Dukes County Commission thrashes airport commissioners

Dukes County commissioners will focus on addiction in the coming year. -Martha's Vineyard Times File Photo

In a special meeting of the Dukes County Commission on Wednesday, June 18, that followed an earlier meeting of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission, county commission chairman Lenny Jason Jr. called on the airport commissioners to resign.

Following further discussion and expressions of dissatisfaction, a majority of  commissioners prevailed on Mr. Jason to modify the outright call for resignation.

The Martha’s Vineyard Airport commission is responsible by state statute for the care and custody of the county-owned airport. The county commission exercises authority over the airport through its appointing authority.

Mr. Jason is dissatisfied with the airport commission’s stewardship of the airport. In an unusual noon meeting on Wednesday, the airport commission granted airport manager Sean Flynn a leave of absence to address personal issues. Members of the county commission have been highly critical of the airport commission for its handling of several public disciplinary hearings involving an airport employee.

“It’s sad when you see your appointees not performing as you hoped,” Mr. Jason said. “It seems to be a circus atmosphere. It’s not in the best interest of the people of the county. I think we have no alternative but to ask the airport commission to resign. It’s almost like the inmates are running the asylum. The last meeting was disgraceful. That’s not the kind of meeting Thomas Jefferson envisioned.”

Mr. Jason’s fellow county commissioners also voiced withering criticism of the airport commission. They included Christine Todd of Oak Bluffs, who was appointed to also serve on the airport commission earlier this year.

“The experience so far has been frustrating for me,” Ms. Todd said. “It’s been quite difficult to get some basic information, like executive session minutes and procedural questions. I’ve found it to be very frustrating. I’m concerned.”

County commissioner Leon Brathwaite of West Tisbury said he was concerned, after watching MVTV recordings of the airport commission meetings. “I’ve watched the videos,” he said.

“I’m shocked and appalled.”

However, a majority of the commissioners argued to soften Mr. Jason’s outright call for resignation and were leary of using the word “resign.” The county commissioners acknowledged that they have no authority to revoke their appointments, or demand a resignation outright. They will instead send a letter.

While the letter has yet to be drafted, after the meeting Mr. Jason summarized what the full commission agreed the letter should state.

“The letter will ask you to reexamine how you are conducting business, if you feel it’s in the best interest of the people of this county or not,” Mr. Jason said. “If upon reflection you feel you haven’t been doing a good job, perhaps you should consider an alternative.”

Three airport commissioners attended part or all of the county commission meeting. Following the meeting, airport commission chairman Norman Perry said he would not resign. Airport commissioner Constance Teixeira declined any comment.

The discussion of the airport commission was the only item on the agenda for the special meeting.

The decision by the airport commission to grant a leave of absence to airport manager Sean Flynn also came in for criticism at the county commission meeting.

A short statement issued by the Airport Commission made no mention that Mr. Flynn asked for the leave prior to the meeting, and Mr. Perry unilaterally granted the leave, according to Ms. Todd.

Mr. Perry said he had no alternative, under the federal family leave regulations.

“Once a person asks for that, you have to give it to them,” Mr. Perry told county commissioners. “This is something the government says you have to give the person the time.”

Richard Michelson, also appointed to the airport commission by county commissioners earlier this year, was unhappy with the process by which Mr. Flynn was granted leave.

“As an airport commissioner, this and other issues are pretty frustrating,” Mr. Michelson said. “When decisions are made by one person and not the entire commission, members of the commission aren’t included, given any input, communication, or notification.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that county commissioner Leon Brathwait is from Oak Bluffs. He is from West Tisbury.