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Denver Public Schools sued over ‘family enterprise’ inside school

DENVER -- Denver Public Schools is facing a pair of federal lawsuits for its alleged failure to monitor a principal, her charity-organizer husband and sex-offender son.

Two former PUSH Academy employees separately claim, among other things, harassment, hostile work environment and retaliation.

A FOX31 Problem Solvers investigation last summer exposed a tangled web of financial dealings and nepotism connecting DPS, the PUSH Academy, a nonprofit Youth Adults for Positive Action and the well-connected Robertson family.

All are named in the pair of civil lawsuits.

"It's a very difficult environment to work at," former PUSH Academy counselor Adam Federspill said Friday. "I let my employer know that I was being discriminated against at the school and that`s when the retaliation began for me."

Federspill claimed in a lawsuit filed in federal court that he was called derogatory, demeaning, racist names by then-PUSH Academy principal Angela Robertson.

During the 2015-16 school year, records show Robertson was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.

Sources said she was allowed to resign before the conclusion of an internal DPS investigation. DPS has refused to release reports or records connected to Robertson’s resignation.

Part of the allegations against principal Robertson was that DPS allowed her to provide, for free, an office for her husband Charles inside the school for his side business, Young Adults for Positive Action.

Internal school logs also revealed that Charles Robertson had master keys to the school despite him being a felon previously convicted of embezzling property from the city of Denver.

Last summer, cameras caught him loading some expensive taxpayer-purchased school property into his personal truck out the back door of PUSH Academy after hours.

The district then demanded the return of at least four cameras that were taken.

According to Federspill's lawsuit "teachers at PUSH were required by Mrs. Robertson to take part in YAPA activities."

It also said the principal "allowed her husband Charles, who was not a DPS employee, to make decisions about DPS funds ... and used DPS resources to further the family enterprise YAPA."

Federspill said he wanted parents to know there are a number of caring teachers who work at or used to work at PUSH Academy. They're eager to give students a great education, but DPS leadership needs to put a stop to employee abuses.

"There are other individuals out there who care a lot about this and they're strong -- extremely strong,” Federspill said.

“I'm not a crusader. I'm not a crusader. I am just somebody who said ‘no.’ Education needs some help right now. It can’t just be me. It’s in a crisis at this time.”

Federspill is not alone in his concerns about PUSH and the Robertsons

Another federal lawsuit, filed this week by another former PUSH employee, Matthew Neely, claimed without his consent that Angela Robertson "called a surprise staff meeting to inform everyone that (he) had been diagnosed with cancer."

Documents filed in federal court by Neely also said Robertson allowed her registered sex offender son, Kendall, to be present on campus despite his conviction of having inappropriate sexual interactions with female DPS students.

Kendall Robertson was arrested, then convicted of invasion of privacy for sexual gratification. The charges stemmed from incidents where Robertson trolled through minor’s cellphones, looking for inappropriate pictures and videos.

"This week, Denver Public Schools received a copy of a lawsuit filed by a school counselor who resigned in October 2016," DPS said in a statement.

"The lawsuit describes complaints about his former supervising principal who resigned from the district more than a year ago. Our legal counsel are reviewing the documents filed with the court in anticipation of responding to the lawsuit in August.

"Due to the pending litigation, we cannot comment further."

The Robertson family did not reply to calls seeking comment.

Agents from the Denver FBI office still have an active, open criminal investigation into what is being described by sources as "financial dealings" inside PUSH Academy.