An I-Team investigation has found the city of Atlanta chose not to renew an airport shuttle contract and instead turned the business over to a friend and business partner of Mayor Kasim Reed
It was all done without a bid or even a contract. Mayor Reed says he had nothing to do with the decision.
The Mayor's office has sent FOX 5 documents and financial records insisting the city was only trying to remove a troubled vendor. One that owed the city money.
But that vendor believes she is a victim of politics.
“We were trying to provide outstanding service, be ambassadors to the city of Atlanta,” said Lily Santander.
For five years, Santander was riding high. She was minority partner in the Atlanta Link, which won a lucrative city contract to provide shuttle service for airport travelers heading into the city. She feels, virtually overnight, the city took it away.
“It was very devastating. Pulling everyone in to a meeting, just to tell them, brought tears to my eyes,” said Santander.
But Lily Santander's' loss was Darrell Anderson's gain. Anderson is a close friend and – FOX 5 has learned - once a business partner of Mayor Kasim Reed. He now runs the shuttle business.
He says politics wasn't at play.
“All allegations about my relationship with Mayor Reed are false,” said Anderson.
This is how it happened. Atlanta Link's five-year contract was coming to an end in 2010, soon after Mayor Reed took office. The city could extend the contract, but told FOX 5 that Link had problems with its minority subcontractors and was behind on some payments.
“There were some issues and concerns. Any contract you have, when an adoption year has expired, the discretion is the city can go into a new direction,” said Winston Cooper.
Despite those concerns, Lily Santander says Airport Ground Transportation manager, Winston Cooper, told her LINK could continue month-to-month, until the city rebid the contract. Then four days before the contract ended, the city said no, Atlanta Link was out. Santander says her company was forced into bankruptcy and she was forced to lay off all Link employees.
“It was hard, hard to look at all of them and tell them, sorry that's it. We're not here anymore,” said Santander.
Airport files state the city determined that a month-to-month contract "would require a change in the Code Ordinance."
Cooper said the city law was “absolutely” a reason why he didn’t go month-to-month.
After that interview, city officials admitted that's not true. City code allows month to month extensions of contracts. And they do it all the time. So, legally Atlanta Link could have kept the business on a month to month basis.
Instead, the city invited Anderson's A-National Limousine and other shuttle companies to take over. Anderson was only supposed to be the manager, but he quickly began using his own vans. A-National has been operating that temporary service for the past year and a half.
“Makes me feel a lot of anger, lot of anger, to know we were actually double crossed, is what we were,” said Santander.
“The airport hasn't given me anything. Everything I've got I've earned,” said Anderson.
Anderson insists his friendship with the Mayor had nothing to do with getting the shuttle business. He is proud of his 30-year-old family business. Originally, he was supposed to only manager the contract. But, now, A-National is the main provider of shuttle vans.
“I only said I would be a willing participant. And that's all I'm doing to this day,” said Anderson. “It has nothing to do, unequivocally with my relationship [with the mayor].”
And when the city made a change, it cost them financially. Because Atlanta Link's contract required a minimum payment, they paid the city at least $15,969 a month. A-National has no contract and no minimum payment. Anderson says they are paying a percentage of total revenue that adds up to around $6-7,000 a month.
Cooper said he isn’t bothered by the loss of revenue. He believes other companies working with A-National are also paying additional money to the city. He couldn't say how much.
The Mayor would not talk with us about this contract, saying he had nothing to do with it. But FOX 5 has learned that that not only were Darrell Anderson and the Mayor friends, they were also in business together buying this warehouse back in 2006.
“Mayor Reed is a long time friend of mine, and I make no bones about it,” said Anderson.
Anderson says he is friends with the entire Reed family, including Tracy Reed, the Mayor's brother, who was working for the city on airport contracts at the time. The Mayor's other brother, Carlton, worked for A-National. That's Carlton Reed on the A-National's web site. Anderson says he hired him before Kasim Reed was elected Mayor.
Anderson said he didn’t see it as a conflict.
“No, because one of the things I wanted to do was make sure it wasn't a conflict, that's why Carlton is no longer doing anything for me,” said Anderson.
Anderson and Mayor Reed are both part of a company called Cascade Investors. According to land records, Cascade bought this warehouse and adjoining land on Fairburn Road in 2006 for more than a million dollars.
Anderson: It's not more than a friendship.
Dale Russell: I think when two people enter into a limited liability company together and invest in property together, that's business.
Anderson: If I made an investment in any business, that means it's more than a friendship.
“I believe it has a lot of who you know in the city,” said Santander.
Four months ago, he city finally put out a request for proposals on a new shuttle service contract. The Aviation department has just began evaluating them.
Darrell Anderson's company, A-National Limousine, is one of the bidders.
Mayor Reed's Response to Hartsfield Jackson International Airport Shuttle Story (Submitted Before Our Story Aired)
Mayor Kasim Reed's spokesperson sent FOX 5 a response to the I-Team story before it aired on February 2, 2012. The response is as follows:
Dear Fox 5 News Viewers:
We appreciate the vital role of the media in holding government accountable. Unfortunately, the February 2, 2012 report on the city of Atlanta’s ground shuttle operations was not fair and balanced, and it did not include critical facts that were shared with the reporter.
In August 2010, the city ended its contractual agreement with Carey Shuttle Services after granting the company a 90-day extension beyond the contract’s original expiration date. Carey was not meeting its contractual payment obligations, and in fact, still owes the city money. In addition, the city had received numerous complaints from subcontractors about their arrangement with Carey. They cited unfair revenue sharing and unfair dispatching practices among their concerns. Even after the city modified its payment structure to accommodate Carey, the company remitted a check to the airport that was returned for insufficient funds.
In his report, Dale Russell questions why the city chose not to enter into a month-to-month contract with Carey. Carey remained deficient in its contractual obligations to the city during the 90-day extension period, which ended on August 24, 2010. The city then began working with a group of permitted shuttle providers to continue providing service at the airport until the completion of a new procurement. A similar situation and resolution occurred 10 years ago with ground shuttle transportation services.
Mr. Russell makes an untenable leap. He insinuates that Darrell Anderson, the owner of A-National and a businessman with 30 years of experience at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, took over ground shuttle operations because of his relationship with Mayor Kasim Reed and the Reed family. That is not true. The shuttle operators – not the city – chose A-National to represent them. Every permitted operator has an equal opportunity to provide services, but the city has only received payments from A-National.
A-National has not received any preferential treatment because of Mr. Anderson’s relationship with Mayor Reed or the Reed family. Mr. Russell does not present a shred of evidence otherwise. The city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the shuttle service contract in October, and the proponents have submitted their responses. The city will complete the procurement process shortly and enter into a new contract with a provider, as is the standard process. A typical procurement lasts about six months; it is not unusual for the process to take longer.
We gave Mr. Russell ample documentation of the information above, but his report failed to include many of the established facts concerning ground shuttle operations.
Spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed