County advisory board closes spigot on county lawsuit funding

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File photo by Nelson Sigelman

The Dukes County Advisory Board, which is responsible for oversight of the Dukes County Commission budget, told the county commissioners on Monday that it would authorize no more spending on legal expenses to fund the county’s battle with its appointed airport commission, a battle a superior court judge has twice advised the county that it would likely lose.

The advisory board, made up of one selectman from each town, did authorize an additional $3,000 but made it clear that the money is to be used to negotiate a final out-of-court settlement in the airport commission’s lawsuit against the county, individual county commissioners, county treasurer Noreen Mavro Flanders, and county manager Martina Thornton.

The advisory board members also made it clear that future legal action is to be led by attorney Michael Goldsmith of the Edgartown law firm of Reynolds, Rappaport, Kaplan and Hackney, who normally handles county legal matters. The county has been utilizing attorney Robert Troy, of the Sandwich firm Troy Wall associates, to handle the airport litigation.

“I did not want to spend any more money on the outside attorney the county had engaged,” acting county advisory board chairman Art Smadbeck of Edgartown said. “I’m really not interested in voting for more money to continue this.”

Mr. Goldsmith told a joint meeting of the advisory board and the county commission, that in his legal opinion, it would be wise to continue working with Mr. Troy. Complicating the issue is a pending motion filed by Mr. Troy to withdraw from the case, which must be approved by the court.

“I don’t think it makes good sense to change counsel midstream,” Mr. Goldsmith said. “My roadmap would be to work with the current counsel. I understand there’s been overtures by the airport counsel to talk with the county counsel. I think that’s something the county should do.”

The additional $3,000 will be transferred from a county account that authorized $10,000 to adapt Dukes County Courthouse bathrooms for disabled access. County manager Martina Thornton said the county will not spend that money in the current fiscal year, because engineers have determined the cost will be closer to $100,000.