Federal Investigation Into Discriminatory Business Practices At Logan Airport

BizGrow, Racial Justice

Civil Rights Advocates Demand Federal Investigation Into Discriminatory Business Practices At Boston’s Logan Airport

Massport and JCDecaux Depriving Minority-Owned Businesses of Equal Contracting Opportunity

Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch an investigation into discriminatory business practices at Logan Airport.  The federal complaint outlines Massachusetts Port Authority’s (Massport) pattern of allowing the exclusion of minority-owned businesses from equal contracting opportunities at Logan, highlighted by the mistreatment of prominent Black woman-owned public relations firm Colette Phillips Communications (CPC) by JCDecaux, a multinational advertising company.

As a recipient of federal funds, Massport must adhere to strict nondiscrimination policies aimed at creating a level playing field on which disadvantaged business entities can compete fairly for opportunities for concessions, through the Federal Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) program. Unfortunately, Massport is failing minority business owners. 

In 2013, Massport awarded JCDecaux a 9-year concession contract to provide advertising and sponsorship services at Logan Airport. To win the contract, JCDecaux subcontracted with CPC, promising a genuine and meaningful partnership.

Once the contract was awarded, however, JCDecaux treated CPC as an obstacle.  JCDecaux also refused to provide CPC with access to the records and books of their joint venture, leaving CPC in the dark on crucial business decisions, including compliance with federal ACDBE obligations.  

Meanwhile, Massport consistently:

  • rubber-stamped reports showing that JCDecaux failed to meet their contractual goals; 
  • took no meaningful action to stop JCDecaux’s discriminatory actions; and 
  • silently stood by observing JCDecaux’s bad faith practices utterly failing to carry out their legal obligations. 

“For over 35 years, I have built my business into one of Boston’s premier public relations firms, but JCDecaux never took me seriously or treated me fairly,” said Colette Phillips, CEO of CPC, which has been named one of the top PR firms in Boston by the Boston Business Journal.  “When I went to Massport, they essentially looked the other way.”  

In light of these failures by Massport and JCDecaux, LCR’s letter today calls upon the FAA to: 

  • Require Massport to conduct an audit of JCDecaux’s ACDBE participation and engage a third party to investigate JCDecaux’s discriminatory practices.
  • Investigate JCDecaux’s participation in the ACDBE program in the nine major airports across the country that contract with JCDecaux. 
  • Investigate Massport’s compliance with the ACDBE program. 

“LCR stands ready to hold JCDecaux and Massport accountable on behalf of Colette Phillips Communication and all the businesses owned by people of color, immigrants, and women that we serve through our small business project, BizGrow,” said Russell Paul, Senior BizGrow Attorney at LCR.

The federal investigation request and open letter to Massport are available below.