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"Appeal of Hartsfield concessions contracts denied"
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Appeal of airport concessions contracts denied
By Kelly Yamanouchi
The Atlanta (GA) Journal-Constitution
A hearing officer rejected the appeal that SSP America Inc. filed after
losing out on the five largest contracts awarded earlier this year for
restaurants at Hartsfield-Jackson, the world's busiest airport. Atlanta's
chief procurement officer had already denied SSP's protest of the contract
decisions before the appeal had been filed.
Hearing officer George Maynard wrote in his ruling late Tuesday that SSP
"made an impressive showing of presenting a plethora of objections" to the
contracting process, "but none of these objections merit overturning" the
chief procurement officer's decision.
Attorneys for SSP had argued that politically favored companies won city
contracts even though they didn't fulfill all the requirements in their
proposals. The attorneys also argued over three days of hearings that
evaluators didn't follow procedures and that the solicitation should have
included a conspicuous statement prohibiting gratuities and kickbacks but
didn't. They also alleged that Airport Concessions Director Paul Brown had
conflicts of interest.
The legal team representing the city had argued that state and city codes
allow the city discretion to choose winning contractors even if those
companies' proposals aren't perfect.
The ruling said the city "acted fully within its authority."
"The City had the absolute discretion" to waive forms and irregularities it
didn't deem material, the ruling said. It also said "the evidence
unequivocally shows that the evaluators were given no directive or
instruction as to which proposals should win from Mayor [Kasim] Reed, his
administration, or from any other source."
The ruling said there is no evidence Brown had any conflict of interest, and
that there was no evidence that the lack of a conspicuous notice prohibiting
gratuities and kickbacks was an issue.
The burden that SSP would have had to meet to reverse the city's decision
was to show a "gross abuse of discretion," in other words "an arbitrary and
unreasonable act or conclusion as to shock the sense of justice and indicate
lack of fair and careful consideration," the ruling said.
SSP attorney Ken Hodges has said he would take the matter to Fulton County
Superior Court if the administrative appeal failed.
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