Martha’s Vineyard Airport financial reporting insufficient, says advisor

25 January 2019 3 min. read
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Martha’s Vineyard Airport’s financial reporting is seriously flawed, according to BerryDunn, a Manchester, Massachusetts-based accounting and consulting firm.

The report was released early this month, and revealed inconsistent procedures, and a lack of experienced financial management staff. On many occasions, the numbers presented to the Budget and Finance Subcommittee by the airport director and the county treasurer were different by hundreds of thousands of dollars with no explanation to reconcile the differences,” the report states. Airport director Ann Richart this week announced she will resign when her contract expires in May. 

"I’m just getting to the end of my contract and I wanted to give the airport commission enough time to go through a robust recruitment process for my successor," she said in an interview with the Vineyard Gazette.

BerryDunn's analysis suggests the airport should hire a controller-level accountant to take over financial responsibilities from business manager Joan Shemit, who is not a certified public accountant. The airport also cites a lack of formal monthly financial reporting and frequently out-of-date figures provided by the airport to the county treasurer. 

“The inescapable conclusion is that we have not had the proper staff here to provide accurate financial information,” Robert Rosenbaum, Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission chairman, said to the Gazette. “A full-time person is what we need given the size and complexity of the business we run here.”

Airport’s financial reporting is flawed 

While the airport searches for that full-time employee, an airport finance subcommittee member and CPA, will fill in on a volunteer basis. 

The airport is also under contract with Tetra Tech, an environmental consulting firm. Tetra Tech is investigating the potential chemical contamination of private wells near the airport. The firm has submitted its findings to Massachusetts’ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Of 96 well samples tested so far, 13 (approximately 14%) exceeded safe limits of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) set by the DEP.

PFAS are chemical compounds used in firefighting foams, food packaging, insecticides, and other industrial products that do not easily break down. When PFAS enters ecosystems, it can accumulate in animal and human tissue. PFAS have been linked to bladder and liver cancer, endocrine disruption, and developmental and reproductive toxicity, including neonatal mortality, according to the Cooperative Research Center for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment. 

The airport commission also approved a contract with public relations firm O’Neill and Associates, which will assist the airport with media relations concerning PFAS contamination. 

In related aviation news, the Sun Valley Air Service Board, which manages air space use across several cities in Idaho, in August hired Couloir Consulting and independent consultant David Madaras for a company-wide strategic review. The partnership arrives on the back of the aviation industry’s growth, with a report from global management firm Oliver Wyman projecting that more than 10,000 aircraft will be added to the world’s commercial fleet by 2027. 

Related: Consultants say longer runway would benefit New Haven airport.