Security firm sues over airport

The suit, filed two weeks ago in Fulton County Superior Court, contends that city officials colluded with Allied Barton Security Services LLC of Conshohocken, Pa., to shut out competition — even after the new company was told it won the bid.

City records show that Allied Barton has held the security contract since December 1995. Officials at the company could not be reached for comment.

John Kennedy, a spokesman for the city’s Aviation Department, said the city is aware of the claim but will not comment on ongoing litigation.

The claim echoes an eight-year legal battle in which an advertising company charged that the city had blocked it from competing for an airport contract, even though it was offering a better deal than the longtime contractor. The company won a $17.5 million judgment in July.

The defendants in that case — the city, Clear Channel Airports and its minority contractor — have appealed the verdict and are asking for a new trial.

In the new lawsuit, a Denver-based security firm, HSS Inc., says it was told by airport officials in June that it had the best bid and that it should start hiring locals and moving key staffers to Atlanta.

“They were ready to go,” said John Parker, HSS’ Atlanta attorney. “They aren’t some mom-and-pop shop. They had the winning bid and were told so. The only negotiations left were the details.”

But two months later, contrary to the city’s own rules, the promised contract was dissolved, Parker said.

“It was right out of the blue,” he said. “There was no reason given until we forced one out of them.”

The lawsuit contends that at first HSS was told it couldn’t get the contract because it didn’t have a Georgia business license. But it did have one, Parker said.

Next, Parker said, HSS was told that it didn’t get the contract because it didn’t have a certificate from the Georgia Board of Private Detective and Security Agencies.

But the city’s rules didn’t require a company to have such a document until after it gets hired, Parker said.

“And in any case, we just got our certificate today [Thursday],” Parker said. “Since that was the only concrete reason they had, we’ll offer the city a graceful exit and we’ll drop the suit if they accept our winning bid.”

The city hadn’t filed a response yet to the lawsuit.

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