Former airport GM accuses mayor of meddling in airport contracts

ATLANTA — The now-former general manager of the world’s busiest airport is suing the city – and he’s not without a fight.

Channel 2 Action News has obtained the intent to sue letter that an attorney representing Miguel Southwell sent to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, where Southwell accuses Reed of blocking bids for a critical concession contract, among other things.

Reed abruptly fired Southwell late last month. A few days later Reed held a news conference at City Hall to talk about the firing, never came out directly to say why.




Channel 2 investigative reporter Aaron Diamant obtained the accusation-filled letter from Southwell's attorney through an open records request.

Also among the claims, Southwell said the city was monitoring his and other staffers’ emails.

"(They) have been continuously monitored without their permission by persons acting on behalf of the city, including City Attorney Cathy Hampton," the letter said.

Next, the letter accuses Reed of trying to influence who got highly lucrative concession and construction contracts at the airport.

Southwell claims he and his staff, "received direction from senior officials of the City's Procurement Department to take a number of actions that would impact the award of active contracts by causing the contracts to be awarded to companies other than the highest-ranked bidder."

The letter goes on to say, "Those same senior officials represented that these directions were originating from the "second floor" or "the Mayor."

Before his termination, Southwell advocated for background checks, including finger-printing, for Uber drivers at the airport.

After Uber paid the city of Newark, New Jersey, $10 million to forgo those requirements, Southwell claims, "Several members of your cabinet, who represented that they have your support suggested that they reach a 'Newark' type agreement with Uber whereby the city literally 'sells' passengers' security for a large cash payment."

A spokesperson for Reed emailed Diamant a statement from him Friday in response to the letter saying:

"Miguel Southwell is struggling to rescue what remains of his career and this is evident in the fact that he is now making false statements against my Administration and me. This is a desperate attempt to salvage his reputation."