Atlanta City Council delays vote on airport shuttle contract after heated criticism

Passengers board the terminal-to-terminal shuttle at the international terminal Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2023.  (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Passengers board the terminal-to-terminal shuttle at the international terminal Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2023. (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

As a local airport shuttle operator contests a City of Atlanta decision to award a contract to a larger competitor, the Atlanta City Council passed a motion late Monday to send the matter back to a committee — delaying a final vote on the deal.

The local shuttle operator — longtime Atlanta-based limo operator and airport contractor A-National Limousine — has filed a protest of the contract decision, contending that the city should have awarded the contract to a small business.

“This needs to be looked into,” A-National Limousine President Darrell Anderson said during public comments at the city council meeting. He said multi-billion dollar companies “are bidding against small minority business right here in the city.”

But the director of the city’s Office of Contract Compliance said during a council committee meeting that the contract requires only one of the firms must be certified as a Small Business Enterprise, and he said that requirement was met.

A-National is the current operator of the airport’s shuttles between its domestic terminal and international terminal.

The terminal-to-terminal shuttle service has been plagued with delays and long waits this year, prompting complaints from weary travelers trying to catch the shuttle to get home after long overseas flights.

Meanwhile, the city and airport have been mired in a long, drawn-out process to rebid the contract, with multiple redos. The airport gave A-National a contract extension through this year while the contracting process continued.

The new three-year contract is worth nearly $1.5 million in management fees, and millions more in reimbursable expenses, according to the airport.

The shuttles take arriving international travelers with their baggage to the domestic terminal, where the MARTA station is, or to the rental car center. The shuttles operate outside the terminals, while the Plane Train inside the airport whisks ticketed passengers between terminals and concourses in security-screened areas.

Anderson and his attorney contend that the winning company of the new contract, a joint venture called ABM-All N One Security Services, does not meet the city’s small business enterprise requirement, noting that ABM is a large firm.

ABM-All N One is a joint venture of All N One Security Services, an Atlanta-based contract security firm certified as a Small Business Enterprise, and New York-based ABM, a publicly traded company with $7.8 billion in annual revenue.

All N One Security Services vice president Gregory Sims said at Monday’s meeting that his firm is qualified for the contract. “Our team met all requirements,” Sims said.

The City Council entered into executive session for more than an hour to discuss the matter Monday evening, after council member Andrea Boone and several others who wanted to discuss the matter in open session failed to get a majority vote.

After emerging from their discussion behind closed doors, the council voted 11-4 to send the matter back to the council’s transportation committee, which meets next Wednesday.

A-National’s Anderson is a longtime family friend of former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, and he has held other airport contracts in the past for shuttle service to Atlanta’s central business district and curbside management.

The first contracting process for a new shuttle contractor began in 2020 but was canceled due to the uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the airport. The contract with A-National was renewed through 2021 and 2022.

In June 2022, A-National and two other companies submitted proposals to compete for the contract, but none of the submissions met documentation requirements.

The contract was rebid this year. But then, the city decided to throw out the five new proposals submitted and rebid the contract.

When there are multiple rebids with few changes, “A procurement expert I consulted said the only thing you could be doing is looking for a different outcome,” said Vic Bolton, a representative for Anderson, during the council meeting. “You wanted to give that work to someone else.”

In a fourth round of contracting, the city collected a new round of proposals in September. This time, seven companies threw their hats into the ring, including A-National Limousine, ABM-All N One and five other firms.

The airport manager and city chief procurement officer deemed ABM-All N One as the top ranked firm.

But Anderson’s attorney Kevin Ross raised questions related to the small business requirements and findings in a review of the contracting process by the city’s Office of Inspector General.

The inspector general office’s independent procurement review found there was a change in the city’s scoring methodology. It also found that the winning firm’s minority partner had three lawsuits filed against it in the last five year, and that one of its reference letters was written by a consultant who was later hired by the airport and attended a meeting for the contract.

The Department of Procurement responded that the scoring methodology is its new standard, that it would advise the airport to mitigate risk and that the reference letter issue “had no direct bearing” on the contracting decision.