Corey lawyers: City broke own rules in contract deal

Lawyers for the businessman suing the city of Atlanta over how it awarded an indoor billboard contract at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport said city officials did not following bidding rules.

In opening remarks in the federal trial that began Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, attorneys for Corey Airport Services argued if city officials followed their own guidelines, they wouldn't have awarded the contract to Clear Channel and Barbara Fouch, its politically well-connected minority partner in the project.

Billy Corey, a self-made millionaire, filed suit in 2004 charging his company unfairly lost its bid because of Fouch’s friendship with the late Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson.

He is seeking between $9 million and $14 million in damages.

Fouch, an Atlanta native who now lives in Beverly Hills, Calif., has had business interests at the airport since 1981.

But attorneys for the city said experience, not personal connections, led to Clear Channel's selection in 2002.

What's more, Corey Airport Services, which had an advertising contract with the Columbus Airport in 2002, sought contracts with four airports in Augusta; Norfolk, Va.; and the Carolinas. All those bids were rejected, Michael P. Kenny, a lawyer representing the city, told the two-woman, six-man jury.

He showed a map of North America highlighting Clear Channel's advertising contracts with airports in Boston, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth and Newark, N.J., as well as Toronto and Vancouver, Canada, among other cities.

"What the map reflects is Clear Channel's wealth of experience versus Corey's hardly-any-experience," Kenny told jurors.

He added Corey's Columbus advertising operations generated $16,000 a year in revenue a year, far less than Clear Channel generates at Hartsfield-Jackson in a day.

Corey lost to a more "formidable" competitor, he said.

Darren W. Penn, one of Corey's attorneys, countered the city violated its own rules by re-awarding the contract to Fouch and Transportation Media, her previous partner in the advertising project, because they owed $5.3 million in back rent to the city.

Clear Channel subseqently acquired Transportation Media.

That back rent remains outstanding, according to Corey's attorneys, who calculate the amount has grown to $15.6 million with interest and penalties. Clear Channel and Fouch should have automatically been disqualified from bidding, Penn said.