Meetings of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission are turning into a spectacle that might be comical but for the fact that they involve a commission charged with oversight of the Island’s only commercial airport.
The latest example was last Friday morning when a regular business meeting of the airport commission saw members alternately carping among themselves over petty procedural matters. When commissioner Richard Michelson began to ask about the status of a draft personnel policy governing drug use in the workplace for nonunion employees, chairman Norman Perry told his fellow commissioner that the matter could not be discussed because it had not been placed on the agenda ahead of time. And even more incredibly, when Mr. Michelson, who is a newly appointed member of the commission, inquired about the process for putting an item on the agenda, Mr. Perry said that, too, could not be discussed because it was not on the agenda. The meeting went on like this, with much bickering over internal matters and little accomplished in the way of actual airport business. At more than one point during the meeting, airport manager Sean Flynn coached Mr. Perry the chairman on what to say. The capper came at the end of the meeting when Chairman Perry and Mr. Flynn dished out rude treatment to a pilot and member of the public who had attended the meeting. Myron Garfinkle was abruptly cut off from speaking because he had not been recognized by the chairman.
All the while, two off-Island attorneys participated in the meeting via conference call.
What in the world is going on at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport?
The airport commission is entangled in an unresolved workplace dispute that includes discrimination claims by a former employee against Mr. Flynn, the airport manager. The airport commission is itself a litigant in a court complaint that has been filed against the county commission, which is its co-commission and appointing authority. Among other things, the complaint seeks to resolve the question of whether the county manager may participate in airport commission meetings as an ex officio member. It’s hard to believe that this matter is worth a lawsuit at taxpayer expense. Can’t the two commissions just talk about their issues of mutual concern and come to an agreement?
The county commission is pushing back in this murky dispute; last month the commission replaced two members of the seven-member airport commission, including its longtime chairman, with new appointees.
Somewhere in the middle of the power struggles, intramural lawsuits and whisper campaigns lies the truth about what’s going on at the airport.
The airport commission is a public agency responsible for overseeing the care and operation of the airport and the airport business park, and as such should be ensuring that the public is confident in the way the airport is being run. One sure way to erode confidence is to act like it has something to hide. The commission ought to straighten up quickly and turn its attention fully — and openly — to the ongoing matters of real public concern at the airport.