Lawsuit against UNCW alleges breach of contract and racial discrimination

WILMINGTON — A lawsuit filed in New Hanover County Superior Court alleges that UNCW discriminated against a Black contractor, breaking a contract with him and instead awarding work to a less experienced white contractor.

The University of North Carolina Wilmington denies the allegations raised in the Dorsey v. UNCW lawsuit and “believes that the complaint lacks merit.”

The lawsuit is being brought by Robert Dorsey, who alleges that after years of dorm-painting work for UNCW the University broke a contract with him to pay another contractor to do the work.


According to the lawsuit, Dorsey, who is Black, has bid on and won contracts for 15 years; the other contractor, Chris Ables, who is white, had no prior experience as a painting contractor, according to the lawsuit. Dorsey’s complaint notes that Ables was a former UNCW employee (UNCW records confirm Ables was a temporary employee who worked intermittently from late April to late October of 2016).

According to the complaint, Dorsey bid on five painting contracts in April of 2017 and, under UNCW’s bidding system, came in as the lowest bidder on at least two of those contracts. Ables bid on the same five contracts and was awarded two of them.

The two put in equal bids for the fifth contract and UNCW ultimately awarded the contract to Ables. Dorsey’s complaint notes that the University did this in spite of his years of experience, having satisfactorily completed numerous previous painting contracts covering hundreds of rooms.

In 2017, Dorsey was awarded two contracts, totaling 24 rooms. Although these contracts were worth $38,000, Dorsey alleges that UNCW only paid him $14,000.

Ables was awarded 89 bedrooms, 20 bathrooms, and 17 common areas, according to the complaint. Dorsey also alleges that UNCW awarded an additional $43,000 in contract work to Ables, without requiring a bidding process. Dorsey further alleges that UNCW arranged for university students to assist Ables, but did not provide any similar assistance.

Dorsey’s complaint calls UNCW’s bidding process “arbitrary, capricious, racially-biased, and without a rational basis” and claims it violates his state and Constitutional rights.

Dorsey’s complaint calls for a judgment against UNCW “in excess of $100,000 and a court order enjoining UNCW from awarding future contracts in a “discriminatory matter.”

[Editor’s note: Robert Dorsey stated he had documentation of the bid process that he was confident supported his complaint. In an effort to independently verify that information on July 22 Port City Daily requested the bidding history for painting services from 2014 to 2017, along with details of the contracts awarded and payments made in 2017 and the details on the employment of UNCW students involved in painting work that year. UNCW has not yet provided that information, but when it becomes available this and future articles will be updated.]


Send comments and tips to Benjamin Schachtman at ben@localdailymedia.com, @pcdben on Twitter, and (910) 538-2001.

Dorsey v. UNCW – Port City Daily by Ben Schachtman on Scribd

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