Airport Commission faces second lawsuit from fired employee


In a lawsuit filed July 9 in Dukes County Superior Court, a lawyer for fired airport employee Beth Tessmer makes 30 separate allegations against the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission, each of the airport commissioners individually, two former airport commissioners, airport manager Sean Flynn, airport assistant manager Deborah Potter, and the County of Dukes County.

The lawsuit charges slander and defamation, discrimination, retaliation under the Massachusetts “whistle blower” law, wrongful discharge, denial of due process, civil rights violations, and civil conspiracy.

The lawsuit also names the airport commission and Dukes County with negligent hiring, supervision, retention, and training of Mr. Flynn.

It is one of three legal actions that Ms. Tessmer has taken against her former employer.

In a summary of facts included in the lawsuit, Ms. Tessmer alleges that Mr. Flynn and Ms. Potter discriminated against her by telling her that her job might be in jeopardy because of her arrest on charges of operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol in July, 2014. In the lawsuit, Ms. Tessmer said her arrest was not related in any way, and did not affect her job at the airport. None of the formal disciplinary actions by airport managers involved the OUI arrest.

Ms. Tessmer asked the court to award her triple the wages she lost as a result of her suspension in November, 2013, wages from the date of her firing on April 4, to the end of her projected professional working lifetime, unspecified punitive damages, as well as court costs and attorney’s fees.

On June 18, the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission granted Mr. Flynn an eight week leave of absence to address personal issues, under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Nearly all of the charges relate in some way to Ms. Tessmer’s allegation that Mr. Flynn often worked while intoxicated as a result of taking prescription medications, beginning in December, 2012.

“The plaintiff (Ms. Tessmer) observed the defendant to frequently be unsteady on his feet, have garbled and often undiscernible speech and pin point pupils,” according to the lawsuit filed on July 9 by attorney Ted Saulnier. “The plaintiff also observed the defendant to be displaying significant mood swings and loss of control of his emotions on a moment’s notice.”

The lawsuit also alleges Mr. Flynn put himself at risk.

“In May of 2013, there was an incident, witnessed by the plaintiff and several other airport employees, whereby the defendant, Mr. Flynn, was walking on an active runway without the required communications equipment in his possession, while incoming aircraft approached. An airport employee rushed to the scene to warn the defendant, Mr. Flynn, to get off the runway.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the airport commission and Mr. Flynn fabricated disciplinary charges against Ms. Tessmer “for the purpose of laying the groundwork for discharging the plaintiff.”

The lawsuit also charges several violations of the Massachusetts open meeting law, and that Mr. Flynn conspired with former airport commission chairman John Alley, former commissioner Ben Hall Jr., and current airport commissioners Norman Perry, Constance Teixeira, Peter Bettencourt, James Coyne, and Denys Wortman, by meeting secretly to script the outcome of public disciplinary hearings against Ms. Tessmer.

Among the other allegations in the lawsuit, Ms. Tessmer charges that Mr. Flynn slandered and defamed her by falsely telling other employees she had sexually transmitted diseases, and falsely making statements about her reputation.

The lawsuit also names the airport commission and Dukes County in allegations that they breached their duty and negligently hired, supervised, and retained Mr. Flynn by allowing him to manage an airport under the influence of intoxicants.

Ms. Tessmer asked the court for a jury trial on all applicable issues.

Rosemarie Hagaizian, an Edgartown attorney who represents Mr. Flynn, declined comment on the lawsuit because she has not read it. Ms. Hagazian said she has not yet been served with a copy of it by the court.

Previously, on May 1, Ms. Tessmer filed a civil lawsuit in Dukes County Superior Court, asking a judge to order the Airport Commission to return her to her job, and award back pay. The airport commission has not yet responded to the initial lawsuit, according to the second lawsuit filed this month.

She has also filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, alleging sexual harassment and workplace discrimination against Mr. Flynn.