An airport concessionaire argued before an appeals hearing officer Monday that Atlanta's contracting process was flawed in a massive overhaul of airport restaurants.
The city has finalized contracts for some 150 new restaurants and shops at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, to operate in the existing terminal and concourses as well as in the new international terminal to open in May. The contracts could be worth as much as $3 billion overall in the next decade.
At the administrative appeals hearing Monday, concessionaire SSP America Inc. argued that the city wrongly awarded the five largest restaurant contracts, alleging that winning companies did not fulfill requirements, that politically-favored companies benefited, that evaluators didn't follow proper procedures and that Paul Brown, the airport's concessions director and an evaluator, had conflicts of interest due to his past work and relationships with concessionaires.
Ken Hodges, an attorney for SSP, said Brown has with some of the winning concessionaires in the past, and in the past gave a LinkedIn recommendation for one of the winners' executives.
Mark Trigg, an attorney for the city, said "there is no conspiracy" and said the city has the right to waive any technical defects in proposals.
Hodges also raised questions about the disadvantaged business status of winning subtenant Atlanta Restaurant Partners, given the level of revenue it brings in.. Atlanta Restaurant Partners is certified as a disadvantaged business by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
At the hearing Monday, Hodges interviewed Atlanta chief procurement officer Adam Smith as a witness. Others on the witness list as the hearing continues Tuesday include Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Louis Miller and the evaluators.
SSP attorneys also wanted to subpoena Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, but Reed is in China on a trade mission. The city challenged SSP's subpoena of Reed, saying Reed did not select the winning contractors. The hearing officer, George Maynard, tabled a decision on the matter and SSP said it may later ask to take the mayor's deposition.