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Fall 1998 Newsletter

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Case Updates

Cases Settled

Thomas v Parkhill

Pamela Thomas has accepted $7,500 to settle her housing discrimination claim against Parkhill Apartments. According to the suit filed in February of 1997, Ms. Thomas was denied the rental of an apartment at 1932 Washtenaw Ave. in Ypsilanti because she has children and children were prohibited from occupying apartments on all but the first floor of Parkhill Apartments.

Thomas called the Fair Housing Center in April 1995 after she was denied a unit at Parkhill Apartments. According to Thomas, she was told that she and her children couldn’t rent an apartment since no first floor units were available. At the time Thomas’ daughter was three years old and her son was an infant.

Testing by the FHC supported Thomas’ claim of discrimination based on familial status. Testers posing as the parents of children were told that chil­dren were allowed only the first floor. Testing for this investigation was funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Fair Housing Initiatives Program/Private Enforce­ment Initiatives.

Fair Housing Center of Washtenaw County Cooperating Attorney Paul C. Callam, of Cooper, Walinski & Cramer, filed the lawsuit in Federal District Court on behalf of Pamela Thomas. The case was assigned to Judge Horace Gilmore. Thomas v Parkhill is the 14th familial status case filed with the help of the Fair Housing Center.

NAACP v Adrian Manor

The Lenawee County Branch of the NAACP has settled their race discrimi­nation suit against Adrian Manor Apartments. The settlement includes an undisclosed donation to the NAACP. Focus on the complex began three years ago when Carla and Rob Baty, a white couple living at Adrian Manor, contacted the Fair Housing Center of Washtenaw County to complain of dis­crimination against African-Americans.

In the complaint to the Fair Housing Center, Mr. Baty said that when a unit was available in October 1995, apartment manager Kenneth Wooldridge told him to let people know about the vacancy – as long as they weren’t Black.

With no local fair housing organization in Adrian, the couple asked FHC­ Washtenaw to investigate the situation. Testing conducted by the Fair Housing Center supported the Baty’s charge of race discrimination. In one test, according to FHC tester reports, the white tester was told of available units and warned to avoid a neighboring complex. Seventeen minutes later, the African-American tester was told that nothing was available at Adrian Manor and encouraged to try the same neighboring complex the white tester was warned against.

Granite Management, Inc. in Toledo, Ohio owns the Adrian, Michigan com plex. “The NAACP must take action whenever confronted with evidence of race discrimination,” said NAACP President Lawrence Richardson, a detective with the Adrian Police Department. FHC-Washtenaw Cooperating Attorney Michael J. Steinberg filed suit on behalf of the NAACP in Federal District Court. The suit, filed in September of 1997, alleged violations of the Federal Fair Housing Act. The case was assigned to Judge John C. O’Meara.

Cases Filed

Fountain Church v Scio Township

Ann Arbor’s Fountain Church of God in Christ and Realtor Alvan Rimson filed a race discrimination suit against Scio Township, the Scio Township Planning Commission and the Township Board of Trustees. The discrimination suit is also filed against Richard and Mary Burney, Scio Township residents.

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. The property is located 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 Church. An investigation conducted by the Fair Housing Center of Washtenaw County found that Fountain Church was the only house of worship to be denied a conditional use permit by the Scio Township Planning Commission since 1978.

In their complaint to the FHC­ Washtenaw County, the Church Board of Deacons stated that they believed they were denied a special conditional use permit because of the race of the church membership. Church member and realtor Mrs. Rimson claims to have lost the com­mission associated with the sale of the land.

The lawsuit alleges that Richard and Mary Burney, owners of the adjoining property, intentionally and improperly interfered with the contracts, business relationships, and expectancies between Fountain Church, Scio Township, Mrs. Rimson, and the land’s sellers. Richard and Mary Burney subsequently bought the land on which the church planned to build.

FHC Cooperating Attorney Benjamin Whitfield, Jr. filed suit on behalf of Fountain Church of God in Christ in Federal District Court. The suit alleges 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 is assigned to Judge Avern L. Cohn.

Cooperating Attorney
Joins ACLU Staff

Congratulations to Michael J. Steinberg on becoming the new Legal Director of the ACLU of Michigan in Detroit. While in private practice Mike became an FHC Cooperating Attorney in 1992 shortly after we opened the office. In the past six years Mike worked with FHC complainants to file and settle eight fair housing lawsuits. Not only does Mike do excellent legal work; he’s also a great friend to the FHC staff. Our loss is the ACLU’s gain.

FHC Board Member News

The FHC is losing two Board Members. Pamela Means has left Michigan to live in France where she’s attending graduate school. Ms. Means served on the FHC Board from 1995-1998. Despite our envy, we wish her well.

Bob Liston has accepted a new job in Bozeman, Montana. He’ll be working as a community organizer on disabili­ty issues. When Bob and his wife Marsha Katz relocate to Montana, it will be a big loss for the Fair Housing Center and for the Washtenaw Association for Community Advocacy where they are both employed. We understand they promise to return for an occasional direct action.

Sadly, on October 12, 1998 we received news that former FHC Board Member Adrienne Decker died of cancer. Adrienne was a member of the FHC’s first Board, chosen for her long-term commitment to legal justice. Adrienne worked and volunteered many years with the Ann Arbor office of Legal Services of Southeastern Michigan. Our condolences to her husband Bernie, her children and grandchildren.

100 Dinners for Fair Housing

Thanks to the following people and businesses for their support of the FHC’s 100 Dinners for Fair Housing:

Pledge Against the Klan

For the second time in two years, the KKK targeted Ann Arbor. The Fair Housing Center once again organized a community effort to support local civil rights efforts. We challenged the community to pledge money for every minute the Klan spoke at City Hall. Money collected went to the NAACP, the Fair Housing Center of Washtenaw County, and the Ann Arbor Community Center.

On May 9, 1998 the Klan spoke for 57 minutes. We received over $235/minute in pledges. We were overwhelmed by the response to the Pledge. Close to 700 people donated to PLEDGE AGAINST THE KLAN, pledging from $1 total to as much as $10/minute. Donations have come from as far away as LaGrange, Georgia and Stamford, Connecticut.

Pledges totaled $14,509. No matter how large or small the contribution, each pledge was one more voice against the message of the Klan.

Special thanks to Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice for organizing the alternative rally at Wheeler Park and for helping distribute Pledge Against the Klan pledge sheets.

Thanks to our friends at
the Performance Network

The Performance Network has gener­ously allowed the FHC to stuff their play­ bills with FHC informational flyers. With 300-400 audience members for every weekend show, this adds up to a lot of exposure! We give a standing ovation to the Network for their continued produc­tion of shows that tackle issues of dis­crimination and race relations. The next show of interest is Innocent Thoughts by William Missouri Downs, Nov. 19 – Dec. 13, a courtroom drama that explores Black/Jewish relations. Call (734) 663-0681 for tickets. And don’t forget “Pay What You Can Thursdays!”

Cassie Haynes

Community High School sophomore, Cassie Haynes, joined the FHC staff as an intern for the school year. Cassie is respon­sible for organizing a fund-raising dance, and working with other FHC staff to design materials for events and trainings.

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