DIA officials sued for racial discrimination: Company says aviation dept. solicited bribes

A Brighton industrial cleaning company is suing the City and County of Denver and its Department of Aviation, which oversees operations at Denver International Airport, citing racial discrimination and soliciting of bribes for preferential treatments in contracted work by officials.

Allstate Sweeping, which filed the federal civil suit earlier this year (to read it, click here), claims the company was "set up" and taken for a ride that cost the company $2.5 million because they didn't purchase gifts for department officials.

Beth Krueger, owner of Allstate, says her company was targeted by managers at DIA -- three of them black and another Hispanic -- because the company is owned by two white women, who are considered by the city to be disadvantaged business owners.

"That was probably the most unethical and unorganized dealings with what were supposed to be called professionals I've experienced," Krueger says. "It was just a mess, an outrageous mess"

The roots of the situation go back to July 2006, when the company began pressure washing work at DIA per its bid and multi-year contract with the city. Krueger says the company's work at the airport was immediately made difficult by Department of Aviation managers, who interfered with their work.

"They wanted us to go out and purchase new equipment," she says. "So we went out and purchased new equipment, but then they wanted new stuff."

Krueger says her employees were routinely hassled and forced to move their work around at the whim of Aviation officials.

During this time, Krueger says she and the company's vice president, Barb Hollis, were told other contractors purchased gifts for city employees -- and they might be more successful if they did so. Instead, in May 2007, Allstate wrote a letter copied to several Aviation officials. According to the lawsuit, it stated: "We have been told by several sources that we would need to play the politics (including wining, dining and gift giving) to work successfully at DIA. We find this reprehensible and refuse to buckle under to such demands."

Less than a week later, the suit alleges, Allstate received a contract termination letter, which said Allstate was cut from the deal "for convenience of the city."

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The lawsuit lists several defendants from the Department of Aviation: April Henderson, a city contract manager working at DIA; Calvin Black, a contract compliance technician; Steve Draper, deputy manager for maintenance; and Ruth Rodriguez, deputy manager of maintenance and engineering maintenance.

Jeff Green, spokesperson for DIA, declined to discuss the allegations, saying, "We don't comment on pending litigation."

"(Henderson) told us, 'If you want to keep this contract, you would probably do a lot better if you went out and purchased gifts like the other companies did,'" Krueger says. "That's probably why the other officials at DIA didn't care for us very well."

Allstate employees heard from other contractors on site that bribes were given to Aviation officials to ease work, too, she says.

Krueger says her company has been involved in several big Colorado projects, including the ten-year-long T-Rex highway project and ongoing work for the Regional Transportation District (RTD). But she says her employees have never been treated so poorly as they were at DIA.

"I just did not put that in my bid to buy people gifts, nor did I put in my contract to buy a million dollars worth of equipment. They were making us lose money," she says, adding that the airport work "almost shut my business down."

And she says she's not the only one. According to her, Pride Services, Inc., a Colorado company that won the contract after the termination, left under similar circumstances.

In August 2007, Pride Services also sent a letter to Aviation officials. The lawsuit quotes it as saying, "I feel the city employees should be held to task and a higher standard of ethics. The waste caused by these dilatory, untrustworthy people are putting our security at risk!"

AllState is seeking at least $2.5 million for unnecessary equipment costs and lost revenue as well as a jury trial to determine if Aviation officials unlawfully discriminated against them.

"I've never, ever been approached that I need to purchase gifts to make people happy," she says. "I'd go as far as to say you could never pay me enough money to work DIA again."

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