Case #1901.0

A Tricky Mandate: Craig Coy and the Problem of Patronage Hiring at Massport

Publication Date: February 20, 2009
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This case is a shorter, more focused, decision-forcing version of The Turnaround Artist: Craig Coy Tackles Political Influence at Massport (Case Program, 1896.0). Like its more comprehensive counterpart, it addresses a set of decisions facing Craig Coy, a business executive, retired Coast Guard officer, and former White House security adviser, when he was named executive director of the Massachusetts Port Authority, or Massport, on April 11, 2002. The appointment came at a time of significant turmoil at Massport, the state authority responsible for managing Boston's Logan International Airport and several other regional transportation resources. The two airline jets hijacked in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City on September 11, 2001, had departed from Logan. Massport had not been responsible for the security practices that had allowed the terrorists to board the jetliners with weapons, but the authority had, in recent years, repeatedly come under fire for political excesses and patronage. These long-tolerated vagaries--when vaulted into the national spotlight--suddenly appeared tawdry and intolerable to state officials and lawmakers. Coy's mandate, when hired a few months later, was to stop the excesses of the past, to improve safety and security, to run the Authority in businesslike fashion--in sum, to effect a cultural turnaround. This case describes a string of choices Coy had to make early in his tenure that pertained to the people-management side of his challenge. For example, Coy had to decide the extent to which he wanted to fire top managers at the authority and bring in his own team. He had to find a way to signal the shift to new priorities. And he had to decide what to do when elected officials--whose support was crucial to Massport in a number of respects--called up and asked the authority to hire their constituents.

Learning Objective:
The main case poses the questions; the sequel describes how Craig Coy answered them and ends with reflections about whether Coy's legacy was likely to be a lasting one.

Other Details

Case Author:
Pamela Varley
Faculty Lead:
Roger Porter
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States
Funding Source:
Robert G. Wilmers Local & State Government Case Studies Fund