SMG, the longtime operator of Boardwalk Hall and the Atlantic City Convention Center, is moving forward with plans to dispute a management contract awarded to an alternate firm earlier this month.
In a 10-page letter sent to Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority officials last week, SMG outlines its grounds for protest, including the makeup of an evaluation committee and a potential release of confidential information. The authority’s procurement procedures state — and a federal judge recently reiterated — that the ACCVA must allow for a hearing to take place should a dispute arise as a result of the contract award.
John Samerjan, a public relations consultant for SMG, said in an email that the procurement process was “rife with conflicts of interest and business conflicts.”
Earlier this month, the ACCVA awarded a five-year contract to Global Spectrum, a subsidiary of Comcast-Spectacor. Beginning in early 2013, the Philadelphia-based firm will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the venues and booking the acts at Boardwalk Hall.
Global Spectrum also operates the Wells Fargo Center, Temple University’s Liacouras Center and the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton. The award marked the first change in management of the Atlantic City venues in 17 years. Global Spectrum has said it can leverage its current relationships to draw more people to Atlantic City events.
Prior to the award, SMG laid the groundwork for a potential dispute. The firm filed a federal lawsuit and wrote a separate letter to the authority alleging that faulty procurement practices were used. ACCVA officials have said the authority’s procurement procedures were sound and declined to discuss SMG’s actions.
SMG’s first letter claimed that a selection committee was invalid because it included members of the Atlantic City Alliance and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority who do not have any formal role in ACCVA operations. State legislation mandates that the ACCVA be merged with the CRDA, but that transfer has not yet occurred.
The newest letter also claims that the ACCVA told SMG weeks prior to the award that Global Spectrum would be getting the contract, a move SMG argues was prematurely. Bidders also were required to make a presentation to the CRDA, whose members were then allowed to have closed-door discussions about the contract without the ACCVA present, states the letter from SMG’s legal representation at Genova Burns Giantomasi & Webster.
Both the CRDA and ACA have declined to comment on SMG’s actions.
The letter also makes mention of a preseason basketball game played by the Philadelphia 76ers at Boardwalk Hall in October. The letter mentions a news conference that included officials from the ACA, Caesars Entertainment, Global Spectrum and Longport Media, whose president, Dave Coskey, is a member of the ACCVA board.
Officials took photos together at the news conference in the midst of the procurement process — a move SMG said suggests a conflict of interest.
“The demonstrated lack of impartiality during the procurement process toward a bidder by those responsible for reviewing and making an award of a public contract casts an appearance of impropriety, calls the independent evaluation of bids into question and undercuts the public trust,” the letter states.
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