Ruling near in purchasing rules suit

A judge promised a quick decision Monday on an advertising firm's request to stop the city from giving another firm the contract for the Augusta Regional Airport's marketing services.


U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall heard from attorneys representing the Alison Group and the city of Augusta, who argued over the issuance of a preliminary injunction.

The Alison Group has sued the city, alleging its purchasing rules are applied unfairly. It specifically contends the city's decision to give the airport's marketing contract to Hall Marketing in August was done unfairly.

Attorney Robert Mullins contended the city ignored the standard it holds other businesses to when it evaluated Hall's bid. Though the city says it demands perfection on every bid proposal, Hall was not disqualified when it did not attach a corporate seal on two documents, listed 19 subcontractors without proper documentation and did not include another required document, he said.

Arguing on behalf of the city, private attorney James Ellison countered that the Alison Group also did not attach a corporate seal to a document, so both companies were treated equally. Mr. Ellison argued that because the contract was for professional services and the job was put out as a "request for qualifications," the city was more concerned with the quality of services than price. Hall scored higher when judged by a three-member committee, he said.

Mr. Ellison said an error in the process does not equate to a constitutional violation, as the Alison Group contends. At best, he said, the firm might have a state claim that allows a business to recover the costs of preparing a bid.

Mr. Mullins said, however, that the city's practice of issuing a "request for qualifications" doesn't follow the city code that governs how it is supposed to purchase goods and services. The city can require companies to pre-qualify to be considered for a particular job, but the code still requires competitive bidding, he said.

When contracting for professional services, the code allows the city to look beyond price estimates to technical factors and qualification.

However, Mr. Mullins said, marketing isn't one of those professional services exempted from the competitive bidding process.

Mr. Ellison challenged the Alison Group's right to bring suit against the city. The Alison Group is not a registered corporation in Georgia.

Mark Alison's former company, Alison and Associates, was not licensed by the state when the airport marketing job was put out for bid, he said.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or