ATLANTA - Bold steps by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at the Atlanta airport. Mayor Bottoms has put 100 million dollars in airport food and retail contracts on hold until she puts a new procurement team in place.
The Mayor also announced she has fired a deputy airport general manager who was the subject of a FOX 5 I-Team investigation.
“For me, the decision has been based on making sure we are operating above reproach,” Mayor Bottoms said.
Airport Deputy General Manager Cortez Carter was given a one-page termination later earlier this month telling the well-known, airport official that his services were no longer needed, ending a short and ultimately controversial career in Atlanta.
Carter's firing followed a FOX 5 I-Team investigation. We found Carter's wife is in business with one of Atlanta's biggest airport vendors, Hojeij Branded Foods.
We found Charisse Works Carter was announced as a minority partner with Hojeij at Regan National Airport in September of 2017. The announcement came as Hojeij was selected as a potential winner in the current controversial food and retail bids.
One industry expert estimates Hojeij won 10 spaces in the current bids worth potential 40 million dollars.
An HBF spokesperson told us AirWorks partnered with HBF in a "protege program" in 2015 and then became a 10% 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 last fall, Mayor Reed immediately suspended Cortez Carter pending a review of Carter's wife's business and to investigate Hojeij Branded Foods current and pending contracts.
“There has been nothing to show any impropriety with any contracts he (Carter) has reviewed,” Bottoms said.
The conflict of interest investigation was taking place as the FOX 5 I-Team raised more questions about the bid process. We broke the story that the FBI had raided another prominent city vendor, the Prad Group.
Then director Jeff Jaffari has since retired. We identified him as the vendor who paid cash bribes to former procurement director Adam Smith. Smith has since pled guilty to accepting more than $30,000 in bribes.
Bottoms says the 100 million dollars in airport contracts that were rushed through last fall under Mayor Kasim Reed are now on hold until she brings in new procurement director.
“The short answer, Dale is, there are contracts on hold until we have a fresh set of eyes, and our process has been followed accordingly. (That includes the airport contracts?) Yes.
Remember our earlier report about the GBI opening a criminal investigation of former Mayor Kasim Reed's spokesperson Jenna Garland for allegedly violating the Open Records Act.
Mayor Bottoms also vowed to cooperate completely with the GBI in their investigation and she is taking steps to make sure her current staff always complies with the law.