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Justice Misplaced

How an ugly racial incident at Foley's got lost in the system.

"My concern is that if you don't tag these kind of cases, then they fall through the cracks. It makes it look like this isn't an issue in Colorado."

Warren says the police officer who took her statement led her to believe that the case would be dealt with swiftly and severely, but subsequent developments have shaken her faith in the system. "I'm appalled that legal files can be lost and no one has to explain why," she says. "Someone needs to be accountable for what happened here."

Miller had difficulty even obtaining the identity of the defendant in his case because of his juvenile status; he has since learned that the ex-valet is the son of a local Foley's executive. (Contacted by a reporter at his home, the executive declined to comment on his son's case.) Miller's also had discussions with corporate representatives of Foley's parent, the multi-billion-dollar May Company, about the chain's hiring and training policies.

Foley's fired the juvenile immediately after the incident and announced in a press release that it would hold meetings at all of its stores nationwide the following day to remind employees that no discourtesy to customers would be tolerated. The valet was hired through the company's usual channels, says Foley's spokeswoman Elise de Compiegne. "All of our associates are issued a handbook which clearly spells out that Foley's expects all employees to treat all customers with respect and courtesy," she adds. "Grounds for immediate dismissal include racial and ethnic slurs."

But Miller says Foley's hasn't provided him with the information he's sought concerning the company's training programs, its networking with minority communities or its screening process for job applicants. In addition to a "fair settlement" with his clients, he would like to see Foley's get involved in sponsoring a local conference on race issues, but so far his discussions with the company have yielded few results.

"Their position is that they've done everything a reasonable company can do, and our position is, that's not true," he says. "We want to make sure this doesn't happen to anybody else."

Warren is still trying to figure out how it could have happened in the first place.

Last December was her first Christmas without her father, Roland B. Martin, a prominent local minister; Mayor Webb and other local officials spoke at his funeral services last summer. Warren had taken her mother to Foley's, she says, in order to take her mind off her grief.

"My mother was having a very tough, emotional day, and I was trying to bring her some relief," she says. "This was our only time to shop for the holidays, and we ended up leaving the store without the numerous gifts we'd gotten. After that experience, neither of us wanted to go to another mall."

Arlee Martin had been a regular customer at Foley's and its predecessor, May D&F, for forty years. Warren had worked at one of their stores briefly a couple of years ago. Neither woman has entered a Foley's since the December incident.

Warren wonders why Foley's would urge her and her mother to take advantage of their valet service--and then present them with someone who, in her view, wasn't "appropriately dressed for dealing with the public," someone with an attitude problem, someone who wouldn't hesitate to raise his fist to an elderly woman while insulting her race.

"Foley's has got to state to the public that they feel responsible to some extent, because there is more they could have done by way of diversity training and supervising their employees," she says. "Something has failed in their system when they offer a service and this is the result of it."

A representative from the company's St. Louis office flew to Denver to meet with the women and Miller a few weeks ago. But the man--mindful, perhaps, of possible future litigation--did not offer an apology. Warren says the company's reluctance to admit any responsibility is even more discouraging than the legal system's inattention to the case.

"What are they thinking?" she asks. "Minorities spend millions annually there. What are they thinking?

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