HOUSTON – The fight between two heavyweight combatants continued on Tuesday during a city council meeting over a lucrative concessions contract at Hobby Airport.
In one corner, the hometown champ to many, Pappas. In the other corner, an out-of-town challenger from Miami named Areas.
Tuesday’s objective for Pappas was to convince enough councilmembers to vote no and kill the deal for their opponent.
For Areas, it was to protect their slim contract victory prior to Wednesday’s vote.
Areas defeated Pappas by a razor-thin margin in the original presentations, but the formal approval process since has been described as a “mess” by one council member.
Since then, there have been questions over the legitimacy of what Areas presented in its bid. Specifically, a well-known Houston chef they touted as their “culinary consultant.”
The chef is Chris Shepherd, who told KPRC 2 Investigates last week that he was not a part of the Areas team.
On Tuesday, the CEO for Areas North America, Carlos Bernal, confirmed that same information to the city council by answering “no” when asked if there was a contract with Shepherd.
At the end of his comments to the council, Bernal continued to reference a relationship with Shepherd moving forward.
“We will be good partners with the community, and we will still work with Chris Shepherd and Southern Smoke, and so, you have our 100% commitment,” said Bernal.
Afterward, some council members were in no mood to talk, but one did weigh in.
“It’s all smoke and mirrors, he’s putting this thing together so that it would appear that Chris Shepherd is working with him because they tainted the process with the evaluators making them believe that Chris Shepherd is a part of their program,” said councilmember Michael Kubosh.
What was also revealed during a back-and-forth exchange between Bernal and councilmember Abbie Kamin, was a potential reduction of jobs.
Kamin, before a chamber filled with Pappas employees, asked, “How many employees will you be able to staff with your capacity?”
Bernal answered “200,″ which Kamin seconds later followed up with, “but you just said you only have the capacity for 200 and there are 400 employees.”
KPRC 2 Investigates did call Bernal following the hearing, attempting to ask more about the future of concessions jobs at Hobby and his latest comments involving Shepherd but his phone went unanswered.
The battle will render a decision on Wednesday when the voting is scheduled to take place.