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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF NORTH CAROLINA
DURHAM DIVISION



UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

           Plaintiff,

v.

TOWN OF CHAPEL HILL, NORTH
CAROLINA

          Defendant.

CIVIL NO. _______________________

JURY DEMANDED





COMPLAINT



The United States of America alleges as follows:



NATURE OF ACTION

1. This action is brought by the United States on behalf of Sonya Dixon, Antwan Merritt, A.A.M., A.L.M., and P.C.D. to enforce the provisions of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq. (the "Fair Housing Act").

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o). Venue is proper in this judicial district pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1391(b), because the events giving rise to this action occurred in this judicial district.

PARTIES

3. Defendant Town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina ("Town") operates the Chapel Hill Department of Housing ("Housing Department"). The Housing Department receives federal funding from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and manages the Town's public housing apartments. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Town Council serves as the governing authority for public housing operations.

4. The units at the Town's public housing sites are "dwellings" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).

5. Sonya Dixon is a forty-three year old mother of four. Ms. Dixon's four children are twenty-five year old Antwan Merritt, fourteen year old A.A.M., eleven year old A.L.M., and nine year old P.C.D. At all times relevant to this Complaint, Antwan, A.A.M., A.L.M., and P.C.D. lived with Ms. Dixon. P.C.D. was diagnosed with cerebral palsy on or about October 3, 1997. This condition substantially limits P.C.D.'s ability to walk. P.C.D. is handicapped or disabled within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h).

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

6. On or about March 21, 1996, Ms. Dixon, Antwan, A.A.M., and A.L.M. moved into 307-B Lindsay Street, an apartment located in the Town at the Lindsay Street public housing site managed by the Housing Department. The Lindsay Street public housing site is comprised of three triplex buildings built in 1967. 307-B Lindsay Street is a two-story, three-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment where all three bedrooms and the bathroom are on the upper level. There are fourteen steps leading from the first floor of 307-B Lindsay Street to the second level. The front door of 307-B Lindsay Street is approximately five steps above grade.

7. Ms. Dixon gave birth to P.C.D. on December 30, 1996. P.C.D. was diagnosed with cerebral palsy on or about October 3, 1997.

8. In or about November 1997, a physician with the Cerebral Palsy Clinic in the University of North Carolina Hospitals' Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation recommended that Ms. Dixon move to a wheelchair-accessible apartment in order to accommodate P.C.D.'s physical disability.

9. On or about November 13, 1997, Orange County Department of Social Services Social Worker Tami Jordan submitted a letter to the Housing Department requesting that Ms. Dixon, Antwan, A.A.M., A.L.M., and P.C.D. be transferred to an accessible unit. In the letter, Tami Jordan's stated that P.C.D. has cerebral palsy.

10. On or about November 21, 1997, Ms. Dixon submitted a written request to the Housing Department for a "health transfer" to a four-bedroom accessible apartment.

11. The Housing Department's Admission and Current Occupancy Policy ("ACOP") requires that requests for transfers based on health reasons take priority over all requests for transfers to larger or smaller units ("under-housed" or "over-housed").

12. The Housing Department's public housing lease agreements state, in part, that if an accessible unit is made available to a non-disabled tenant, that tenant agrees to be transferred upon the availability of a non-accessible unit so that the accessible unit can be made available to a disabled tenant.

13. The ACOP defines the term "disability" as including physical impairments that are attributable to cerebral palsy.

14. On or about November 21, 1997, Housing Department Housing Assistant Jackie Thompson informed Ms. Dixon that Ms. Dixon's name had been placed on the Town's public housing transfer waiting list.

15. On or about March 4, 1998, Ms. Dixon was informed that she was sixteenth on the Town's public housing transfer waiting list by Ms. Thompson.

16. Between March 5, 1998, and January 13, 1999, Ms. Dixon contacted the Housing Department on numerous occasions to inquire about the status of her transfer request.

17. On or about December 8, 1998, Sheryl Adams, a Human Resources Development Specialist with Joint Orange-Chatham Community Action, Inc., sent a letter to the Housing Department requesting that Ms. Dixon, Antwan, A.A.M., A.L.M., and P.C.D. be transferred to an accessible apartment.

18. In or about December 1998, Ms. Dixon's employer, Althea Alston, Director of the Holmes Day Care Center, Inc., in Carrboro, North Carolina, sent a letter to the Housing Department requesting that Ms. Dixon's name be placed at the top of the Town's public housing transfer waiting list.

19. On or about January 13, 1999, Ms. Dixon was told that she was eighth on the Town's public housing transfer waiting list by Housing Department Housing Specialist Sabrina Farrar.

20. On or about January 21, 1999, Ms. Dixon received written notification from the Housing Department that apartments "were available or coming up for vacancy" in the Trinity Court and Craig Gomains public housing sites. Ms. Dixon expressed an interest in transferring to an accessible unit in the Craig Gomains neighborhood.

21. The Craig Gomains public housing site consists of forty apartments in eighteen buildings built in 1967. Only one unit in the Craig Gomains public housing site, a one-bedroom apartment located at 701-B Gomains Avenue, is designated as an accessible unit by the Housing Department. There are no apartments that are designated as accessible units by the Housing Department in the Trinity Court public housing site.

22. On or about June 8, 1999, Ms. Farrar informed Ms. Dixon that she was first on the Town's public housing transfer waiting list.

23. On or about June 24, 1999, another Housing Department tenant was transferred to an accessible five-bedroom apartment located at 341 South Estes Drive in the Town's South Estes public housing site. That tenant submitted a transfer request to the Housing Department on or about March 30, 1999, and it was based upon a claim that the tenant needed a larger apartment. It was not based upon a claim that the transfer was necessary to reasonably accommodate a disability.

24. Ms. Dixon qualified for a five-bedroom apartment under the ACOP. 25. On or about August 31, 1999, the Housing Department sent Ms. Dixon a letter offering her a transfer to one of two available units, 402-B Sykes Street in the Craig Gomains public housing site and 7-B Adelaide Walters Street in the Colony Woods West public housing site.

26. The 402-B Sykes Street unit is a two-story, four-bedroom apartment with one and one-half bathrooms. The half-bathroom at 402-B Sykes Street is located on the first floor, while the full bathroom is on the second level. There are four steps leading to the front entrance of 402-B Sykes Street. There are five steps leading to the rear entrance of the apartment. The 402-B Sykes Street apartment is not designated as an accessible unit by the Housing Department.

27. In or about 2002, the Housing Department hired Lewis DeTurk, an architect, examine 402-B Sykes Street. In or about October 2002, Mr. DeTurk determined that there is insufficient interior space in 402-B Sykes Street for an accessible full bathroom.

28. The 7-B Adelaide Walters Street apartment is a single-level, three-bedroom, one-bathroom unit. There are seven steps leading to the front entrance of 7-B Adelaide Walters Street, and four steps leading to the apartment's rear entrance. The 7-B Adelaide Walters Street apartment is not designated as an accessible unit by the Housing Department. The 7-B Adelaide Walters Street apartment is not an accessible unit.

29. On or about September 9, 1999, Ms. Dixon declined the Housing Department's August 1999 transfer offer because 402-B Sykes Street and 7-B Adelaide Walters Street are not accessible apartments.

30. On January 21, 2000, Ms. Dixon filed a timely complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, pursuant to the Fair Housing Act, alleging discrimination on the basis of disability.

31. On or about January 21, 2000, the Housing Department sent Ms. Dixon a letter offering her a transfer to 601-A Gomains Avenue, a two-story, four-bedroom, one and one-half bathroom unit in the Craig Gomains public housing site. The full bathroom at 601-A Gomains is located on the second floor. The front entrance to 601-A Gomains Avenue is located approximately eight feet above the unit's parking pad. The 601-A Gomains Avenue apartment is not designated as an accessible unit by the Housing Department.

32. In or about October 2002, Mr. DeTurk determined that 601-A Gomains Avenue has insufficient interior space for an accessible full bathroom.

33. In or about February 2000, Ms. Farrar informed Ms. Dixon that if Ms. Dixon did not accept the Housing Department's January 2000 transfer offer, Ms. Dixon's name would be moved to the bottom of the Town's public housing transfer waiting list.

34. On or about February 9, 2000, Ms. Dixon, Antwan, A.A.M., A.L.M., and P.C.D. moved into 601-A Gomains Avenue.

35. Ms. Dixon was required to carry P.C.D. up fourteen steps to the full bathroom to bathe P.C.D. at 601-A Gomains Avenue. Ms. Dixon was often assisted in this task by Antwan, A.A.M., and A.L.M.

36. In or about February 2000, Ms. Dixon began to experience back pain during and after carrying P.C.D. up the interior stairs at 601-A Gomains Avenue. Subsequently, Ms. Dixon sought medical treatment for her back pain.

37. On or about May 25, 2000, Ms. Dixon submitted a second transfer request to the Housing Department for an accessible unit, specifying her need for a single-level unit without interior or exterior stairs. The Housing Department failed to offer Ms. Dixon a transfer to an accessible unit between May 25, 2000, and September 6, 2000.

38. On or about September 6, 2000, Ms. Dixon, Antwan, A.A.M., A.L.M., and P.C.D. moved from 601-A Gomains Avenue into a private residence.

39. On or about December 10, 2004, Ms. Dixon amended her complaint to include Antwan, A.A.M, A.L.M., and P.C.D. as aggrieved persons, and to include the Town as a respondent.

40. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted and completed an investigation of the complaint, attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based upon the information gathered in the investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), determined that reasonable cause existed to believe that illegal discriminatory housing practices had occurred. Therefore, on October 31, 2005, the Secretary issued a Charge of Discrimination, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A), charging the above named defendant with engaging in discriminatory practices, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f) of the Fair Housing Act.

41. On November 16, 2005, Ms. Dixon elected to have the claims asserted in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Charge of Discrimination resolved in a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a).

42. On November 17, 2005, the Chief Administrative Law Judge issued a Notice of Election of Judicial Determination and terminated the administrative proceeding on Ms. Dixon's complaint.

43.Following this Notice of Election, the Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban development authorized the Attorney General to commence a civil action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).

FAIR HOUSING ACT VIOLATIONS

44. Defendant, through the above-referenced actions, has:

  1. Discriminated in the rental, or otherwise made unavailable or denied, a dwelling to Ms. Dixon because of a disability, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1)(B);

  2. Discriminated against Ms. Dixon in the terms, conditions, or privileges of rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with such dwelling, because of a disability, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2)(B); and

  3. Refused to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, which were necessary to afford the Ms. Dixon an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(3)(B).

45. Ms. Dixon, Antwan, A.A.M., A.L.M., and P.C.D. are "aggrieved persons" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i).

46. As a result of the Defendant's discriminatory conduct, Ms. Dixon, Antwan, A.A.M., A.L.M., and P.C.D., have suffered and continue to suffer damages.

47. The discriminatory actions of the Defendant were intentional, willful, and taken in disregard of the federally protected rights of Ms. Dixon, Antwan, A.A.M., A.L.M., and P.C.D.

WHEREFORE, the United States of America prays for relief as follows:

1. A declaration that the discriminatory conduct of Defendant as set forth above violates the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq.;

2. An injunction against Defendant, its agents, employees, successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them from discriminating because of a disability, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq.; and

3. Awards of monetary damages to Ms. Dixon, Antwan, A.A.M., A.L.M., and P.C.D., pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c)(1).

The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.

Dated:

ALBERTO R. GONZALES
Attorney General





___________________________
ANNA MILLS S. WAGONER
United States Attorney



___________________________
JOHN W. STONE, JR.
Assistant U.S. Attorney
Middle District of North Carolina
P.O. Box 1858
Greensboro, N.C. 27402
Phone: (336)333-5351
Fax: (336)333-5438
_______________________
WAN J. KIM
Assistant Attorney General



_______________________
STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
Chief, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division



_______________________
MICHAEL S. MAURER
Deputy Chief
TANYA ILONA KIRWAN, Attorney
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division,
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Northwestern Building, 7th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20530
Phone: (202) 305-4973
Fax: (202) 514-1116


Document Filed: December 12, 2005
General Information Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
 
Leadership
Steven H. Rosenbaum
Chief
Contact
Housing & Civil
Enforcement Section
(202) 514-4713
TTY - 202-305-1882
FAX - (202) 514-1116
To Report an Incident of Housing Discrimination:
1-800-896-7743
Mailing Contact
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section, NWB
Washington, D.C. 20530

Email: fairhousing@usdoj.gov

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