The city of Atlanta has struck a $3.9 million settlement in the long-running
legal battle over an airport advertising contract.
The city earlier this year appealed a federal jury’s decision last year to
award $17.5 million in total damages to Atlanta businessman Billy Corey and
his company, Corey Airport Services.
The settlement announced Thursday ends the city’s appeal of its portion of the
“I hope that this is the end of a very long and divisive episode in the life
of the city of Atlanta,” Mayor Kasim Reed said.
“I believe that this is the right thing to do,” Reed added. Under the
settlement the city admits no liability or wrongful conduct.
“This has been a long, hard battle for me,” Corey said Thursday, adding that
he has had many discussions with Reed about the dispute since the mayor was
Corey claimed the city and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport broke the
law by steering a contract to a competitor with political connections.
The jury verdict called for Corey to get $8.5 million in compensatory damages,
to be paid in thirds by the city, winning bidder Clear Channel Outdoor Inc.
and businesswoman Barbara Fouch, and $9 million in punitive damages from
Clear Channel and Fouch.
Reed said the decision to settle is part of his effort to close matters
lingering from the previous administration.
Corey lost out on the airport advertising contract in 2002. He argued in his
suit that the bidding process at the airport was corrupt, citing instances
of cronyism and bribery in the airport’s past. The federal suit was filed in
2004 against Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and originally also
named then-Mayor Shirley Franklin and more than a dozen other city officials
A settlement means “a huge savings in legal fees,” to the benefit of
taxpayers, said John Sherman, president of the Fulton County Taxpayers
The legal battle with Corey had cost the city about $3.5 million in legal
expenses prior to the jury decision last July, then-acting city attorney
Peter Andrews said at the time. Reed said that if the city continued the
appeal and lost, the city’s liability could have risen to as high as $12
million including legal expenses, damages and attorneys’ fees associated
with the claim.
Corey said he hopes to settle with Clear Channel soon.
Clear Channel has continued to operate the advertising contract on a
month-to-month basis. Reed said he expects the city will rebid the contract
within 90 days using a different process with more openness and transparency.
Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Louis Miller said he was glad Corey and the
city worked out a settlement, adding that the deal makes it clearer that the
airport can move forward with the request for proposals process for a new