Decertification hearing held on airport concession bidder - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

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Decertification hearing held on airport concession bidder

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ATLANTA -

A hearing to kick one of the biggest winners in the recent airport restaurant bids out of a disadvantaged minority program was held on Thursday.

The Federal Aviation Administration says Mack Wilbourn is worth too much money to qualify as disadvantaged. They want his certification revoked.

That disadvantaged certification helped Wilbourn win 10 new food locations during the recent airport concession bid.

But, the Federal Aviation Administration stepped in and said the State DOT was wrong to certify Wilbourn's company as disadvantaged, because his personal net worth is too high.
    
After a nearly three hour meeting discussing whether he's worth too much money for his company to be labeled disadvantaged, Wilbourn had nothing to say on Thursday.

So who is Mack Wilbourn?

Well, when the President of the United States came to Atlanta in March to raise money, he stopped at actor Tyler Perry's place. Before that, however, there was a $10,000 a plate fundraiser held at Wilbourn's $1.2 million home.
 
Partying with the President? $10,000 a plate fundraiser? Disadvantaged? That's right. Because according to the FAA rules, if you are a woman or minority, your business makes less than $56 million a year and your personal net worth is less than $1.3 million, then you can qualify as a disadvantaged business. Your house isn't counted when figuring your personal net worth.

"I am confident Mack Wilbourn will demonstrate he falls under personal net worth limit," said Jeff Dickerson.

Dickerson, a Georgia Gang member, represents Wilbourn. He says Wilbourn will prove he meets federal standards. And he says those standards make sense.

"When you pit a $20 million company against a $20 billion company, that company by U.S. standards is disadvantaged, particularly if it's owned by a minority," said Dickerson.
   
When he was certified by the state DOT as disadvantaged, Wilbourn owned four restaurants at the airport, grossing some $11 million a year.
 
And that's just the airport. FOX 5's I-Team found that Wilbourn also owns seven parcels in DeKalb that, according to county appraisals, are worth $2.6 million.

That includes the DeKalb Police South Precinct, which DeKalb County has paid Wilbourn more than a million dollars in rent during the past three years.

"He's not hiding anything. All of that is out in the open. All of that is counted," Dickerson said.

The decertification hearing was conducted by the state DOT behind closed doors. Reporters were allowed back in at the end.

"I cannot make a decision on a case with all the information that was presented to me today," said Gerald Ross of the Georgia DOT.

And without a word, Wilbourn, left the building.

Ross said he'd make a decision within 30 days.

Three other disadvantaged airport vendors also face decertification, including the company owned in part by former Mayor Maynard Jackson's widow.

Jackson is viewed by many in the industry as the father of minority programs in the airport industry.

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