BREAKING: Atlanta Violated Charter with Closed Airport Bid Process
(APN) ATLANTA — The Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation is preparing to challenge the City of Atlanta’s airport concessions bid selection process and the final bid selections–approved on Tuesday, January 03, 2011, by the City Council–in court, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
The Foundation seeks to overturn the bid selections on the basis that the City did not observe its own bidding procedures under the City of Atlanta Charter; and because the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport concession contract selection panel’s meetings were illegally closed per the Georgia Open Meetings Act.
As for the City’s charter, Section 6-402(d) states that “Any and all competitive bids or proposals shall be sealed and shall be opened at the same time in a publc place as directed by the council and remain open for the public.” APN reviewed a copy of the charter available on municode.com and confirmed the language.
In other words, the City should have put out a request for proposals; received sealed bids; and then called all interested parties and members of the public in one room to observe the opening of the sealed bids. Once the bids are unsealed, they should have been open to the public.
With that being the case, the City of Atlanta failed to follow its own procedures; the bids and the scores should have been available to the public; and the meetings of the Selection Committee should have been open.
As for the OMA, the Foundation is concerned that the closed meetings of the Selection Panel should have been open due to the requirements of the OMA in conjunction with the 1994 Georgia Court of Appeals ruling in Jersawitz v. Fortson.
As previously reported by APN, Jack Jersawitz challenged closed meetings of a panel created by the Atlanta Housing Authority to review Olympic-related redevelopment proposals. The Court ruled that even though the panel did not contain a quorum of the AHA’s Board of Commissioners, that it should have still been open because official city business was being discussed by key decisionmkers and because the panel had been created by AHA to carry out its duties.
Jersawitz told APN that he agrees the meetings of the Selection Panel should have been open given the ruling in Jersawitz v. Fortson.
On Monday, January 02, 2011, John Woodham, an attorney for the Foundation, sent a records request to Mayor Kasim Reed and various City of Atlanta employees, seeking records pursuant to the Georgia Open Records Act, according to a copy of the request obtained by APN.
In the letter, Woodham requested several documents, including:
“1. The names of all persons appointed to the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport concession contract selection panel…”
“2. Records showing who appointed the Selection Panel, and when the Selection Panel was appointed;”
“3. Records showing all the meeting dates of the Selection Panel and any subcommittees thereof;”
“4. All meeting minutes of the Selection Panel and any subcommittees thereof;”
“5. Records evidencing compliance by the Selection Panel (and any subcommittees thereof) with the Georgia Open Meetings Act, O.C.G.A. Section 50-14-1, et seq. See Jersawitz v. Fortson, 213 Ga. App. 796 (1994) (meetings of the Atlanta Housing Authority created “Olympic Task Force Selection Committee”, a procurement selection committee created by the AHA to hear and review proposals for the revitalization of the Techwood/Clark Howell housing development in preparation for the 1996 Olympic Games, came within the purview of the Georgia Open Meetings Act). Such records to include, without limitation, copies of public notices regarding meetings of the Selection Panel, printed agendas of the Selection Panel and duly executed, executive session affidavits of the Selection Panel.”
“6. The date, time and place the concession contract bids were publicly opened and available for public inspection, as required pursuant to City of Atlanta Charter Section 6-402(d)…”
“7. The location such concession contract bids remain available for public inspection.”
“Note that non-compliance with the Georgia Open Meetings Act and/or Section 6-402(d) of the City of Atlanta Charter, among other applicable legal mandates, may result in a judicial declaration that the City of Atlanta’s purported adoption of 11-R-1704, 11-R-1845 and 11-R-1846 is ultra vires and void ab initio. See e.g. O.C.G.A. Section 50-14-1(b). In addition, non-compliance with the Georgia Open Meetings Act may result in criminal, misdemeanor prosecution. O.C.G.A. Section 50-14-6.”
“Govern yourself accordingly.”
“I look forward to a response within the 3 business-day period set forth within the Georgia Open Records Act,” Woodham wrote.
John Sherman and Barbara Payne of FCTF appeared at Tuesday’s City Council meeting to express their opposition.
“The Taxpayer Foundaiton begs of the Council to delay a vote today because the Selection process was in violation of the Georgia Open Meetings Act. There was never divulgence of who were members of the Selection Committee, the meetings were secretly held, the minutes of each meeting were never made public, and each bidder and their bid was never disclosed,” Sherman said.
“The taxpayers are deeply concerned about the possible political contribution affecting the outcome of the bidding process,” Sherman said.
“Let’s not perpetuate the goings on in Atlanta that have been going on for the last few decades. Let’s not validate the correlation of campaign contributions and what gets voted on in these chambers,” Payne said.