Massport Under the Microscope
Hank Investigates: Massport Under the Microscope
- Gov. Jane Swift, (R) Massachusetts
"We recognize that there will be a need for review and for a thorough review of our operations."
With Logan on high alert and the investigation underway, one persistent question. Have the people in charge of Massport been chosen by who they know, not what they know?
- Ken White, Exec. Dir., MA Common Cause
"The impression you get is that Massport is a beach on which political drifters wash up. People who need jobs, people who need short term opportunities, people who have done favors for others in the past, are given jobs at Massport."
Current executive director Virginia Buckingham, chief of staff to governors Weld and Cellucci, admitted her inexperience after her 1999 appointment.
- Virginia Buckingham, Massport Executive Director
"I certainly have a lot to learn."
Some, like then congressman Joe Moakley, openly criticized the choice of an inexperienced insider. But Buckingham's political patriot gave a full vote of confidence.
- Former Gov. Paul Cellucci
"We're basically sending our best person over to that agency."
But 7News found Massport has a history of directors short on avaition savvy. Steven Tocco had been head of the State Office Economic Affairs under Gov. Weld. Peter Blute got the job after he lost his congressional reelection bid. Then the scandalous booze cruise put Blute out and Buckingham in.
Are political connections always bad?
- Ken White
"No, absolutely not. You have to be able to get things done, get legislation through, get doors open. So certainly political connections are an important part of any job, but they're not the only ones."
But no matter who's in charge, five years worth of reports 7News obtained from the State Inspector General's office and the State Auditor's Office show a pattern of spending and administrative irregularities at Massport. From poor financial planning and lost revenue to misspending and airport renovation, to what auditor Joe Denucci called questionable donations to charities, like $285,000 to the National Music Foundation.
But we found here in Massachusetts, there's no rule that says the Massport director must have any experience.
Compare that to Maryland, where a current job posting for a comprable position requires 10 years experience as an executive at an airport or other large enterprise.
- Virginia Buckingham
"We pledged our wholehearted support for ongoing law enforcement efforts."
While Massport officials insist their airport will be safe, this agency of insiders is now facing a top to bottom assessment from the outside.
- Sen. Edward Kennedy, (D) Massachusetts
"There were lapses out at Logan and we understand that. And there will be a complete and exhausted findings and report and we'll have a chance to examine that."
While acting governor Swift is now also calling for a tough look inside Massport. You need to remember when Swift lost a race for Congress, it was Governor Weld who helped her find work, and he got her a job at Massport.