ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Now, a FOX 5 Atlanta Super Bowl Exclusive.
Some limousine company owners and the Super Bowl Host Committee fear Atlanta could be short 3 to 400 limousines and other chauffeured vehicles during Super Bowl weekend. They warn the city could get a black-eye.
But, the head of the Department of Public Safety strongly disagrees saying there are plenty of vehicles available.
Atlanta area limo owners say they don't have enough vehicles if they can't use out of state cars and drivers. But, DPS Colonel Mark McDonough, who can quickly tick off the number of injuries and deaths from chauffeured bus and car accidents, says state law doesn't allow it.
You'd think this legal debate would have been settled long ago. But, we found this debate erupted just two weeks before kickoff and continues to this day.
“This is going to be a huge black eye for Atlanta,” says limousine owner Carol Cockcroft.
Carol Cockcroft and these others operate some of the largest and longest running limo companies in Atlanta. And, on the cusp of Super Bowl weekend, they are mad.
“We're going to have to break major contracts. We're going to have to tell major, major corporate clients we can't handle their VIP travelers, says another limousine owner Fred Rich.
These four limo company owners claim a late decision by the Georgia State Patrol to not allow them to use out of state vehicles to handle the Super bowl overflow, could cause them to break contracts, risk arrest, and strand corporate passengers.
“It's an extremely, extremely urgent situation,” says Jeff Greene president of the Greater Atlanta Limousine Association.
But the head of the Georgia Department of Public Safety says not so fast.
“It wouldn't matter if they requested it six months ago or two weeks, the answer is the same. Somebody is asking to circumvent state law, the answer from me is no,” says Colonel Mark McDonough.
Colonel McDonough says state law has never allowed out of state limousines that aren't insured and registered in Georgia. Never. He says company owners are at fault for not asking about any special permission until two weeks ago.
Russell: Were you surprised when you realized what they wanted to do?
McDonough: Absolutely. They're basically asking the Colonel of state patrol to set aside state law. That's kind of brash.
Some of these owners have been in business since the Olympics. They worked the city during Atlanta’s last Super Bowl 19 years ago. They say in the past they were allowed to use out of state vehicles. A different state agency regulated limos then, and Colonel McDonough says he can't find written proof it was allowed to happen.
“The bottom line is, in previous special events and the Olympics and the Super Bowl we were allowed to operate. It went super smooth,” says Jeff Greene.
The debate erupted about two weeks ago when both sides realized they were not seeing eye to eye. There were frantic phone calls, emails, and meetings.
A member of the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee wrote Colonel McDonough in the past few days warning the city of Atlanta may be short some “300-400 limos” for the weekend and she feared "without a solution, this will become a viral news story and a black-eye for the state."
Russell: We're two days from major movement moving people through town? Why are we having this conversation?)
Rich: I wish I had the answer to that question.
After getting the Host committee email, Colonel McDonough's staff began calling all limousine companies in Georgia, counting available vehicles and checking costs. The result: there is no emergency, says Colonel McDonough.
McDonough: What we show in our survey is there are plenty of vehicles out there.
Russell: They say we don't have relationships with people, some are charging too much, we want to do business with people we've known before.
McDonough: They want to do it outside state law. That's not something I'm going to give permission to do.
Russell: You are not going to budge?
McDonough: No sir.
So some Limo owners are left scrambling, trying to make sure they have enough cars and limos to handle their fortune 500 and VIP clients. And, they feel they have only one last option on the eve of the Super Bowl weekend.
“We are begging Governor Kemp to step in and protect the people of Atlanta, the people of Georgia, the people coming in from out of town to allow us to safely handle their transportation,” says Greene.
Governor Brian Kemp's spokesperson told me the governor had no comment.
I asked Colonel McDonough if he could just go ahead and grant temporary licenses to these limo owners and he insisted he can't do it legally.
The limo owners tell me their lawyer disagrees.