Editorial: Conflicting explanations for expelling captain

(Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)
(Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

Fish stink. But what stinks more is the lack of clear information coming from Greenport Village Hall as to why the administration has been trying to expel Sid Smith’s fishing boat from the railroad dock. 

The village attorney’s explanation — that the county mandated the burdensome $2 million insurance minimum of Mr. Smith — doesn’t hold water. Not only is it implausible, but no one in the county reached by The Suffolk Times would confirm this as fact.

Village records, on the other hand, acquired by reporter Paul Squire through a Freedom of Information Law request, show the other boats at the dock are only being required to carry $1 million policies. Still, Mr. Smith received a letter from the village attorney July 25 stating he’d have to vacate because he didn’t carry the standard $2 million coverage. Mayor David Nyce hasn’t returned phone calls since the paper received the documentation proving the discrepancy last Wednesday.

To put this story in context, here are some criticisms that Mr. Smith — an outspoken critic of the fireboat museum at the railroad dock and overall pain in the neck for local officials — leveled at village government in a Guest Spot that appeared previously in this newspaper:

“Unfortunately, it seems the village is more interested in being called a fishing village than actually being one. The fact of the matter is, village government has never made it easy for a commercial fishing boat to actually work out of the village. They have a commercial dock, but don’t allow fish boxes there. Get that? No unloading. No fueling. No gear on the dock. Those are the rules — in a fishing village.”

Those are strong words, and Mr. Smith predicted after writing them back in April that he’d pay the price for his remarks. Even at the time, his prediction didn’t seem outlandish. Many who contact this paper with story tips do so anonymously or off the record, citing fear of retribution from government officials. It’s easy to imagine the fears are exaggerated until we learn of circumstances like these, which, so far, have not been sufficiently explained and appear to be nothing short of an abuse of power. The folks in Village Hall owe Mr. Smith and everyone else better answers.