By David Pendered

This story has been updated.

Atlanta has cancelled the procurement process for all of the 152 food and beverage concessions pending at the airport and will issue new requests for proposals next week, the city’s COO said Friday.

The city took the drastic action because 36 percent of the 95 proposals vendors had presented to the city were fatally flawed, said COO Peter Aman.

The flaw was a failure to submit a properly completed form – one required by state law – confirming that all workers have legal permission to work in the United States, Aman said.

The delay in the contracting process will not mar the opening of the new international concourse, Aman said. All means necessary will be undertaken to ensure that the concourse will open in Spring 2012 with all the planned places for passengers to eat and drink.

“The terminal will open and be smashingly successful,” Aman said.

New timelines for the proposal process will be released next week, Aman said.

The cancellation is not unexpected.

Several persons close to the process have said since about Aug. 10 that the root of the purported problem is faulty paperwork submitted on behalf of sub-tenants – the companies that actually deliver food and drink to customers.

So many sub-tenants have been disqualified that at least two prime vendors cannot fulfill the terms of their proposal, according to the word on the street.

Aman said he could not respond to that report.

“We’re not happy to do it [cancel the procurement], but for the purpose of maximizing revenue and customer service for the citizens, and making this the most competitive, open, transparent process possible [this is the step the city must take].”

The flaw concerned the vendors’ failure to submit properly completed forms that are required under state law – the Georgia Security Immigration Compliance Act of 2006, said Adam Smith, the city’s procurement director. Click here to read more about the law.

The law requires “public employers, their contractors and subcontractors required to verify new employee work eligibility through a federal work authorization program,” according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website.

In addition, a total of 46 percent of the bid packages submitted by vendors were deemed non-responsive for some failure to properly complete forms, said Duriya Farooqui, the city’s deputy COO.

The paperwork concerning the immigration status of employees in these concessions proposals is new, evidently, to at least some companies that want a concessions contract at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

On April 5, city contracting officer Carla Cail specifically warned more than 500 potential vendors at a pre-bid conference that they should pay close attention to new forms the city is requiring for these concessions contracts.

Failure to comply would result in disqualification, several city officials said at the time.

One new form is the federal E-Verify document.

U.S. law requires that companies employ only workers who may legally work in this country, and E-verify is an “internet-based system that allows business to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States,” according to the program’s website. Click here to read more about the law.

Another new form is Georgia’s S.A.V.E. program – Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements.

The state created the law in 2007 and it requires every political jurisdiction in Georgia to verify “the lawful presence in the United States of any applicant for a public benefit,” according to the website of the Georgia Municipal Association. Click here to read more about the law.

In addition, vendors had to comply with the GSICA requirement.

The city had intended to execute leases for the food and beverage concessions in September, according to the timeline airport General Manager Louis Miller announced in March.

Mayor Kasim Reed’s spokeswoman, Sonji Jacobs, said she is forbidden by city code to identify the sub-tenants who are affiliated with the eight prime vendors that are seeking a major food and beverage concession. She said the city’s Law Department is reviewing the question of whether those documents are subject to public review now that the original RFP process has been cancelled.

No vendors would confirm on the record that their proposals were troubled. But some of their representatives said the buzz on the street is at least two are fatally flawed.

An attorney for one vendor, OTG, said he has heard the reports. However, the proposal submitted by OTG company does not seem to be at risk, according to Thurbert Baker, a former Georgia attorney general who’s now a partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge.

“Everything seems to be OK – all the i’s dotted and all the t’s crossed,” Baker said of OTG’s proposal.

The city is behind the original schedule in the massive lease process, which is said by Reed’s office to be one of the largest airport procurement in North American history. A total of 27 retail locations and 125 food and beverage locations are up for grabs.

Miller, the airport’s general manager, told the Transportation Committee of the Atlanta City Council in March that he expected the city would execute concessions leases in September.

That timeline was delayed by about a month to accommodate amendments made in June to the city’s request for proposals from the food and beverage industry.

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written...

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1 Comment

  1. Only 36 of 95 (38%) are fatally flawed and they toss everything out? Obviously, at least 38% of the respondents didn’t know what they were doing.

    If I were a bidder who invested time and money to submit a responsive bid, and then my bid was tossed out because others did not, I would be really peeved and would think twice before responding again.

    Truth be told, they are bidders and then there are favored bidders. My belief is that some of the favored bidders submitted unresponsive bids, and this is the real reason for tossing all bids.

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