Potential conflicts disqualify panel from voting on LAX concession contracts

Due to potential conflicts of interest involving its chairman, the Los Angeles airport commission has been disqualified from voting on a series of multimillion-dollar concession contracts considered key to enhancing the dining and shopping experience for travelers and visitors at Los Angeles International Airport.

The Board of Airport Commissioners was scheduled next Monday to award 10 food, beverage and retail contracts related to the ongoing modernization of the nation’s third-busiest airport.

But late last week, city lawyers concluded that commission Chairman Alan Rothenberg, a prominent investment banker, owns about $1 million worth of stock in and serves on the board of California Pizza Kitchen, a restaurant chain directly and indirectly involved in bids for eight pending concession contracts.

The legal review by the Los Angeles city attorney’s office was requested by Rothenberg. Unless the conflicts are eliminated, lawyers said the eight contracts should be decided by the Board of Referred Powers, a panel of five City Council members chaired by Councilman Tony Cardenas.

The board handles matters sent to it by city commissions and boards whose members may have conflicts.


“I am disappointed for the whole board, which has been involved in the planning and mapping out of the entire concessions plan,” Rothenberg said. “I was concerned about California Pizza Kitchen and did not want to make a mistake.”

Although Rothenberg was the only commissioner with potential conflicts, lawyers concluded that state law blocked the entire board from considering or discussing the contracts as long as its chairman had a relationship with California Pizza Kitchen.

Airport commissioners are still scheduled to vote on two retail contracts at their Monday meeting.

A list of bidders that are finalists for all the contracts is set to be made public Thursday.

The Board of Referred Powers has not scheduled a vote yet.

The pending contracts are part of an ongoing effort by Los Angeles World Airports to upgrade and modernize LAX, which has been rated as average or below average for years by passengers because of its aging terminals, traffic congestion, long security lines and inadequate concessions.

In the latest J.D. Power survey of airport quality, passengers ranked LAX 19th out of the 20 largest airports in the United States.

LAX officials expect the contracts to transform the food, beverage and retail services in Terminals 4, 5, 7 and 8. Competitive bids will be requested in the months ahead for concessions in the remaining LAX terminals, including the Tom Bradley international building.