case is plodding its way toward a trial date in the fall. Ben and Nisa can’t afford counsel. Ben’s been doing the research and they’ve been representing themselves. SMF is still resisting mediation because it knows that mediation will focus on the facts of the case, rather than legal razzle-dazzle, and the facts are not on their side.
Now another summer is upon us. Many visitors and summer residents want to support organizations that promote conservation and try to protect everything that makes Martha’s Vineyard special. This is great! There are several worthy alternatives to SMF. Check out the Vineyard Conservation Society or the Vineyard Open Land Foundation or the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society.
If you’re disturbed by SMF’s attempt to bully an island couple into giving up the land they purchased from Ben’s aunt, tell them so. Ask them why they’re so afraid of mediation. Hell, ask where they’re getting the money to pay their fancy lawyer. SMF executive director Adam Moore can be reached by phone at 508-693-5207 or by fax at 508-693-0683. SMF can be snail-mailed at:
Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation
Wakeman Conservation Center
57 David Avenue
Vineyard Haven, MA 02568
Or you can use the comment form on the SMF website.