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City of Atlanta Victorious in Appeal of Airport Concessions Contract Awards

On Tuesday, Procurement Appeals Hearing Officer George F. Maynard denied SSP America, Inc.’s protest of the award of five large food and beverage contracts to other companies.Hearing Officer Maynard issued a thorough, detailed and well-reasoned 25-page Order after three full days of hearing, during which he heard testimony from eleven witnesses and reviewed hundreds of pages of exhibits.He concluded:“The solicitation for the Large Food Packages was conducted in accordance with applicable law and the terms and conditions of the RFPs. . . .There is no evidence that the procurement process should be voided as ‘unfair, fraudulent, or corrupt,’ as alleged by [SSP America].”

Losing proponent SSP America has insistently argued, without a single shred of supporting evidence, that the airport concessions procurement process was flawed, and that contracts were awarded based upon political relationships, rather than merit.Hearing Officer Maynard expressly rejected SSP America’s unfounded accusations, concluding that “There was no evidence presented as to any specific wording in the RFPs (whether drafted by Mayor Reed or otherwise) that would work to the advantage of any given proponent over that of [SSP America]. ….None of the evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, established a link between a campaign contribution and a contract award, or how such a link would have operated to influence the Evaluation Panel, the OCC, the DOF and/or the DOP.”He specifically noted that, “There was absolutely no evidence presented which would support any allegations of a ‘pay to play’ culture in connection with this procurement.”

From the moment SSP America learned it would not be awarded a contract, it has continuously attempted to derail the airport concessions procurement process in both administrative and judicial arenas.Previously, Judge Cynthia Wright, Chief Judge of the Fulton County Superior Court, denied SSP America’s attempt to prevent the City from signing the concessions contracts, finding that the procurement process is “intended to be in the interest of the public, not that of an aggrieved, frustrated bidder.”Hearing Officer Maynard’s Order denies SSP America’s latest attempt to undermine the procurement process.

The City is hopeful that SSP America, having now lost three legal challenges to this procurement process in as many tries, will finally cease its litigious and wasteful efforts to overturn the fairest, most open and transparent procurement process in the City’s history.If it does not, however, the City will continue to respond as appropriate to any further challenges that may come.

The new Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal, complete with new food and beverage and retail concessions outlets, is scheduled to open on May 16, 2012.The City expects the airport to realize net annual revenue in the amount of $51.1 million as a result of the new food and beverage contracts.This represents an increase of over $23 million, annually.The new International Terminal will be a signature addition to the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – the world’s busiest airport and the number one economic engine in the City of Atlanta and surrounding metropolitan area.

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