Airport appointments come under scrutiny
Under the watchful gaze of the chairman of the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission (MAC), the Dukes County commissioners last night began interviewing applicants for five vacant seats on the seven-member Martha's Vineyard Airport Commission.
As of press time last night, the county commissioners had started through a field of 15 applicants. John Alley, county commission chairman, said appointments would be made at a later meeting.
The field of candidates includes William Weibrecht of Edgartown, the well-respected former airport manager, several individuals with extensive business and aviation experience such as Donald Ogilvie of Tisbury, former associate dean of the Yale School of Management, and one former airport commission member, T.J. Hegarty of West Tisbury, the county rodent control officer.
The attendance of Arthur Allen, MAC chairman, at a county commission meeting was unusual and highlighted the concern state aviation officials have over recent county efforts to exercise control over an airport that has benefited from millions of dollars in state grants.
That concern led former MAC chairman Steven Meunch to take the unusual step of asking county and airport commissioners to sign grant contracts that restricted the county and the county manager from meddling in airport business.
State statutes grant the airport commission the care and custody of the county-owned airport.
Last night, the long-running battle between the airport and county commissioners over control of the airport was visible in the line of questioning taken by individual commissioners.
Nelson Smith of Edgartown repeatedly asked the candidates if they would honor previous agreements made by the airport commission, specifically an agreement to abide by county payroll procedures that are at the heart of the latest dispute between the airport and county commissioners over a contract signed between the new airport manager and former airport commission, since gutted by the county commissioners.
Les Leland of West Tisbury, recently spurned by his fellow county commissioners when he sought reappointment to the airport commission, took an opposite tack and asked applicants if they thought they had to seek county approval of every decision.
Prior to leaving the meeting, Mr. Allen said he attended the meeting because the state has an interest in an open process and MAC wants to make sure the grant assurances are honored.
"We have 38 public use airports in the Commonwealth and I try to get around to airport commission meetings all the time," said Mr. Allen. "There is no commission to visit here now so I am anxious to see how this turns out."
He added, "I hope they choose a mix of qualified people to be on the commission and leave them to be independent and do what they think is best."
The latest vacancies were created less than one month ago when the county commissioners decided to rescind their appointments of Jack Law of Oak Bluffs, airport commission chairman and Mr. Leland.
That action prompted the immediate resignations of veteran airport commissioners Frank Daly and William Mill.
An existing vacancy already existed following the decision of Mr. Hegarty not to seek reappointment.
That left an airport commission consisting of Mr. Alley, airport commission vice chairman, and Norman Perry of West Tisbury.
In the past, the county commissioners have used the appointing process to remove members of the airport commission with whom they clashed. Three years ago the commissioners decided not to reappoint Marc Villa of Chilmark, a pilot and successful businessman who is credited with leading the effort that led to the construction of a new terminal and to more professional airport management.
Commenting on last night's questioning of the applicants, Mr. Villa, who attended the meeting with Mr. Allen, said, "It is not unlike what I expected. There is a heavy push to get the prospective airport commissioners to adhere to the will of the existing county commissioners."
In the past, the county commissioners have been criticized for bypassing individuals with strong business and aviation experience and appointing people considered more favorable to the county viewpoint.
This time around the commissioners - John Alley and Les Leland, both of West Tisbury, Nelson Smith of Edgartown, Lenny Jason of Chilmark, Robert Sawyer of Tisbury, Paul Strauss of Oak Bluffs and Roger Wey of Oak Bluffs - have a wide field to choose from in filling the vacancies.
Paul Adler of Chilmark, a private pilot who owns and manages a construction and real estate company.
John Clarke of Edgartown, a pilot who owns Island Water Source Inc., a well drilling and water systems company in the airport business park.
Fred Condon of Edgartown, a private pilot and former head of a multi-national company.
John Coskie of Edgartown, a frequent airline traveler who has executive management experience in the technology industry.
James Craig of Edgartown, an Edgartown police officer, chairman of the Katama Airport Commission, and an instrument-rated commercial airplane and helicopter pilot. Myron Garfinkle of Edgartown, an airplane owner and independent entrepreneur.
Francis Gildea of Edgartown, former head of several companies in the healthcare and transportation fields.
Peter Hefler of Tisbury, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, specializing in ground transportation, and who has also worked in the transit industry.
T.J. Hegarty of Tisbury, the county rodent control officer who has served on the airport commission for the last three years, often clashing with board members and airport managers.
Frank Honey of Edgartown, who has a background in the insurance industry.
Ron MacLaren of Oak Bluffs, who worked in the healthcare industry for over 20 years and has experience in labor relations.
Donald Ogilvie of Tisbury, former president of the American Bankers Association who also served as the associate director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.
Michael Rotondo of Tisbury, a part owner of the Airport Mobile service station.
Constance Teixeira of Tisbury, a retiree who has served on a number of town boards and formerly worked in the airline industry.
William Weibrecht of Edgartown, who resigned as airport manager last May out of frustration with the county commissioners' refusal to pay him his agreed-upon salary.
He now works for Rectrix, an aircraft services company.