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Black-owned Business Files Lawsuit Against Mississippi Airport For 'Discrimination'
A Black-owned food and beverage concessions company is suing the board that oversees Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport after its contract was canceled.
Representatives for Michigan-based Jacobsen/Daniels Associates filed a federal lawsuit on Oct. 2 against the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) and Chief Executive Officer Paul Brown for a “breach of contract.”
Jacobsen/Daniels company officials also claim in the lawsuit that it was treated differently than other businesses at the airport, as reported in the Clariion Ledger.
“The defendant (JMAA) treated plaintiff differently than other white-owned businesses that operate at JAN (Jackson airport), specifically because the plaintiff is an African American-owned business,” Jacobsen/Daniels representatives said in the lawsuit.
Airport Authority attorney Dorsey Carson, however, clams that Jacobsen/Daniels breached its contract when it unilaterally shut down its last concession over the Memorial Day weekend – one of the busiest periods at the airport.
“Jacobsen/Daniels informed JMAA that it would not reopen unless JMAA agreed to a new contract with favorable treatment,” Carson said. “JMAA treats all vendors equally, and Jacobsen/Daniels was properly terminated. The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority will vigorously defend itself against the frivolous allegations made by Jacobsen/Daniels.”
Jacobsen/Daniels officials said they had a meeting scheduled with Brown earlier this year to discuss the lease, but he canceled the meeting. Jacobsen/Daniels representatives say the meeting was canceled during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
While other concessionaires in the airport terminal were closing or limiting services due to the pandemic, Jacobsen/Daniels continued to operate.
In early April, airport officials announced cutbacks to deal with a passenger traffic reduction of about 90% due to COVID-19 concerns, including a hiring freeze, layoffs of executive positions and airport staff, and a decrease in consultant contracts.
During that same timeframe, Jacobsen/Daniels officials discussed the impact of COVID-19 with JMAA officials and asked for assistance with some of the Cares Act funding it believed the airport received to help business partners, company attorney Matthew McLaughlin said in the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, the airport authority said it would defer April, May, and June payments from airport businesses to early 2021, but refused to eliminate payments.
Jacobsen/Daniels officials wrote a letter to the airport authority expressing disappointment that its items hadn’t been considered, including abatement of rent during the pandemic because JMAA received Cares Act funds.
The airport authority board allowed Jacobsen/Daniels to temporarily close due to reduced activity at the airport in late May; however, JMAA said it was canceling the agreement altogether, the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the airport authority.