ATL concessions: Protests filed against system that rewards Mayor Reed’s campaign contributors

By David Pendered

This story was updated Dec. 29 to reflect additional information provided by Mayor Kasim Reed’s spokesperson.

Several protests reportedly have been filed over the decision by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration to award airport concessions bids to certain companies, many of which have contributed to Reed’s mayoral campaigns.

At least one protest asks the city’s Procurement Department to stay the execution of contracts until the protest has been resolved. Friday apparently was the deadline for filing a protest.

Reed’s administration is pressing the Atlanta City Council to approve its recommendations on Jan. 3, 2012 so the mayor can sign airport concession contracts right away. At stake are food, drink and retail contracts worth more than a projected $3 billion over 10 years.

The reason the administration is urging the council to move quickly is to prevent the airport from losing millions of dollars a month of potential profits from new food, drink, and retail establishments, airport General Manager Louis Miller told the council’s Transportation Committee at its Dec. 14 meeting.

Among the winners selected by the administration are companies or companies that are overseen by supporters of Reed’s 2009 campaign for mayor. One company is overseen by a co-chairman of the campaign committee – Daniel Halpern.

According to Reed’s 2009 campaign finance report, financial contributors who were chosen to be awarded contracts include:

  • Carol Hojeij, Wassim Hojeij and Romeo Mititeanu – who was listed as airport director of Hojeij Branded Foods, Inc.;
  • HMS Host;
  • Concessions International;
  • Atlanta Restaurant Partners, a company with which Halpern is affiliated;
  • Terrance Harp, of Global Concesssions;
  • Mack Wilbourne, of Mack II, Inc.;
  • Mack II, Inc.;
  • Paradies Atlanta;

Another contributor whose proposal was selected by the administration is Delaware North Companies, which contributed in 2011 to Reed’s reelection fund.

Reed has returned about $24,000 in contributions collected from airport vendors between March 21 and June 30, Reed spokeswoman Sonji Jacobs said this week. Reed has not accepted any contributions from airport vendors since July 1, Jacobs said. Jacobs did not mention the reason for the March 21 cutoff.

Jacobs later elaborated: “The March date was chosen because that’s when the airport procurement bids went public.”

On March 16, the council received its briefing on the airport concessions package from Miller, the airport general manager. In January, the airport held a convention to explain the food and beverage bid process to the industry.

More than 400 individuals signed the 49 sign-in sheets, according to city records.

The Transportation Committee voted overwhelmingly to approve the administration’s recommendations and send them to the floor for a vote at the Jan. 3 meeting. The 11 recommendations are bundled into one piece of legislation, which means each councilmember must vote for or against the entire package – even if a member opposes one or more individual contracts.

The package is likely to appear on the council’s consent agenda. The consent agenda is approved without discussion of individual pieces of legislation. Any councilmember can ask the council to agree to remove an item from the consent agenda so it can be discussed and voted on separately.

 

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.

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