The Dukes County Commission cannot expand the size of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission, a superior court judge ruled last week.

In the decision, the Hon. Richard Chin continued to side with the airport commission in its ongoing dispute with the county which is its appointing authority.

The latest issue concerns the size of the airport board, which the county commission voted to expand in September by appointing two additional members to the commission.

Attorneys for the airport asked the court to intervene and prevent that action. They claimed the move was an attempt to interfere in the affairs of the airport, which has been fiercely defending its autonomy from the county for more than a decade.

Judge Chin has complied, granting an emergency restraining order and enjoining the county from appointing new commissioners.

In the decision, he agreed that the additional appointments constituted a reorganization of the commission, arguing that while the county has the ability to establish the board, “nothing in the statute gives the county commission the power to change the number of board members once the MVAC has been established.”

Further, he wrote that even if the county had authority to change the number of airport commissioners, they “forfeited that right by executing the grant assurances,” a document which enabled the airport to receive federal and state grants for the construction of a new terminal.

In the grant assurances, the county commission “agreed not to interfere with the autonomy and authority of the MVAC without the express written approval of the Aeronautics Division,” the judge wrote.

The original complaint was filed in May, as the airport sought to gain further legal recognition of its independence from the county.

The decision this month echoes a previous ruling in the case in August, in which Judge Chin granted a preliminary injunction allowing the airport to exclude the county manager as an ex officio nonvoting member of the airport commission.

An effort is also underway to settle differences between the two commissions outside of court.

Last month county commission chairman Leonard Jason Jr. sent a letter to airport commission chairman Constance Teixeira, asking if any airport commissioners would be willing to meet with the county commissioners.

“We feel it would be beneficial to both parties to settle our differences outside of a courtroom,” he wrote. “It is better to save public funds for providing needed services to the public.”

As of Monday morning the county had not received a written response to that offer from Ms. Teixeira.

In a meeting of the county commission last week, airport commissioner Christine Todd said several airport commissioners had been contacted by Ms. Teixeira and advised not to accept the invitation, according to MVTV footage.

She added that an attorney representing the airport had sent a letter to airport commissioners suggesting that such a meeting would violate the state open meeting law.

Ms. Teixeira did not immediately return calls for comment.

Since the county’s vote to expand the board, the airport commission has suspended its regular meetings, waiting for a court decision.

Reached Monday, airport manager Sean Flynn said he hadn’t had a chance to review the decision with legal counsel but at first glance, he said it seemed like a positive step for the airport commission, which can now get back to the business of running the airport. One item of business, concerning a property issue, has been delayed by the fact that the commission has not met in two months.

“To be able to start to do that is a good thing,” Mr. Flynn said.

Still, he said he’d have to review the decision to make sure a meeting would be appropriate at this time. Currently a meeting is scheduled for Nov. 21.

County manager Martina Thornton said she too had not had a chance to review the decision, and did not want to comment on it. She did say that she had run out of money to pay legal counsel, and that the county advisory board had not authorized more funds to pursue the case.

The county’s $16,500 legal budget for this fiscal year will likely be exceeded, with more than $11,000 expended since May.

“I am sad that this has gone as far as it has,” Ms. Thornton said. “I really wish the airport commissioners would sit down with the county commissioners and try to sort this out through mediation, and agree to do what is in the best interest of the public. Why is one department suing its parenting organization and are the issues so important that they couldn’t be resolved another way?”