The Dukes County commission voted Wednesday to appoint two new airport commissioners, ousting longtime commissioner John S. Alley and Benjamin L. Hall Jr.
Mr. Alley, who is also a county commissioner, had served on the airport commission for more than 33 years, most recently as chairman. Mr. Hall had served three years.
Christine Todd, a county commissioner and last-minute candidate for the appointment, and Richard Michelson, a former airport employee, will replace them on the seven-member commission. The appointments run for three years.
The decision not to reappoint Mr. Alley and Mr. Hall, whose terms were up, comes amid a tangled workplace dispute at the airport that came to light this winter when an employee filed a claim of sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace. The dispute, which includes charges against airport manager Sean Flynn, has played out in public and in closed meetings and remains ongoing.
At the county commission meeting Wednesday, commissioner Tristan Israel said he had seen footage of a January meeting held at the airport where the dispute was discussed, and as a result would not vote to reappoint any sitting airport commissioner.
“I don’t know any of the facts, and this is not about the right or wrong,” Mr. Israel said. “I was appalled at the way that meeting was run, appalled at the lack of process, appalled at the counsel.”
The county followed its usual process of seeking candidates for the airport commission by advertising the upcoming vacant slots this winter. Mr. Alley, Mr. Hall and Mr. Michelson all submitted letters of interest. Ms. Todd expressed interest at the last minute on Wednesday, and county commissioners debated whether it was proper to consider her. Some felt it was within bounds, while others said the process had historically been limited to previously announced candidates.
“I think it's an opportunity to have new eyes to be on that board and I am convinced there needs to be some change there,” Ms. Todd said. “I don’t take the consideration to enter into this post lightly, and a phrase that keeps occurring to me is ‘be the change you want to see.’”
In his position statement, Mr. Michelson said he felt the airport should work on its relationships with employees, tenants, the county and the greater community.
“I really believe some of the relationships at the airport have really just crumbled,” he said.
Reached by telephone Thursday, Mr. Alley questioned the reappointment process, calling it “bad government.”
“The thing that rankles me the most, is that if you have a set of rules, you have to follow the rules you have,” he said.
Mr. Alley said his ties to the airport date to 1959 when he began working for Old Colony Aviation. He said the decision to remove him from the commission was tied to the recent employee dispute.
“That is what people do, they will take an issue and decide that is what they are going to do, and decide this is his time for reappointment,” he said.
“I happened to be the chairman and you had to face tough decisions and you make tough decisions. It doesn’t make everybody happy.”