Mayor Insists He Had No Idea Willis Johnson's Lobbying for Concessions Company
Shortly after I posted this morning's item about the Love Field Concessions Committee meeting, I got an e-mail from a Friend of Unfair Park that contained what you'll see after the jump: an Official City of Dallas Lobbyist Registration Form submitted on April 13 by Willis Johnson -- local DJ, marketing man and, more to the point, one of Mayor Tom Leppert's chief consultants. (Leppert's weekly meeting schedule provided by his chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, often contains at least one meeting per week with Johnson.)
The form, filed two weeks before Rudy Bush's initial story in The News revealing Leppert's unhappiness with the no-bid process, says Johnson is lobbying City Hall on behalf of Concessions International, Ltd., an Atlanta-based food-and-beverage concessions services provider that serves, among others, Miami International Airport, Portland International Airport and Denver International Airport. He lists as City Hall's contact there one Sylvia Ross, the company's vice president of compliance and contracts. (She's listed on the Web site as head of Business Development Opportunities.)
I've tried repeatedly this morning to reach Ross -- or anyone else at Concessions International -- to find out more information, chiefly: Is Concessions International intending to bid on Love Field contracts? The registration form says Johnson met with Mayor Pro Tem Caraway to discuss "DFW Airport Concessions." There's no mention of Love Field. I asked Johnson via e-mail if he intends to lobby City Hall for Love Field contracts. He just responded:
No. Read the registration form. Dfw only. Concessions Intl has never shown any interest at Love Field and WILL NOT.
The mayor, of course, is in council discussing budget woes at this very moment; Heinbaugh responds with this statement:
The Mayor was not aware of this, but says it has nothing to do with the issue at hand -- that the contract must have an open bid process. He says: "This is a major contract for the city at one of the city's most important facilities. I have consistently said -- it is not about the people, it's about the process. I want to make sure it's open, transparent and fair to anyone hoping to participate in the bidding process. That is what I am focused on."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.