Airport Leader's Contract Near Vote

A proposed three-year contract extension for the city of Atlanta's highest-paid employee will be discussed next month by the committee that oversees Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Airport General Manager Ben DeCosta and Mayor Shirley Franklin have hammered out a tentative $255,000-a-year contract that calls for DeCosta to continue running the world's busiest airport through June 30, 2010.

City Councilwoman Clair Muller, who runs the city's transportation committee, said in a voicemail Tuesday her committee gave a tentative nod to DeCosta's contract, but inadvertently forwarded it to the full council before a full hearing was conducted. A hearing is now set for the committee's May 2 meeting.

"We're looking forward to a work session so we can have a full discussion," Muller said.

The contract calls for DeCosta to get a base salary of $255,000 a year with a 4 percent annual increase. He would also receive $15,305 annually in deferred compensation, a city car and cellphone. DeCosta currently is paid about $250,000 a year.

DeCosta has declined to comment on his contract until it is approved, but he has been given a thumbs up by the mayor.

"Ben has achieved a number of significant accomplishments at Hartsfield-Jackson, and I look forward to him continuing through the remainder of my term as mayor," Franklin said earlier this year.

DeCosta, who came to the airport in 1998, ranks fifth nationally behind other airport executives in terms of pay. The manager of the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport makes a base salary of about $309,000 a year and the Los Angeles airport director gets $298,000.

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