The battle between a Colombian-born real estate investor and the city of Denison over the 96-year-old Central Ward School building took a new turn Monday, as counsel for James Roa suggested that race might be behind the city’s decision to spend $115,000 to tear down the dilapidated school, which Roa owns. The accusation comes on the heels of Grayson County District Judge Jim Fallon’s decision Friday to toss Roa’s legal challenge on what seems to be a technicality — a step Fallon says was necessary, while calling it "unjust."

The battle between a Colombian-born real estate investor and the city of Denison over the 96-year-old Central Ward School building took a new turn Monday, as counsel for James Roa suggested that race might be behind the city’s decision to spend $115,000 to tear down the dilapidated school, which Roa owns. The accusation comes on the heels of Grayson County District Judge Jim Fallon’s decision Friday to toss Roa’s legal challenge on what seems to be a technicality — a step Fallon says was necessary, while calling it "unjust."


"After reviewing the briefs supplied by counsel, the Court finds that Plaintiff’s original petition … is insufficient to confer jurisdiction on the District Court," says Fallon in a letter to the parties. "In this case, it results in what the Court considers an unjust result in denying the plaintiff his day in Court."


Issuing the order granting the city’s plea, Fallon wrote that Roa’s claims were dismissed with prejudice. When contacted by phone on Monday afternoon, Roa said he plans to appeal.


"The attorneys for the city claimed that I was supposed to ask for a writ of certiorari, and therefore the appeal was not complete," said Roa. "I will appeal the case, because it doesn’t make any sense. Is that the meaning of ‘justice for all’?"


Roa’s lawyer, Carl N. White of Denison, said he hopes to file the appeal within the next few days. He also said that Roa has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, alleging racial discrimination by the city.


"We do not believe that Mr. Roa is being treated fairly, and we believe that could be because of his race," said White.


Because he said the DOJ matter is under investigation, Roa declined to elaborate on his claims of bias, saying only, "I have had several instances where I think it’s really clear. Is it because I have an accent and come from a different country? Because I’m not tall enough; white enough? What is it?"


Were Roa to exhaust his legal remedies, the city would still have to select a vendor for the demolition. The Denison City Council was expected to make that selection during its last regular meeting, but tabled the item due to the litigation.


When asked if he had a comment on the race allegations, Denison Director of Community Development Tom Speakman said, "None whatsoever. We know he’s got 30 days to appeal (Fallon’s decision), and we’ll see at the end of that 30 days what direction he decides."


As he discussed the ongoing litigation that would allow him to resume renovations on the school, the frustration in Roa’s voice was clear.


"The city has had an attitude toward me like I’m an enemy or something," Roa said. "I am not Colombian; I am an American citizen. I thought I would move (to Denison) and help the city. I believed what they wrote in different articles, that they wanted to welcome people. I think I am in the wrong place."