Commission Names Manager of Airport
Sean Flynn Wins Post by Vote of 4-3; Search Consultants Recommended All Other Candidates, Not Him
By JAMES KISELLA
Gazette Senior Writer
Island residency proved the trump card for Sean Flynn, who was selected as manager of Martha's Vineyard Airport on Wednesday night in a 4-3 vote of the airport commission.
Commission members voted for Mr. Flynn, who has been the acting airport manager since May, even though the firm hired to conduct the applicant search did not recommend him for the job. The firm recommended the other four applicants interviewed by the airport commission.
Mr. Flynn, who lives in Oak Bluffs, received the votes of commission chairman Jesse (Jack) Law 3rd and commissioners Francis Daly, Leslie Leland and William Mill.
The remaining commissioners - John Alley, T.J. Hegarty and Norman Perry - voted for Timothy Bradshaw, the manager of the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport in Owensboro, Ky.
Mr. Flynn said Wednesday night he was excited by his appointment. He declined further comment.
An airport commission subcommittee will meet in the coming weeks with Mr. Flynn to work out details of his contract. The position will pay between $80,000 and $95,000.
Commission members who backed Mr. Flynn said he had demonstrated his competence in managing the airport for the last seven months.
"I'll go with Sean," Mr. Leland said. "I think he can do a great job."
But Mr. Hegarty denounced the commission's selection of Mr. Flynn, saying that he does not have the educational credentials or work experience to qualify for the job.
"You changed the job description by your vote," he said. "You deceived these other applicants. What a farce. Shameful," Mr. Hegarty declared.
Mr. Hegarty later left the airport conference room where the commission held its meeting, rather than participate in a second, unanimous vote to have the chairman cast a single vote naming Mr. Flynn the new manager.
The commissioners who voted for Mr. Flynn praised his management of the airport over the past seven months, his hands-on approach to airport operations, his rapport with the airport's employees, and his knowledge of the airport business park, which generates revenue for the airport. They said the other four applicants who interviewed for the job lacked that experience.
A key advantage for Mr. Flynn was what Mr. Daly called "the Island factor." Unlike the other four candidates who interviewed for the job, Mr. Flynn lives on the Vineyard, and is familiar not only with the airport's operation, but with the Island as a whole.
The other applicants, they said, would have to find housing in the Vineyard real estate market, which is more expensive than many mainland communities. Further, they said Island life could put a strain on families unaccustomed to it. A new manager from off-Island might decide to leave, requiring a new search to be launched to fill the manager's slot.
Mr. Law said the Vineyard has a tradition of bringing in off-Islanders for leadership positions, only to see those people leave. He said he favors promoting from within an organization.
"I think we should be looking for an assistant manager, not a manager," Mr. Law said.
Mr. Alley questioned the fairness of the selection process. He said if the commissioners believed they had a strong in-house candidate, or that Vineyard residency was a major advantage, they should have included that information in the advertising for the position.
Commission members interviewed applicants for the job last Saturday at the airport. In addition to Mr. Flynn and Mr. Bradshaw, the commission interviewed Robert Nicholas, director of the Ithaca Regional Airport in Ithaca, N.Y.; Kenneth Whittaker, superintendent of airport operations at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Tex.; and Christopher Willenborg, manager of the Westfield-Barnes Airport in Westfield.
Mr. Flynn was graduated from Northeastern University in Boston in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice supervision and management.
In June 2000, he was named assistant airport manager. Last May, following the resignation of the manager of the Vineyard airport, William Weibrecht, Mr. Flynn became acting manager.
Mr. Flynn became a private pilot in July 1991 and a commercial pilot in June 1992.
From 1991 to 2000, Mr. Flynn also worked as divisional manager at Island Transport Inc., an Oak Bluffs bus company that was partly owned by his father.
While working at the airport, Mr. Flynn wrote in an Oct. 27 cover letter for his application for airport manager, "I have gained a sound knowledge and expertise of running a fixed base operation as well as in the areas of commercial service airport operations, maintenance, inspection, planning, property management, security and construction."
During the past five years, he wrote, he had participated in major milestones at the airport including a new master plan, an environmental impact report, and a capital improvement program.
Requirements for the job included a degree from an accredited four-year college or university with major course work in business administration, finance, aviation management or related field.
The job also required six years of experience in aviation management, including four years of high level supervisory and administrative experience.
The most recent Vineyard airport manager, William Weibrecht, and Mr. Flynn remain parties to a superior court case involving both the airport and the county commissioners. The managers had sued over a salary dispute. The judge in the case, who recently died, ruled in favor of the managers, and if the ruling is allowed to stand, the county will be forced to pay triple damages.
Mr. Weibrecht said bad faith on the part of the county in the salary dispute led to his resignation.
This week Mr. Hegarty questioned why commissioners were even considering Mr. Flynn for the manager's position.
In an e-mail sent Monday to his fellow commissioners, Mr. Hegarty said the firm hired to conduct the job search, Bennett Yarger Associates of Scituate, did not recommend Mr. Flynn.
Nor, he wrote, did Bennett Yarger guarantee Mr. Flynn's performance. For candidates that were guaranteed, Bennett Yarger would conduct another applicant search at its own cost for a candidate that didn't work out in the first year in the position.
Reached yesterday by telephone, Richard Bennett, president of the search firm, said his firm had both recommended and guaranteed the other four candidates.
Because he had not yet received official notice from the commission of its hiring decision, he declined to comment on why his firm had not recommended or guaranteed Mr. Flynn.
Ignoring the Bennett Yarger stance, Mr. Hegarty wrote, "is a flagrant violation of your fiduciary responsibility and breach of trust to the county of Dukes County commissioners who appointed you and the taxpayers of the county of Dukes County."
On Wednesday Mr. Hegarty asked the commission to go into executive session to discuss Mr. Flynn.
But Mr. Flynn had not been given 48 hours' notice of the proposed session, and county manager E. Winn Davis said the session could not be held.
The commissioners also considered Mr. Flynn's candidacy with no comments from his references, unlike the other four candidates.
In a Dec. 3 letter to Mr. Law, Mr. Bennett wrote that Bennett Yarger on Nov. 17 solicited releases from the five candidates to speak to their references.
"We did not receive the written reference release from Sean Flynn until the late afternoon of Nov. 29," Mr. Bennett wrote. "His release was prepared by his attorney limiting our work to specific individuals of his choosing. We have not had time to contact any of those individuals. Therefore, Sean does not have any references in this report."