ATLANTA - The controversial Atlanta airport food and retail bids are on hold - for now. Potential multi-million dollar winners have been chosen by the procurement department, but a conflict of interest investigation is keeping those bids from moving forward.
That investigation was sparked by a FOX 5 I-Team report that the airport deputy general manager's wife is in business with a potential winning bidder.
An I-Team investigation found that deputy general manager Cortez Carter’s wife is a minority partner in an airport food contract with Hojeij Branded Foods or HBJ. They run a Chick Fil A restaurant at Regan National Airport.
We learned while HBF and Charisse Carter were preparing their grand opening in DC, HBF was selected as a potential winner in 10 food or retail spaces in Atlanta worth an estimated 40 million dollars in the current controversial food and retail bids.
Felicia Moore, city council president candidates, believes the bids should be thrown out. “I think none of them [bids] should go through,” says Moore.
Alex Wan, who is also running for city council president had no comment.
Mayoral Candidate Mary Norwood said: “Clearly, it ought to be rebid. I would want a full investigation of what is going on.”
Mayoral hopeful, Keisha Lance Bottoms sent an email stating "appropriate disciplinary action needs to be taken immediately, up to termination. Bottoms promised an audit and overhaul of procurement, but made no mention of halting the bid process
An HBF spokesperson told us Charisse Carter’s company, AirWorks Group, partnered with HBF in a "protege program" in 2015 and then became a 10 percent minority partner with HBF in July 2015 at the Chick-Fil-A location. This was before her husband was hired by Atlanta two months later. They say Ms. Carter has no airport business in Atlanta.
When our report aired, Mayor Reed suspended Cortez Carter pending a review of Carter's wife's business and to investigate Hojeij Branded Foods current and pending contracts.
At a transportation committee meeting yesterday, deputy chief of staff, Katrina Taylor Parks told committee members the Hojeij-Carter relationship is under review and the Mayor's office was not ready to send winning bidder's names to the city council for legislative approval.
So no one knows if the airport food and retail bids totaling more than 100 million dollars a year will be awarded on Monday, at a later special called council meeting, or canceled.
“The administration stands firm in that we are looking into everything,” says Parks. “We will not bring anything before this body that does not represent a well-done process.”