Cronyism, alive and well in Boston
October 31, 2001 5:42 AM   Subscribe

Cronyism, alive and well in Boston - departing Massachusetts Port Authority (the authority that oversees Boston's Logan Airport) executive director Virgina Buckingham has been given quite the golden the form of a $175,000 severance package. This, uh, outrage puts Gov. Jane Swift in tight spot...
posted by tpl1212 (12 comments total)
With high paid executives--government or commercial--this sort of thing happens all the time.

At one of my previous employers, one of our senior execs screwed up royally and cost the company about $10m of much needed capital in a single quarter. He ended up being ousted by the board. After realizing that terminating him meant he no longer qualified for his severance package, they decided to vote him a $100,000 bonus in recognition of things he'd done before driving the company into the ground.

However, the class warfare angle in most of these articles seems, to me at least, to detract from the whole debate. This sort of thing is wrong regardless of whether there are laborers starving while these folks pat each other on their backs. Trying to reform the whole thing into a debate on class struggle takes the focus off of what's important.
posted by Swifty at 6:32 AM on October 31, 2001

Swifty: Agreed...I didn't really think the comparisons to what Buckingham got in severance compared to other airline industry workers was very appropriate. I think the real glaring question that needs to be answered is: How did Buckingham, with none of the experience seemingly necessary to run MassPort, got the job in the first place. And earlier (according to this article) "why a $75,000-a-year job was created for [Gov. Jane Swift] at Massport after she lost a congressional race and why it mysteriously disappeared when she moved on to her next campaign..."

For the record, here's Virginia Buckingham's official statement of her departure from MassPort...
posted by tpl1212 at 6:47 AM on October 31, 2001

$175k is not a lot of money. Someone had to take the fall politically but everyone knows theres nothing she could have done to stop the terrorists. When Navy captains loose ships in unforseable conditions they can also loose careers but the Navy will still take care of them personally.
posted by stbalbach at 7:15 AM on October 31, 2001

1. $175k is not a lot of money. (stbalbach)
Yes, that's a hell of a lot of money. It would pay off my student loans and all my other debts and leave me with $100k cash - 3yrs salary. From a corporate expense standpoint, it might be small, but on a personal scale it is a lot of money.

2. Typically these "golden parachute" packages are written into the contracts that lure executives to take such positions. Once committed to the parachute this way, there's usually no way for the employer to avoid having to pay.

Corporations do it, and the public sector has to compete with the private sector for the same talent.

But hopefully one consequence of the economic downturn will be a cessation of these sweetheart packages. It's already happened in IT.
posted by yesster at 7:23 AM on October 31, 2001

The sum Buckingham will receive from the Massport board includes ... $62,500 in the form of a two-year consulting contract to continue to assist Massport (even though Buckingham had no prior aviation experience).

The particularly offensive part of this severance is that the $62,500 is a consulting fee so that Massport can continue to consult with Buckingham about the events of 9/11. In other words, she is being paid over 60 thousand in order to gain her cooperation in the investigation into her own incompetence.
posted by ljromanoff at 7:40 AM on October 31, 2001

I think the real glaring question that needs to be answered is: How did Buckingham, with none of the experience seemingly necessary to run MassPort, got the job in the first place.

Buckingham was former governor Paul Cellucci's chief of staff. When the previous Massport director was booted due to a scandal, she was given the job. But, then again, Cellucci, Bill Weld, and Swift have all thought it was appropriate to give their limo drivers plum political positions, too.

One thing to remember is that often the "top post" in an agency is strictly political and the real responsibility sits with the regular staff -- not unlike presidential Cabinet posts.

Swift will take some heat because the circumstances of this departure are a little more sensitive than usual, but this is all SOP.
posted by briank at 7:52 AM on October 31, 2001

Class and War, E.J. Dionne Jr.'s Washington Post column, looks at the issue, focussing on the D.C. anthrax investigation: " should bother us that the postal workers ranked last in the treatment pecking order. ....Postal workers are asking why the authorities were just a bit quicker in demanding answers and taking precautions when anthrax threatened those in higher-profile lines of work. It's a question the rest of us should ponder too, because it forces us to confront the reality of class. ...The late historian Christopher Lasch referred to the problem of 'educated insularity.' The supposedly enlightened, he said, often engage in what is simply 'a higher form of parochialism.' They don't have a lot of curiosity about how the other half lives. ...[L]et's acknowledge that postal workers have good reason to wonder why they weren't at the top of anyone's priority list. We worried about those on the receiving end of the letters. We didn't seem to think a lot about the people who handled and delivered the letters. Nobody has anything against these good souls. Most of the time, we just act as if they aren't even there."
posted by Carol Anne at 7:58 AM on October 31, 2001

But, then again, Cellucci, Bill Weld, and Swift have all thought it was appropriate to give their limo drivers plum political positions, too.

And Dukakis did it like mad as well. Political patronage is not exclusive to one party in Massachusetts, especially considering almost all the offices are held by Democrats.

Massport is notoriously loaded with political hacks and brothers/cousins/in-laws of local politicos.
posted by ljromanoff at 8:01 AM on October 31, 2001

The idea that she was not guilty of allowing the terrorism etc is true but a bit besides the point. The fact is that Logan has consistently placed way down the list of airports on security matters, has had many warning--and nothing done. In that she was definitely found wanting.
posted by Postroad at 8:22 AM on October 31, 2001

ljromanoff -- right you are on both counts. It's just that it's been the Republicans' turn for a while now and the Demmys would like it back. :-)
posted by briank at 10:05 AM on October 31, 2001

ljromanoff - in regards to the $62,500 "consulting fee," according to this article, MassPort, apparantly knows almost nothing about this consulting gig, and indeed, probably doesn't even need Buckingham's services...which makes that severance package all the more sketchy...
posted by tpl1212 at 11:02 AM on October 31, 2001

$175,000 .. that's a hell of a lot of money

If you had your a*s on the line everyday for the life and limb safety for everyone at Logan Airport it might be a diffrent story. That at any given moment somthing will and did happen that will ruin your career and keep you awake at night wondering .. if only I could have saved 6000 lives .. thats the responsibility these people take on when they take the job. Would you do it for $175K? Most people wouldnt touch it. Its not a lot of money.
posted by stbalbach at 12:20 PM on October 31, 2001

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