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Five of the female plaintiffs of a case, posed with the discriminatory ad from the case.

2000 Newsletter

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Case Updates

Cases Settled

Coates et. al. v Myers et. al.

$166,200 Settles Sex Harassment Suit

On October 23, the Fair Housing Center of Washtenaw County announced the settlement of a civil action for sexual harassment, Coates et. al. v Myers et. al. The case began with a few women meeting with Fair Housing Center staff and ended with a pre-trial settlement that provided requested injunctive relief and the payment of $166,200 in dam­ ages to six women plaintiffs. This repre­sents the largest FHC-assisted settlement in the organization’s eight-year history.

In addition to the monetary settlement, the consent decree permanently bars Raymond Scott Myers a.k.a. Scott Myers from direct personal contact with any woman or other protected person in the course of a housing transaction. Through this court order, the women have accomplished their goal of preventing Myers from using his rental business as a means of victimizing future tenants. Additionally, Myers’ parents, who were co-owners of the property, are perma­nently prohibited from funding or other­ wise participating in any rental business or other housing transaction where their son might have access to the premises or per­sonal contact with female renters or buyers.

Each of the plaintiffs lived briefly at the Ypsilanti Township boarding house owned by Raymond Scott Myers and his parents at differ­ ent times during 1998 and 1999. Each moved out because of Myers’ sexually threatening behavior. A small group of women initially contacted the FHC for assistance in 1998. While the investiga­tion was underway, other women con­ tacted the FHC and eventually joined the original plaintiffs in bringing this lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit filed in May 1999, Myers’ discriminatory behavior included: making unwelcome sexual advances to tenants; touching tenants in an unwelcome, sexually suggestive man­ner; placing sex devices in tenants’ rooms and common areas of the house; viewing and storing pornographic material in the common area of the house; entering and attempting to enter the bathroom when in use by tenants; and performing sexual acts in tenants’ bed­ room and bathrooms during their absence. The Myers family has since sold the house at 321 N. Hewitt Road.

Fair Housing Center of Washtenaw County Cooperating Attorney Henry Stancato of Stancato & Tragge filed the lawsuit in United States District Court on behalf of the women. The case was assigned to Judge Gerald E. Rosen.

$35,000 Settles Church’s Suit Against Scio Township

Ann Arbor’s Fountain Church of God in Christ has accepted $35,000 to settle their race discrimination suit against Scio Township, the Scio Township Planning Commission and the Scio Township Board of Trustees.

In late 1994, Fountain Church of God in Christ, an African­ American church, attempted to purchase land zoned A-1 (agricultural) and have a conditional use permit issued in order to build a new church at the cor­ner of West Delhi and Miller Roads. In February 1995, on a 4-3 vote, and against the advice of their planning con­sultant, the Planning Commission denied the conditional use permit to Fountain COGIC. This decision was upheld by the Scio Township Board of Trustees. An investigation conducted by the FHC found that Fountain Church was at that time the only house of worship to be denied a conditional use permit by the Scio Township Planning Commission since 1978.

The Planning Commission cited “incompatibility” with the surrounding neigh­borhood as its reason for denial of the conditional use permit. However, land­ use expert, Charles Leman of Villican­-Leman, wrote in his land-use analysis that “lt is our opinion the Fountain Church site is suitable for a church … Of the six church sites which have been approved, a number exhibit many of the same characteristics as the Fountain Church site… adequate site size exists to provide a harmonious relationship through proper landscaping and screen­ ing of the church property.”

The Church Board of Deacons believed they were denied a special conditional use permit because of the race of the church membership. Church member and realtor Mrs. Alvin Rimson claimed to have lost the commission associated with the sale of the land, a commission that she planned to donate to the church. Mrs. Rimson contacted the FHC in 1995. Fountain COGIC was then located on Fountain Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Having outgrown their building, the church was looking for new space. After being denied the conditional use per­mit by Scio Township, they subsequent­ ly found a larger building on West Stadium in Ann Arbor near Pioneer High School.

According to Township documents, the Township’s own planning consultant held that the tangible issues were resolv­able, and believed that the church could be compatible with the zoning and neighborhood. Severa lother churches approved by the Township were asked to address problems related to landscap­ing, noise, traffic, and drainage.

FHC Cooperating Attorney Benjamin Whitfield, Jr. filed suit on behalf of Fountain Church of God in Christ in Federal District Court. The suit alleged violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1871, and the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The case was assigned to Judge Avern L. Cohn.

Ewen v Wilson White

Ann Arbor

Wilson White Company will now take stu­dent loans into account when calculating the income of prospective tenants. They also agreed to pay Jamie Ewen $1,500 to settle her suit against the company. Ewen sued Wilson White for discrimina­tion based on source of income and edu­cational association under the City of Ann Arbor Human Rights Ordinance.

Ms. Ewen was denied the rental of an apartment at 1025 Arbordale in Ann Arbor after Wilson White refused to include her student loan when determining her income. At the time Ms. Ewen was a full­ time student at the University of Michigan and employed on a part-time basis.

The FHC investigation confirmed that Wilson White’s income requirements dif­fered for their “campus units” compared to the Arbordale apartments. According to the lawsuit, Wilson White’s “knows and intends that its policies serve to steer full-time University of Michigan stu­dents to the on-campus properties, and to preserve the off campus properties for persons who are employed full-time.”

Cooperating Attorney Nicholas Roumel of the University of Michigan Student Legal Services filed suit on behalf of Jamie Ewen. Filed in 15th District Court, the case was assigned to JudgeJulie Creal Goodridge.

Court: State
Settlement: $1,500 and policy change.

WACA/FHCv Oakridge

Ypsilanti Township

The Washtenaw Association for Commu­nity Advocacy (YIACA) and the Fair Housing Center of Washtenaw County (FHQ have accepted $15,000 to settle a lawsuit against Oakridge Apartments in Ypsilanti Township. The suit, which also individually named developers Julie A. Fielek and Charles Chatfield, engineer John W. Adams, and architect Joseph E. Sojkowski, alleged violations of the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1989.

The terms of the agreement include a commitment by the developers to, at the request of tenants, retrofit each of their first-floor units for wheelchair access. An FHC investigation conducted while Oakridge was still under construction revealed that the Holmes Road complex had a two-inch threshold leading into ground floor apartments and the leasing office, and insufficient space/design in the bathrooms and doorways.

According to the Fair Housing Act, all multi-family housing built for first occu­pancy after March 13, 1991, must adhere to seven design requirements regarding wheelchair accessibility for ground floor units and units on other floors reachable by elevator.

The Fair Housing Act establishes the fol­lowing seven requirements:

  1. Accessible Building Entrance on an Accessible Route
  2. Accessible and Usable Public and Common Use Areas
  3. Usable Doors
  4. Accessible Route Into and Through the Covered Dwelling
  5. Light Switches, Electrical Outlets, Thermostats and Other Environment Controls in Accessible Locations
  6. Reinforced Walls for Grab Bars
  7. Usable Kitchens and Bathrooms

The Washtenaw Association for Commu­nity Advocacy is non-profit advocacy group for people with disabilities and their fami­lies. The suit was filed after meetings with Oakridge failed to resolve the complaint. WACA and FHC were represented by Paul A. Callam of Cooper & Walinski. The case was assigned to Judge Patrick J. Duggan.

Court: Federal
Settlement: $15,000 and a commitment to retrofit first-floor units for wheelchair access at the request of tenants.

Case Filed

Herring v Ludwig

Ann Arbor

Sean Herring told the FHC he was refused an apartment reserved for “graduate students only.” The University of Michigan undergraduate contacted the FHC for an investigation of age dis­ crimination. The apartment, at 817 Arch Street, was listed in the University Off­ Campus Housing List. FHC testing found that Kenneth and Margaret Ludwig were willing to show the apartment to older undergraduates (in their 30’s and older) while undergraduates in their 20’s Were told about the graduate-student policy and were not invited to see the unit. Fair Housing Center Cooperating Attorney Janet E. Hales of Cooper & Walinski filed suit on behalf of Herring. Filed in Washtenaw County Circuit Court, the case is assigned to Judge Melinda Morris. With the help of FHC staff, Herring attempted to settle the com­ plaint without litigation. These attempts were unsuccessful.

Court: State
Status: Open

Flagstar Bank Case Update

In litigation out of the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit, Federal District Court Judge Avern L Cohn has denied Flagstar Bank’s motions for a new trial or a reduction in the amount of a $700,000 jury award in this mortgage lending race discrimination lawsuit. Judge Cohn fully upheld the jury award plus attorney’s fees, which bring the total to over a million dol­lars. In a recently-published decision, Judge Cohn found that “There is no good reason to set aside the jury’s verdict. There is no good reason to require a retri­al. There is no good reason to reduce the jury’s verdict.” Judge Cohn prepared a chart, comparing compensatory and puni­tive damage awards in twenty-five other housing discrimination lawsuits (as identified by the plaintiffs, the defendants, or by the court) and concluded that the com­pensatory damages and the punitive award in this case were not out of line with prior case awards and/or settlements. Appeals briefs have now been filed by both sides and the plaintiffs and defendants are waiting for the 6th Circuit to respond. There is another piece of this case, dealing with housing appraisals, that is still moving toward trial. FHC-Detroit Cooperating Attorney Stephen Tomkowiak, with the assistance of Cooperating Attorney Albert M. Stanton, are represent­ing the plaintiffs in this matter.

Status: Appeal by Flagstar of a $700,000 jury award.

Keep the FHC Going
Strong in 2001

Anonymous Donor Will Add $10 to New Member Contribution

With your help, the Fair Housing Center can turn stories of discrimination into sto­ries of justice. The FHC is the only group in Washtenaw County that provides testing services – often the only way to uncover evidence of illegal housing discrimination. All donations are tax deductible.

Become a New Member Join the FHC by December 31, 2000 and have $10 added to your contribution by an anonymous donor.

Renew Your Membership Whether you gave last year of five years ago, you remain an important part of the fight against housing discrimination. We need you.

Make a Special End-of-Year Gift We deeply appreciate those of you who already made a donation to the FHC this year. Will you consider making a special end-of-year contribution?

Any contribution, big or small, keeps FHC working for equal housing opportu­nity. Just clip and mail the form below in the envelope provided. Thanks for your support.

Washtenaw Bar Association
Honors Fair Housing Center

On October 26, 2000, at the Washtenaw County Bar Association’s Bias Awareness Dinner, the Fair Housing Center received the Bar Association’s Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have A Dream” Award. Lisa Ruby, an attor­ney with the Michigan PovertyLawProgram and co-chair of the Bar Association’s Race, Ethnic, and Gender Bias Awareness Committee presented the award for the FHCs work against discrimination.

Reverend Emmett L. Green, who recently retired as the pastor for Second Baptist Church, received the Frederick Douglass Racial Justice and Harmony Award from the Vanzetti M. Hamilton Bar Association.

Theodore M. Shaw, Legal Director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and former FHC-Washtenaw board member, spoke on the subject of the affirmative action lawsuits against the University of Michigan. The Bias Awareness Dinner is co-sponsored by the Washtenaw Bar Association and the Vanzetti M. Hamilton Bar Association.

Board News & Notes

The Fair Housing Center of Washtenaw County has elected a new president of the Board of Directors. Kim M. Moore is a local attorney in private practice who has been on the Fair Housing Center Board since 1998. Kim is particularly interested in increasing the Fair Housing Center’s vis­ibility in the community. Ann Routt and Paul Haynes were re-elected to three-year board terms. Delphia Simpson was also elected. Delphia is an attorney with the Michigan Poverty Law Program. She spe­cializesin family law. Congratulations to board member Dyann Logwood on her August 2000 marriage to Bryan Young.

After eight years, Verna Spayth is step­ping down as Board President. We credit Verna for facilitating FHC coalitions with the disability rights community, contacts that helped the FHC win some signifi­cant victories in housing access and accessibility. We wish Verna the best and trust she will stay in touch.

Long-time board member Ray Chauncey has decided not to run for another term. Ray’s expertise and policy input has been invaluable to the growth of the Fair Housing Center. We hope we can contin­ue to call on Ray for support and advice.

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