by: Richard Belcher Updated:ATLANTA,None —
Atlanta purchasing officials say they'll decide by midweek whether to accept or reject protests filed by companies that lost their bids for airport contracts.
One of those companies isn't waiting for the city to decide.
Channel 2's Richard Belcher found out the company has filed a claim accusing the city of violating the state open meetings law.
For weeks, losing bidders have argued in court that the city withheld bid-related records that it should have released.
Now there's a claim that the teams of evaluators who reviewed and rated the various bidders should have done their work in public.
The new claim is being met with skepticism at City Hall and at the state.
At least three judges have heard claims that the city violated the state open records law by intentionally withholding records that losing bidders needed to protest their losses.
Again and again, the criticism from the losers was about records.
"And there is nothing to be gained by the citizens of this state and the citizens of Atlanta to hide how the bid proposals were handled, why that certain bidders who got what they got were successful," attorney Kenneth Hodges said.
But now the same lawyer, representing the largest airport concessionaire in the world, has added a new accusation charging that city officials violated the state open meetings law by allowing teams of evaluators to score the competing bids behind closed doors and not in public.
The head of the Fulton County Taxpayers Foundation, John Sherman, first hinted at that complaint in remarks to the City Council last month.
"The meetings were secretly held. The minutes of each meeting were never made public," Sherman said.
Sherman followed up with a complaint about the closed-door meetings to state Attorney General Sam Olens.
The new legal complaint contends that the airport bid evaluators were, in effect, a subcommittee of the Atlanta City Council.
Two council members reject that.
"I certainly did not meet the evaluators, did not know who there were. To this day, I don't know who they are," Councilman C.T. Martin said.
"I think that it's a very interesting legal position to take, but I don't think it's accurate," Councilwoman Keisha Bottoms said.
Sherman complained about the alleged violation of the open meeting law in an email to state Attorney General Sam Olens early last month.
Olens' office told Belcher Monday, "We didn't even open up a file and we're not going to join this litigation."