The sword of Damocles apparently will dangle a while longer over the finances of Dukes County government.

The county commission tentatively had slated a meeting for tomorrow with the finance advisory board to discuss strategy in what could be a major legal judgment against the county. But county manager E. Winn Davis said yesterday the meeting had been canceled.

The legal judgment stems from the county commission's defeat last month in a lawsuit filed by managers at Martha's Vineyard Airport, a case that also involves the airport commission.

The county commission could face a payment stemming from triple damages of more than $500,000 in the lawsuit. That payment would come on top of legal bills that already total more than $350,000 for the county and airport commissions.

"We're not ready to talk about it this week," county commission chairman John Alley said yesterday about the airport lawsuit.

Mr. Alley said both the county commission and the county advisory board want to know how the Hon. Robert H. Bohn Jr., associate justice of the superior court, will rule on a motion to reverse triple damages, before deciding what steps to take next. The ruling could come by mid-September, Mr. Alley said.

He also said busy schedules at the end of the summer had made it difficult to get all the county commissioners and advisory board members together.

The chairman described the delay as logistical rather than strategic.

"We're not ducking anything," Mr. Alley said. "Everything everybody needs to know is out there."

Former airport manager William Weibrecht and acting airport manager Sean Flynn sued the airport commission in 2002 for failing to pay salaries they had negotiated with the commission. The airport commission in turn sued the county commission, which voted not to pay the salaries at the negotiated levels. After a trial this past winter, Judge Bohn issued his ruling July 14. If the ruling is allowed to stand with triple damages, the county could face legal payments of more than $500,000. But in light of a recent decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on the subject, county attorneys filed their motion to have the triple damages reduced. The state's highest court ruled that treble damages are no longer mandatory.

Judge Bohn still can impose triple damages if he finds the defendant acted in bad faith.

In its motion, the county commission maintains that it acted in good faith in the dispute. But Harry Beach, the plaintiffs' attorney, argues otherwise.

A triple damage ruling would pose serious financial problems to the county, whose finances are constrained by Proposition 2 1/2, a state law that limits annual increases in the property tax levy.

If the county cannot cover the lawsuit payment through its existing funds, it may have to ask its seven member towns to pass a Proposition 2 1/2 override to provide the rest of the money.

But Mr. Alley said yesterday the county commission likely would not seek an override, but would try to find money in other parts of its budget to fund any legal damage payment.

Aside from the potential $500,000 damage payment, the legal fees stemming from the case already may be wearing out the patience of the advisory board, which has the final local say on county expenditures.

Early this month the board agreed to allow the county to spend money on the motion to defeat the triple damages.

But the board also said that the $25,000 earmarked in the current $4.4 million county budget cannot be used to fund more appeals in the airport lawsuit.

The expensive case also is stirring discontent among a number of Vineyard selectmen. Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter, chairman of the West Tisbury board of selectmen, has called for formation of a committee to examine the usefulness of county government, while Tisbury selectman Ray LaPorte has complained about county government generating big bills but little service.

When Judge Bohn rules on the motion, Mr. Davis said, the county commission then will meet with the advisory board to discuss the next step. Mr. Davis said that meeting will include a public discussion of the matter as well as an executive session to discuss pending litigation.

Yesterday, Mr. Alley said, "We promised to involve everybody in it, and we will. People need to know exactly what we're doing and where we're going.

"We took a position and it wasn't successful," he said. "From now on, we need to let people know what we're doing." The more public discussion, the better, Mr. Alley said.

The county commission also had been scheduled to meet Wednesday with representatives of the Vineyard Energy Project to discuss alternative energy generation on the Island. But project representatives want to meet with the commission in late September, so the county meeting was canceled.

Mr. Alley said the commission has a policy against holding a meeting if there are no specific topics to discuss.

In other county developments, the airport commission has scheduled a special session for 4 p.m. Wednesday at the general aviation building at the airport. No information was available yesterday about agenda.