Architecture firm sues Denver Public Schools for discrimination

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DENVER -- Denver Public Schools (DPS) facing a new discrimination lawsuit.  A local Hispanic owned architecture firm is accusing the district of having a history of discriminating against women and minority owned businesses. DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg rejected the allegations.

Ronald Roybal is one of two plaintiffs in the new suit filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado against Denver Public Schools and the Denver Board of Education. He says there’s a glaring problem with how DPS is doing business.

“They have been ignoring our community. They have been awarding most of the contracts that they have to mainly male white owned businesses,” explained Roybal.

He says he has spent years trying to work with DPS on the issue but says the problem continues. Roybal says he knows firsthand because he is Hispanic and   part owner of a local architect firm, The Roybal Corporation.

Roybal says that for years his firm hasn’t been awarded a major contract by DPS even though he says his firm is qualified and has a history of successfully working with schools districts.

“The kind of work we’ve been getting from DPS are restroom remodels, basically the bottom of the barrel projects,” added Roybal.

If what the new federal lawsuit claims is true, Roybal’s firm isn’t the only minority owned small business one missing out on millions of tax payer dollars in architecture and engineering contracts.

“When they turn their back to our community they send a message to all kids that you really don’t have an opportunity and there isn’t a level playing field,” he added.

The lawsuit accuses DPS of being discriminatory against women and minority owned businesses and retaliating against Roybal for being vocal about it.

But Tom Boasberg, Superintendent for DPS, categorically denies there is any problem with racial discrimination in awarding contracts.

“We have a transparent and rigorous process in awarding our contracts. We believe deeply in deliver contracting,” Boasberg said.

FOX 31 asked Boasberg about  the suit’s claim that only 2% of contracts were awarded to minority owned businesses through the 2008 bond program.

“That is not accurate. No. ‘Even though they said they used DPS numbers?’ No that is not accurate," Boasberg said.

That figure according to Boasberg is more along the line of 1/3 of dollars through the bond program are going to diverse businesses.

He also acknowledged the district saw room for improvement when it came to diverse contracting and in 2014 DPS adopted a new program to address the “underutilization of women and minority owned businesses.”

Boasberg then went on to say since 2014, the year DPS adopted a  new program geared toward improving the inclusion of minority owned businesses that number has grown to 1/3 of diverse businesses being hired.

“We serve a diverse community of students and that’s exactly why we are so committed to our diverse contracting program,” he added.

Meanwhile Roybal says he has yet to see any proof of real change.

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