Airport agency leader barters tidy severance

The leader of the agency that oversees Logan International Airport, who is resigning after criticism of security following the Sept. 11 terrorism, will get a severance package worth at least $175,000.

The deal for Massachusetts Port Authority Executive Director Virginia Buckingham includes a two-year consulting contract worth $62,500. Buckingham, 36, earned $150,000 a year as executive director.

Massport spokesman Jose Juves said the agency needs Buckingham's expertise as it recovers from last month's attacks. The airport was the departure point for the two hijacked planes that brought down the World Trade Center towers.

"Between the Carter Commission, government inquiries, the federal investigation, the fiscal recovery plan and the revised capital budget, she's going to be dedicating considerable amounts of time as Massport tackles all of these issues," Juves said.

The special commission headed by former State Street Corp. Chairman Marshall Carter was appointed by acting Gov. Jane Swift to recommend changes at Massport, long criticized as a patronage haven.

Buckingham's resignation takes effect Nov. 15.

Besides the consulting contract, she will receive nine months' severance pay totaling $112,500 and health insurance for six months.

Swift authorized Massport board Chairman Mark Robinson to negotiate a severance agreement but did not know about the consulting, said Swift's spokeswoman, Sarah Magazine.

Democrats challenging Swift for the governorship next year said she should have known the details of Buckingham's agreement.

"The fact that the governor is not in direct conversation with Massport, not aware of details, is troubling," said state Treasurer Shannon O'Brien, who is among those seeking the Democratic nomination.