Colorado-based Blackfeet Lighting and Electrical Technologies has sued the Regional Transportation District over a $10 million Smart Card system claiming the small minority-owned company was shortchanged hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The civil rights lawsuit against RTD was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Denver on behalf of Blackfeet and “all others similarly situated” by Denver attorney Steven Woodrow.

Woodrow seeks unspecified compensation for Blackfeet and class action certification, according to the lawsuit.

“On one level, this case is a story about rampant waste and abuse regarding ACS/Xerox Transport Solutions, Inc.’s administration of the Smart Media System Project and the RTD’s abysmal failure to police it,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit also says that “this is a tale about what happens when people who are entrusted to protect the historically disadvantaged skirt the rules in an effort to kowtow to large corporate interests.”

ACS/Xerox, headquartered in France, contacted Blackfeet, a Native American-owned company registered as a “Disadvantaged Business Enterprise” in 2010 about doing subcontract work on the Smart Card project.

The project floundered from the beginning, according to the lawsuit. Xerox requested that Blackfeet perform more than $428,000 in change orders, but refused to pay for them, it says. Instead of holding Xerox responsible, RTD encouraged Xerox to summarily fire Blackfeet, the lawsuit says.

The action came even though Blackfeet, initially awarded a contract through Xerox of $636,417, was not given an opportunity to be heard and despite documentation by RTD officials that the problems were caused by Xerox.

“Almost from the get-go, ACS/Xerox started unilaterally changing the terms of the project contract – offering to use different equipment, failing to send complete parts, failing to perform pre-assembly testing, changing the IP addresses to be used – and causing a host of other problems,” the lawsuit says.

In emails sent to Xerox, John Stark of RTD documented a long list of problems including the company repeatedly citing French holidays for delays. Xerox also sent equipment that violated U.S. electrical code, sent non-working electronic equipment to Blackfeet, switched the type of modem used to one that didn’t work with RTD devices, and tasked only two Xerox employees to the project.