Concessionaire drops legal challenge to airport contracts

A concessionaire that challenged contracts for new restaurants at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has dropped that litigation, the city of Atlanta said Wednesday.

SSP America took the city to court after it did not win airport contracts. That led to an expensive legal battle for both sides and added to the history of complaints of cronyism and political influence at the airport.

Mayor Kasim Reed said in a written statement that the city is “happy to put this distraction behind us,” and, “No City elected official or employee acted improperly in connection with the food and beverage contracts awarded at Hartsfield-Jackson.”

After losing an administrative appeal of the contracts awarded this year, SSP sought a court hearing to challenge the city’s contracting procedures. SSP argued that some concessionaires who won contracts had errors in their proposals. It also that alleged problems with evaluations of proposals, and conflicts of interest.

The city says it will not be paying SSP anything as a result of the court action.

Common Cause Georgia executive director William Perry said he was “disappointed” with the dismissal of the litigation. “It was the last opportunity for a thorough examination of this (concessions contracting) process by the courts,” Perry said.

Earlier this year the city disclosed that the overall amount it had paid outside law firms was nearly $5.4 million. City attorney Cathy Hampton at the time did not have a breakout of airport litigation costs, but said the amount “pales in comparison to the economic benefit” from revenues at the international terminal that opened in May, where some of the new concessions have opened.

In the $3 billion of concession contracting at the world’s busiest airport, one question yet to be resolved is whether four companies who got contracts will lose their certifications from the Georgia Department of Transportation as disadvantaged businesses. They have gone through decertification hearings and final decisions are pending.

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