Moore, Bond Take Issue with Secret Airport Bid Scores
(APN) ATLANTA — At the Wednesday, December 14, 2011, meeting of the Transportation Committee of the City Council of Atlanta, Councilwoman Felicia Moore (District 9) took issue with yet even more secretive information related to the new concessions contracts for the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport: this time related to the scores assigned to each bidder by the City of Atlanta.
At this meeting, the Committee approved, in 4-1 and 4-2 votes, the concessions and retail agreements.
During the Committee Meeting, Moore asked for the breakdown of the scoring for the successful bidders, noting that she could only see total scores in the paperwork she received, but not what those scores consist of.
“That information is not contained in your packet because we deem that information to be part of the, that’s not to be disclosed… because we don’t want to disclose that information,” Adam Smith, Chief Procurement Officer, said.
“I appreciate what you don’t want to do. However, that information… is information that should be provided, has previously been provided even as late as two weeks ago at the Committee Meeting,” Moore said.
“I specifically know that the Law Department said that the scoring information was not an exclusion under the Open Records Act if that’s what’s gonna come up, because it wasn’t part of the proposal. So I want the information that shows what the individual evaluators scored in the respective areas that add up to the number that’s here,” Moore said.
“Council Member Moore, as a client you are entitled to see everything as an attorney-client privilege communication, the question was whether or not it’s available publicly at this point. We’ve made the argument that it’s not available publicly at this point until the end of the award process,” Cathy Hampton, City Attorney, said.
“First of all, I don’t agree that it is attorney-client privilege information. And I’m going to state for the record that this information has been given to Council Members freely without it being some privileged information, it’s been openly discussed in Council Committee meetings and it’s been given to the public,” Moore said.
The Office of the Mayor then went to get the information for Moore and the other Council Members so they could view it.
“I’m asking for it and I want it, and what happens to it after that is another question,” Moore said.
“I believe that we ought to have access to those scores and I disagree respectfully with the Law Department about keeping that information from us,” Councilman Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) said.
After distributing the scores to Committee Members, Hampton said, “What we’ve just passed is an attorney-client privileged document. We believe this privilege rests with the body and can’t be waived by an individual but would have to be waived by the body.”
“When we had this discussion two weeks ago, we talked about what was given to Council and what hasn’t been. And I strongly, as well as some others, Council Members, opposed the interpretation of what the Council could and could not have, and particularly in light of the fact until you became City Attorney and even while you here probably, we’ve had this information. It’s just all of a sudden now we can’t have it,” Moore said.
“And I very specifically remember in the discussion that when we talked about the numbers… regarding revenue that the argument at that time was you can’t have that information because it’s a part of the proposals. Then it was very vigorously argued by your Department… you cited the Open Records law related to some exclusion of being able to provide information that was in a proposal until it was awarded… But in that discussion we did receive the scoring. We just got it two weeks ago. The explanation by one of your assistants… was because it was not a part of the actual bid or proposal that someone had so it was outside that exclusion of the Open Records law,” Moore said.
“So are you today changing that, and if so, cite me in the Open Records Act where this information is excluded from being discussed or disclosed,” Moore said.
Then, Chairman CT Martin (District 10) attempted to cut short Moore’s debate with the Law Department.
“If you give me the floor, and allow me to ask the questions the way that I want to and make the comments I want to Mr. Martin… give me the respect you would ask for as a member of any Committee. You would not stand for any Chair of any other Committee to interrupt your ability to ask your questions the way you want to ask them and handle it the way they [sic] want to,” Moore said.
Then, Peter Andrews of the Law Department responded to Moore.
“I believe the position was taken the score sheets would be available under the Open Records Act. As with many things in law, there are different interpretations and the reason why it’s different, Ms. Hampton instructed us after that meeting to verify whether or not they would be available. So we went to the authority in the State of Georgia, the Attorney General. The Attorney General has given us an opinion that no, they would not be available under the Open Records Act because they were derived from the documents submitted under the RFP process,” Andrews said, adding that there is an email from Attorney General Sam Olens’s office to that effect.
Moore asked for the original resolution to be split up into eleven separate pieces of legislation. Only Moore and Bond supported doing this, although after a series of votes, the committee agreed to split the resolution up into the food and beverage contracts and the retail contracts.
Moore also spoke in opposition to the Administration’s use of a walk-in paper to introduce the legislation to the Committee.
“I’m speaking in opposition to taking in this additional paper. While we’re categorizing it as a walk-in, I’m gonna call it a run-in, because this is at the very last second. My objection to it is, this information should have been made available to us much earlier. If it was going through the normal process, it would have been given to our staff, so our staff could do their due diligence and that would have been December 02. It would have been printed on the agenda and the public would’ve adequately had opportunity to see what’s on the agenda and have known what we’re discussing today,” Moore said.
Moore said the information was delivered to her home after midnight the previous evening.
“I’m objecting to the fact that the Council, which has an oversight responsibility, is I believe being totally disrespected in the manner of getting information in some sort of timely fashion that we can view it. But I also think it’s a show of disrespect to even the public and those who are interested to even have to wait until the last hour to find out about it,” Moore said.
“If we approve this legislation today it still does not preclude us from having a work session if that’s the will of the body. And we’ve had opportunities, I’m sure all of us have, to have one on one discussions and have questions answered. I’ve had countless meetings with several people throughout the city about this process. So I think for us to paint the picture that all of this information is new, is just not an accurate picture,” Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11) said.
“It’s my understanding that if there is a delay with this process that it delays the opening of the International Termainl to the tune of 5.1 million dollars per month. That’s a lot of money,” Bottoms said.
“For those of you who have complained about the process today, knew what that process was when they advised us what it was nearly a year ago, and no one has called me personally to say, Lamar, here’s the problem I have with the process… Everyone took the cards on the table and they played the hand that was dealt… And then when they came up with something that was less than acceptable for them, they now appear before this body to say there was something wrong with the process,” Lamar Willis (Post 3-at-large) said.
“I think that sometimes we need to look at some of the positive things we’ve got going on here… I moved here from Cincinnati, Ohio… they’ve closed two terminals there. At least we have an airport, that’s vibrant, that’s filled up this room. Sometimes I think once in a while just look at the positive things that are going on,” Councilwoman Carla Smith (District 1) said.
And at one time Willis accused Moore of obstructing the process, when she was trying to split the resolution up into separate pieces of legislation.
“I understand what you just said, Ms. Moore, and I appreciate that you will exercise every parliamentary procedure to essentially obstruct this legislation from moving forward,” Willis said.
Moore took offense. “Doing my job is not to obstuct, it is to make sure that I provide the oversight that I believe that I should,” Moore said. “You can call me an obstructionist and if that’s the definition for a Council Member doing her job, then I be a big block in the way.”