Former councilman sues city over airport concessions contract

Image credit: Pixabay

The City of Houston is being sued by a former Houston city councilman:

The City of Houston is being sued by a former Houston City Councilman in a dispute over duty-free concessions at Bush Intercontinental Airport.

A lawsuit filed by Branch/McGowen Ventures in Harris County District Court accuses airport officials of fraud and breach of contract, and seeks damages of $3 million.

Branch/McGowen Ventures is a partnership consisting of ex-Councilman Ernest McGowen Sr. and local fast-food franchisee Theldon Branch.

The partnership has operated the duty-free concession at Houston’s largest airport since 1995. With the long-running contract up for renewal, the suit alleges the partnership was misled into investing in improvements to airport operations.

The suit contends airport officials promised to renew the contract if the partnership would make $500,000 in improvements. But shortly after $350,000 of the investment was raised, according to the suit, airport officials opened the bidding on a new duty-free concession contract.

In January, an airport selection committee rejected the bid by local partnership Branch/McGowen. Chosen instead was The Nuance Group Houston LLC, the local arm of a global operator of duty-free shops.


Denying that airport officials made any promises, City Attorney Arturo Michel says, “The city’s position is that that didn’t happen.”

Some City Hall insiders suggest the contract flap is indicative of an effort by Mayor Bill White to cut ties with the political cronyism left over from previous administrations.

(Old) Forum Comments (1)

About Anne Linehan 2323 Articles
Anne Linehan is a co-founder of blogHOUSTON.