The Philadelphia School District has been sued by a suburban, white-owned firm which lost out on a School District contract in favor of a minority-owned firm. The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported that the firm, which lost a $7.5 million surveillance-camera project after former Philadelphia School Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman allegedly intervened on behalf of a minority-owned firm, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the School District and Ackerman.
The firm may have an uphill battle in its suit. It is well-established that disappointed bidders have no standing to sue public entities for lost profits due to the loss of a contract award. Moreover, the federal courts have held that disappointed bidders have no claims for due process violations for alleged bidding irregularities because the bidders themselves have no personal or property rights in the lost contract.
On the other hand, if the firm can establish that, but for the actions of Ackerman and due to the race of its owner or the race of the owner of the minority-owned firm, it would have obtained the contract, it may be able to prevail against the School District. This suit in such case would be no different that the challenges to minority “set-aside” laws which were viewed as quotas and which were struck down by the courts. If successful, the suit will result in an award of attorney’s fees in favor of the firm.
The suit is the fourth brought against the district in the aftermath of the decision to award an emergency, no-bid contract to a minority-owned firm to install surveillance cameras in 19 city schools the state had deemed dangerous. The School District justified bypassing its normal bidding requirements by calling the camera installation an “emergency.”