WELLFLEET — Luene Grady and her son Schooner forfeited their shellfishing grant in February. That’s because they had not used it for growing oysters or clams for over a decade, said Shellfish Constable Nancy Civetta at the select board’s June 7 meeting.
It’s Civetta’s job to make sure minimum productivity standards are met, she told the Independent. The logic behind the town’s regulations says that, when the flats are not being used productively, another farmer should be allowed to use them.
“The minimums are low,” Civetta said, “$1,000 an acre a year, equal to sales of about 2,000 oysters or 3,000 quahogs.”
Shellfisherman William “Chopper” Young appeared at the meeting with Luene Grady, who he said was a close friend, to appeal the forfeiture.
According to Civetta’s testimony at the select board hearing, both Gradys were sent individual certified letters on Feb. 4 “informing them of their failure to meet minimum productivity requirements on grant #95-15, and their right to request an appeal within two weeks of notification.”
Because the Gradys failed to request a public hearing within two weeks, the grant was automatically forfeited, in keeping with the town’s Shellfishing Policy and Regulations, Civetta said.
Young acknowledged that Luene Grady “may not have requested an appeal in time” but said that she was late because she had had shoulder surgery.
“I supported Nancy and I still do,” Young said, referring to Civetta’s hiring as constable. “I just don’t think in this particular incident that she was fair.”
“This is the first time that Wellfleet has been enforcing on minimum productivity for a number of years,” said select board chair Ryan Curley in considering Young’s appeal. “To me, there should be some allowance due to that factor.” Curley drew an analogy to drivers caught speeding: usually they are given a verbal warning first before they receive a ticket.
Curley also noted that the 14-day appeal requirement is inconsistent with other shellfishing regulations, which allow for 30-day appeal periods.
According to an email sent to Curley by Rebekah Eldridge, executive assistant to the town administrator, “There was no phone call to the Shellfish Department, Jeanne Maclauchlan, or myself until the beginning of March,” at which point Grady did want to be heard by the select board. Her request came after the 14-day deadline.
Select board member Helen Miranda Wilson acknowledged Curley’s remark about the number of days to request an appeal, but said a change, if it were made, would apply only to future cases. “I fully agree that we should change the number of days, but that’s not what we’re doing tonight,” Wilson said.
Wilson called Civetta’s efforts to remind the Gradys of the requirements of the grant and their rights remarkable.
“The documentation of the bending over backwards and the kindness and the outreach, way beyond what you would do just within the job, on the part of the shellfish constable is meticulous,” said Wilson. “This is outreach that legally she doesn’t have to do, and she did it again and again.”
Civetta was hired as shellfish constable in 2017. According to Young, the select board was looking for someone who would enforce the regulations and “do the job correctly” after the previous constable, Andrew Koch, resigned. “In Nancy’s defense, she did nothing but that,” Young said.
What he wanted, said Young, was for Grady to have “a fair shake” at keeping her grant. He said he hoped in this case the town would show “a little compassion for people’s losses,” referring to Grady’s loss of her husband in 2000 and her son, who died in 2017.
On May 24, seven local shellfishermen went before the select board for the same violation as the Gradys — not meeting minimum productivity requirements. All seven were granted a reprieve and allowed to keep their licenses on the condition that they increase productivity by Oct. 21.
“This grant situation was different,” Civetta told the board, “because minimum productivity on this grant has not been met for a decade or more, with serious enforcement conversations between the Gradys and the shellfish dept. beginning in 2017.” Civetta said the department had been talking and meeting with Grady for several years, “all without results.”
Young suggested that enforcement in this case should not matter much. “In all seriousness, it’s an acre of land,” he said, “and it ain’t hurting anybody whether there’s 100,000 clams on it or 100 clams on it.”
Wilson disagreed. “I think it can be the case — and has been that case for years here — that people have grants and they don’t use them,” she said. “And there is something wrong with that.”
Ultimately, the select board took no action, thus upholding the grant forfeiture.
Editor’s note: Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article, published in print on June 23, incorrectly reported that neither of the Gradys attended the June 7 select board meeting. Luene Grady was present at the meeting.