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Ethics Board: Delta discussions off-limits for ATL’s new COO
Atlanta’s chief operating officer, Peter Aman, must disqualify himself from discussing city business involving Delta Air Lines or any other client of his consulting firm, the city’s Board of Ethics said tonight.
But, the board said, he’s fine if he wants to talk to Delta about budget issues or other matters that affect all tenants at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Aman is on unpaid leave from Bain & Co., which plans to compare its client list for the last quarter of 2009 with a list of city vendors to determine whether he has other conflicts of interest. The board agreed that would be a prudent way to see if other conflicts exist.
Bain requires employees to keep clients’ names secret, and the firm does not share its list of 900 clients internally with its partners. Delta is one of several Bain clients whose identity is publicly known.
Aman, who is serving as Mayor Kasim Reed’s COO for one year, requested the advisory opinion to clarify the limits on his dealings with Bain’s clients.
In a formal advisory opinion, the board said Aman should step away from any role in direct business dealings between the city and Delta but may oversee airport budget decisions:
Since the COO knows that Delta Air Lines is or recently was a client of Bain, he should decline to participate in any negotiations, discussions, or review of matters related to Delta, such as any contract it has with the City, any official action that it seeks from the City, or any actions that the City seeks from it. His office needs to insulate him from the decision-making process by assigning another staff member to handle any matter related to Delta. …
Given this conflict, the COO asks whether he can act as the senior manager and decision maker on airport budget decisions that may have a direct or indirect impact on the facility that Delta uses. In other words, he wants to know whether he can participate in internal budget meetings with airport management and make decisions [that] will affect Delta and other airport tenants. Regarding this question, there are competing policy interests. It is important that the COO be able to meet with the airport’s senior management to discuss next year’s budget and how to ensure that there is sufficient revenue to pay for projected expenses. Given that budget decisions are a core part of the COO’s job; any budget decisions will affect all tenants at the airport, not just Delta; and any conflict is based on an indirect and remote interest, the Board concludes that any potential conflict of interest is too tangential to disqualify him from making decisions on behalf of the City related to the airport’s budget.
During his year at City Hall, Aman is receiving deferred compensation from Bain for work performed in 2009. He plans to return in 2011 to Bain, where he is an officer and equity partner.