Airport vendor fights to keep disadvantaged certification - FOX 35 News Orlando

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Mayor Maynard Jackson's widow fights to keep disadvantaged minority certification

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ATLANTA -

A politically powerful airport vendor with connections to two Atlanta mayors is embroiled in a battle with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

A closed door hearing was held on Wednesday to decide whether Atlanta Restaurant Partners is truly a disadvantaged minority business. The state DOT is taking the unusual step under orders from the FAA.

The group is fighting to keep its certification as a disadvantaged minority business, even though one of the owners is the widow of Mayor Maynard Jackson

Atlanta Restaurant Partners is owned by former Mayor Maynard Jackson's widow, Valerie, and her daughter, Brooke Jackson Edmond, along with Mayor Kasim Reed's campaign manager Daniel Halpern.  

FAA rules say if the owner is a woman or minority and your business makes, on average, 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.

The state DOT certified Atlanta Restaurant Partners as disadvantaged. But, then acting on a complaint, the FAA investigated and said that they aren't.

Why?

For one, the FAA believes Daniel Halpern is not a minority. Native Americans are considered minorities.  

"I am a registered member of the Six Nations of the Grand River Band, which right outside of Buffalo, New York," Halpern said in April 2012.

The FOX 5 I-Team has confirmed that Halpern has tribal heritage because we found a 1951 border crossing document that shows his mother's heritage. But her tribe is in Canada. So according to the FAA, Mr. Halpern doesn't qualify.

"I don't know what it means, I've talked to people in DC, there are different interpretations of what makes someone native," said Halpern.
 
The FAA believes Halpern is the one who actually controls the company.  The FAA stated that Valerie Jackson and her daughter, Brooke Jackson Edmond, didn't have credentials to work at the airport.

"It was an inaccurate accusation that I never visited the stores.  I don't need a badge to visit the stores. If I'm traveling, I go by the store," Valerie Jackson said.

"We only own two restaurants at the airport, we own 18 restaurants total. We're very busy," said Brooke Jackson Edmond.
 
The FAA says Brooke Jackson Edmond also has a work conflict.   She's CEO of the non-profit foundation, Maynard Jackson Youth Foundation. Their tax records show that she spends 20 hours a week on the Foundation.

Brooke said she's confident they will prevail.

"I think it will be the right thing if we win. I hope that we do. I believe we will," said Brooke Jackson Edmond.

The hearing was closed to reporters. At the end, the DOT said it would take up to 30 days to review the all evidence before making a decision.

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