Airport contracts heat up: One firm with ties to Mayor Reed may be cut; GDOT sets DBE hearing on another

By David Pendered

The Atlanta City Council is poised to consider terminating a $6.6 million contract at Atlanta’s airport that last year was awarded to an associate of Mayor Kasim Reed.

Meanwhile, the state Transportation Department has scheduled a hearing for Nov. 8 on another airport contract – this one for a lucrative vending concession. The Federal Aviation Administration ordered GDOT to conduct hearings into whether long-time airport concessionaire Mack Wilbourn, and three other vendors, qualify for preferential treatment as disadvantaged business enterprise. The FAA has determined the four owners do not qualify as DBEs.

The council’s Transportation Committee is slated to hear Wednesday a resolution to cut the city’s contract with A-National Limousine Service, Inc. Councilwoman Felicia Moore sponsored the measure that also calls for initiating the process of hiring another company to help airport travelers find ground transportation.

The proposal to terminate the contract with a friend and business associate of the mayor comes after Atlanta’s Fox TV reporter Dale Russell reported in February that A-National has two city contracts at the airport: To provide limo service, and to help travelers find limo, shuttle and taxi service.

A-National is owned by Darrell Anderson, a family friend and business associate of Reed, according to Russell’s reporting. The mayor has said nothing improper has occurred in the awarding of the two contracts.

Moore’s proposal, 12-R-1401, cites a consultant’s report that notes the posture created by A-National’s dual roles at the airport – providing a service and regulating that service.

According to Moore’s legislation, the consultant’s report states:

  • “One of the shared-ride service providers is also under contract to manage the commercial curbs. This leads to a perception of, if not a real conflict of interest.”

(Incidentally, the business of linking travelers with taxies and limos is called curbside management.)

The legislation goes on to say that the city “should not allow such a conflict of interest to exist with respect to its contracting procedures and, accordingly, should terminate the contract.”

The contract with A-National is slated to be terminated no later than Jan. 31, 2013, according to the legislation. The paper also instructs the city attorney to provide A-National with a 30-day notice of the intent to terminate, with the letter being sent no later than Dec. 31.

Click here to read a copy of Moore’s legislation.

The initial contract with A-National was approved Sept. 6, 2011 by unanimous vote, 11-0.

Three councilmembers were present but did not vote, according to city records included with Moore’s legislation: Kwanza Hall; Keisha Lance Bottoms; Michael Julian Bond. Councilmember Natalyn Archibong was excused from voting.

The original legislation provides A-National with wide influence over the management of the airport’s lucrative ground transportation industry. No company can operate taxis, shuttles or limos without the city’s authorization, and the curbside management company enforces the city’s regulations.

According to the legislation approved in 2011:

  • “The service provider shall be responsible for the management and oversight of the airport’s commercial ground transportation operation/operators to include taxis, limousines, shared ride shuttles, hotel shuttles, off-airport parking shuttles, and charter buses.
  • “Management and oversight is hereby defined as staffing appropriate personnel, dispatching vehicles, ensuring vehicle and driver compliance, customer service assistance, report management and generation, congestion mitigation, crowd control, and distressed passenger assistance.”

Regarding the Nov. 8 GDOT hearing, a spokesman said the hearing is closed to the public under federal guidelines intended to protect the privacy of the personal financial information of Wilbourn.

Dates of other possible hearings could not be immediately determined.

The FAA reviewed the winning vendors and determined that four of them, including Wilbourn, were ineligible for the DBE program. The FAA determined that the “incorrect” claim to be a DBE, “could have impacted the selection process,” of companies competing for seven-year contracts to run restaurants, kiosks and shops at the airport.

DBEs in Georgia are certified by the state Transportation Department, which oversees certification for many government procurement programs in the state. GDOT’s chief procurement officer who oversaw these certifications has since been transferred elsewhere within the department.

The four companies to be reviewed are:

  • Atlanta Restaurant Partners, LLC;
  • Hojeij Branded Foods, Inc.
  • Mack II, Inc.;
  • Vida Concessions, Inc.

Here’s what the FAA reported on the companies:

 

“Atlanta Restaurant Partners, LLC

One of the owners was denied certification in the past by GDOT due to not meeting the definition of a “socially disadvantaged individual” as defined in 49 CFR § 23.3(6). The reason given by GDOT was that this owner is a Canadian Indian and part of the Upper Cayuga/Six Nation Canadian Tribe, which is not recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Value of the applicant’s equity ownership in firms other than the firm seeking certification was not documented properly and verified. A second owner’s PNW exceeded the $750,000 PNW cap. Loans and lines of credit were not documented properly and verified, and there was no evidence that any loan or line of credit that the company held was personally guaranteed by the applicants using personal assets outside of the business.

There was past evidence of a trust in the Jackmont Hospitality, Inc. certification file that included the second owner and others as beneficiaries, but there was no mention of that trust and its value or dissolution and tracking of the disbursement of assets in the new certification materials for Atlanta Restaurant Partners, LLC.

Applicant’s real estate, mortgage values, and personal possessions were not documented properly and verified.

 

“Hojeij Branded Foods, Inc.

Value of the equity ownership in firms other than the firm seeking certification was not documented properly and verified. Control of the firm by the 100% female owner is of concern.

 

“Mack II, Inc.

Applicant’s PNW exceeded the $750,000 PNW cap. Loans, lines of credit, and bonding personally guaranteed by the applicant, using personal assets outside of the business, were not documented properly and verified.

“Vida Concessions, Inc.

Both the independence of the firm (see 49 CFR § 26.69) and control of the firm by the applicant (see 49 CFR § 26.71) appear to be vague or unsubstantiated. The firm’s relationship with Hojeij Branded Foods, Inc. is of particular concern. Applicant’s real estate, mortgage values, and personal possessions were not documented properly and verified.

Value of the applicant’s equity ownership in firms other than the firm seeking certification was not documented properly and verified.”



 

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 for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.