Did a franchise operator knowingly submit a fraudulent letter from famed chef Todd English to boost its chances to open new food concessions at Albany International Airport? There’s enough uncertainty over the letter’s origins and the role it may have played in OHM Concession Group’s winning bid to warrant a trial in Albany County State Supreme Court, a judge has decided.
ALB Restaurants LLC, the operator of Villa Fresh Italian Kitchen and Green Leaf’s and Bananas at the airport, accused OHM of forging the commitment letter to bolster its effort to replace the two concessions with Todd English American Market, a Wolfgang Puck pizza franchise, and the Capital Region’s first Chick-fil-A.
But other court filings suggest that English may also have had ties to ALB Restaurants LLC. English, in a filing with the court, said the commitment letter included in OHM’s proposal wasn’t written or signed by him, and that the company’s stationery wasn’t genuine.
OHM would open Chick-fil-A and a Wolfgang Puck pizza franchise in the secure area. The Todd English American Market was slated for a space across from Dunkin’ Donuts outside the secure area.
When the county airport authority approved the new concessions at its meeting last November, they were expected to be open and operating by March 1.
The judge rejected ALB Restaurants’ petition to annul the contract award over improper communications during the request for proposals, saying the violations it described weren’t «knowing and willful.»
In a statement, the airport authority said that «ALB Restaurants, LLC has sued the winning food vendor proposer, OHM Concession Group, LLC and the Airport Authority alleging that the award of the Food Concession contract was not valid. The Court has dismissed all allegations of improper actions by the Airport Authority.
«The Airport Authority looks forward to resolving this matter so that we can proceed with providing the travelling public with quality food offerings.»
But an attorney for ALB Restaurants questioned the decision to proceed with construction.
«It is presumptuous for the Airport Authority to allow construction to occur, when the Judge has decided there must be a trial to determine whether this flawed RFP process was valid, and whether the alleged winner of that process, OHM, was a responsible and qualified bidder, given the questionable and unauthorized documents OHM submitted in support of their bid,» said Peter A. Lauricella, who is representing ALB Restaurants.
A conference is set for July 9 to schedule a trial date.