County names 5 to airport commission, but the DA's office has questions
The Dukes County commissioners filled five vacant seats on the Martha's Vineyard Airport Commission on March 1, from a pool of 13 applicants interviewed on Feb. 15.
They made the appointments the same day that the Cape and Island's district attorney's office sent a letter to the county seeking information about the legality of a special meeting in January at which the county rescinded two earlier airport appointments.
At last week's meeting the county appointed Fred Condon of Edgartown, James Craig of Edgartown, Constance Teixeira of Tisbury, John Coskie of Edgartown, and Donald Ogilvie of Tisbury - pending rulings from the state ethics commission on any possible conflicts of interest that the candidates may have in connection with business and aviation interests at the airport.
There was some confusion at last Wednesday evening's county meeting, which was not expected to include action by the commissioners on appointments.
"I was under the impression that we were going to shorten the list," said Robert Sawyer of Tisbury, county commission vice chairman.
Asked to clarify the county's action, John Alley of West Tisbury, county commission chairman and airport commissioner, said, "We have appointed five people to the airport commission pending state ethics commission examination."
The county commissioners failed to clarify the individual terms of the appointments, which by statute include three-, two-, and one-year terms.
Les Leland of West Tisbury, county commissioner and former airport commissioner, also questioned the actual number of appointments available to make. In January, the county commissioners reappointed Mr. Leland and Jack Law of Oak Bluffs and less than one week later then rescinded the two appointments. That action has drawn the attention of the Massachusetts assistant district attorney.
At Mr. Leland's request, on Feb. 15, an attorney for the Martha's Vineyard Airport Commission provided a legal opinion stating that the county commissioners lacked the legal authority to rescind the appointments. The county's attorney fired back with an opinion stating that because the two men were never sworn in, the county had the right to rescind the appointments.
Both men claim that Winn Davis, county manager, purposely withheld a letter of appointment preventing them from completing the ceremony, an accusation Mr. Davis denies. However, Mr. Davis did provide a letter for Mr. Alley, who was also reappointed and sworn in the next day.
At last Wednesday's meeting, Mr. Leland said that he had asked the district attorney's office to look into the matter. He also asked the district attorney to look into whether the special meeting to rescind the appointments was properly posted according to state requirements for open meetings.
On March 1, Thomas Shack, chief of operations for the assistant district attorney's office, wrote a letter to Mr. Alley asking for documentation proving that the Jan. 17 meeting had been properly posted.
Mr. Shack wrote, "This office recently received a complaint of potential violation concerning the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law. It is alleged that the Dukes County Commission did not adequately post the special meeting held on Jan. 17, 2006. Please provide this office with a copy of any notices or postings with regard to the meeting that occurred on Jan. 17, 2006. Also please explain where, when, and how the meeting postings were made."
On Monday, Deborah Potter, executive assistant to the county manager, said that the county had not yet provided the information that Mr. Shack had requested. Ms. Potter said that Mr. Shack had told her that the county could wait to provide the information until after Mr. Davis returned from vacation yesterday.