County says 'Fuhgedabout it'
Former airport manager missed interview for airport post, so he's out
Although William Weibrecht of Edgartown is intimately familiar with the inner workings of the Martha's Vineyard Airport, the Dukes County commissioners struck him from a list of potential candidates to be considered for appointment to the airport commission.
No commissioner questioned Mr. Weibrecht's qualifications to sit on the county-appointed board that by state statute is responsible for the care, custody, and maintenance of the airport.
Mr. Weibrecht, the former manager of the Vineyard airport, is chief operating officer for a private aviation services and management company. He and Michael Rotondo of Vineyard Haven, another applicant, failed to make the county commissioners' cut because they did not attend the single interview session held last week.
Of the 15 men and women, including Mr. Weibrecht, and Mr. Rotondo, who submitted letters of interest by the Feb. 10 deadline set by the county commissioners, none were aware that failure to attend the Feb. 15 interview session would disqualify them from consideration for the airport commission.
Mr. Weibrecht's wife called John Alley of West Tisbury, county commission chairman, on Wednesday afternoon, the day on which the interviews were held, and told him that due to a late meeting, her husband would not be able to attend. She was not told that her husband's absence would disqualify him, and was led to believe the interviews might run two evenings, Mr. Weibrecht said this week.
Mr. Rotondo said he faxed a letter to the county manager's office Wednesday afternoon removing his name from consideration. According to Deb Potter, assistant to the county manager, Mr. Rotondo's letter was received in the office at 6:02 pm so the commissioners, who were already meeting, were unaware of it.
At the end of last Wednesday's meeting, the county commissioners voted in favor of a motion by Nelson Smith of Edgartown to exclude candidates not present from further consideration.
Mr. Weibrecht said the county decision to exclude him flies in the face of their statement that they want to appoint the most qualified people. "Not that I expected any special consideration, but it is not as if I am someone they are unfamiliar with," said Mr. Weibrecht. "They have had a good long time to know me and I have stood in front of them many times, so I find it a little bit insulting."
During his five-year tenure, Mr. Weibrecht increased airport revenues and completed an airport master plan that helped attract millions in state and federal grants. He resigned last May out of frustration with the county's continued interference in airport affairs and refusal to honor the terms of his contract, the subject of a winning lawsuit.
This week, county officials explained the vote. "We had the meeting scheduled, and they had all agreed they could come," said Winn Davis, Dukes county manager, "and we had 13 people and they [the commissioners] felt like if they can't come, that is okay, we do not need to consider them any further."
Mr. Davis said that had any of the applicants said they could not attend, he would have raised the issue with the commissioners. Asked if he spoke to Mr. Weibrecht, Mr. Davis said, "He did not call me, apparently he called John Alley."
Mr. Davis, speaking from his office, could not recall with any certainty whether Mr. Alley announced Wednesday that Mr. Weibrecht could not attend the interview until he was reminded by Deb Potter, assistant to the county manager, that Mr. Alley mentioned it twice.
Mr. Davis did not raise the issue when Mr. Smith made his motion because, he said, there was no need, since 13 other people, many qualified, did make the effort to attend the interviews. "I think the commissioners can adopt any rational criteria that they want," said Mr. Davis, "and I don't think it is irrational to say that if someone doesn't bother to come that they don't need to be further considered."
John Alley declined to explain why the commissioners thought a vote was necessary. "You best ask Nelson Smith, who made the motion, and Lenny [Jason], who seconded it," said Mr. Alley,
Mr. Alley, who is also a self-appointed airport commissioner, said, "Personally, I more than likely wouldn't have voted for the former manager, but that had nothing to do with it."
Mr. Alley said the commissioners have many good candidates to choose from, including T.J. Hegarty, the county rodent control officer and former airport commissioner, who resigned, then reapplied. "I would consider him a highly qualified candidate," said Mr. Alley.
Roger Wey, the selectman and county commissioner of Oak Bluffs, said he decided to go along with Nelson Smith's motion because it seemed that the people who did not show up were not interested.
Mr. Wey was unaware of all the circumstances. "I must have somehow missed that in the beginning when John had mentioned that Bill Weibrecht couldn't be there," said Mr. Wey, "I must have missed that part. The part I got at the end was that Nelson [Smith] made the motion that people who did not attend the meeting would be eliminated. I have no idea why the motion was made and what his reasoning was behind the motion."
Lenny Jason of Chilmark said he saw no need for a vote but decided to cut to the chase. "He [Mr. Smith] made the motion, so I thought we'd second it and vote rather than spend hours discussing whether or not," he said.
Robert Sawyer of Tisbury said, "I think the general feeling was that we had gone through what I think is a very good process, and people had come, many of them were there for three and a half hours, and they felt that if you hadn't gone through this process you shouldn't be considered a candidate." He added that he did not give the matter a lot of thought, because it did not seem important.
Leslie Leland of West Tisbury, county vice chairman, was surprised to hear that the motion he voted for called for the exclusion of two candidates. Mr. Leland said he thought he was voting in favor of a motion not to consider any new applicants.
Nelson Smith did not return repeated telephone calls. And Paul Strauss of Oak Bluffs, the only county commissioner not present, is vacationing off-Island.