Atlanta airport pays vendor for expenses incurred without a signed contract

Our FOX 5 I-Team has learned that top airport officials paid a politically connected airport vendor more than $300,000 in terminal shuttle expenses even though the potential vendor had no formal shuttle contract at the time.

The confusion took place after Mayor Kasim Reed failed to sign the contract for nearly a year.

Now, the Atlanta City council transportation committee chairman, Andre Dickens, vows to investigate.

We ran across a $360,000 payment to this airport vendor while looking through the city of Atlanta's new portal, Open Checkbook, put in place by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. The website allows the public and reporters to track city spending.

The timing and amount of the check to a vendor with close ties to the Reed family surprised me and others.

It all started two years ago. December of 2016.  The Atlanta city council awarded a 3-year contract, with a 2-year option. A potential $18,372,799 to run shuttle buses between airport terminals and rental car lots.

The winning bidder - Darrell Anderson, owner of A-National Limousine and a longtime family friend of then Mayor Kasim Reed. The two even invested in a real estate deal together.

Anderson was already managing taxis at the airport. He was now set to take over the terminal shuttle contract as soon as Mayor Reed signed it.

Two months after the council vote, while the Mayor was expected to sign the contract, the FOX 5 I-Team reported on an earlier business deal Anderson had with the Mayor's father. Anderson was an investor in a South Carolina recycling business. Junius Reed was CEO of the company, according to court documents.

The I-Team obtained checks written by Anderson to either "Cash" for "Capital Plastic Recyclers" or to "Junius Reed" personally for "advance CPR" totaling $67,000.

Anderson told me the money paid to Mayor Reed's father had nothing to do with Anderson's airport contracts.

Following our report, Mayor Reed didn't sign Anderson's new contract.

We asked Sara Henderson, director of good government group, Common Cause what she thought about the development.

“It would be good to know why he didn't sign the contract and allow that to be fulfilled,” said Henderson.

We got no explanation from Mayor Reed through a former spokesperson.  End of story?  In a word, no.

Even though he didn't have a signed contract, Darrell Anderson wrote the city he had already spent a lot of money getting ready.  Hiring people, training, insurance, and more. He wanted to be paid. 

“What?” Henderson asked.

Henderson says any veteran vendor should know that city council approval is not a signed contract and they shouldn't spend money until that contract is negotiated and signed.

“I cannot imagine a scenario where the city would be on the hook for some $360,000, I mean, that's just ridiculous,” Henderson said.

Airport officials seemed to agree.  One wrote Anderson that the contract had "NOT been signed and we would not proceed with the transition" and later warned Anderson about "not incurring any additional expenses…until we have a signed contract."

So no payment was made at the time.

Then, on Mayor Reed's last working day in office, a full year after the council vote, he signed Anderson's contract.  And Anderson asked again to be paid for those earlier startup costs.

Then, airport GM Roosevelt Council authorized full payment of $364,420.  That included at least $136,373 for expenses that took place after Anderson had been told to stop spending money on the unsigned contract.

“Wow,” said city Transportation committee chairman, Andre Dickens.

He says he had never heard about the extra payment and plans to have his committee investigate.

“Yeah, this is surprising This is definitely a surprising situation,” said Dickens.

An airport spokesperson emailed me to say the situation was “unusual and unanticipated.”  The spokesperson says they verbally told Darrell Anderson to prepare for the shuttle terminal work anticipating the Mayor would sign the contract. They don’t know why Mayor Reed took a year to sign the contract. They reviewed the $364,0000 transition costs and felt they were reasonable.