Though the two-year-long battle over the lucrative O'Hare International Airport terminal concessions contract appeared to come to an end last week when a deal with Westfield Concession Management was approved almost unanimously by City Hall, that contract has been brought into question thanks to a lawsuit filed by Chicago Aviation Partners, the airport's former concessionaire, Thursday.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Aviation Partners argues that the airport's new deal with Westfield was the result of a "sham evaluation process, and considerable effort to block aldermen’s access to details of the competing bids." They say the airport's deal with Westfield will mean $120 million in unrealized revenue for the state over the new, 20-year contract with their Baltimore-based rival.
In addition to compensatory damages, they are seeking that either the deal with Westfield is terminated or that the contract is reopened to bidding.
In a statement issued by the city, the lawsuit was described as "simply an attempt by a disgruntled bidder to stop the award of a contract to another party," Crain's reports. "The plaintiff has made these allegations over and over again, and they have been soundly rejected." The city further states that the bidding process was fair and that Westfield has "a proven track record" of delivering on their promises, while CAP does not. Only three City Council members -- Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Scott Waguespack (32nd) and John Arena (45th) -- opposed the Westfield contract's approval.
As the Chicago Tribune reported in June, the CAP contract, in place for much of Mayor Richard Daley's administration, was long seen as "untouchable" due to the fact that one of its principal shareholders -- Jeremiah Joyce -- was part of Daley's inner circle of political advisors and friends. That said, it is also fair to point out that the lobbying team of Westfield includes both Tim Dart, whose last name you might recognize as the same one Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart calls his own, and Chicago police board head Demetrius Carney.
Of the Westfield contract last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he is confident the deal will "bring 280 new jobs to Chicago and improve the travel experience of Chicagoans and visitors from around the world" who come through the airport, according to NBC Chicago.
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