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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF IOWA
WESTERN DIVISION



UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

           Plaintiff,

Civil Action Number

v.

The MUNICIPAL HOUSING AGENCY of
COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA; MARK SCHULTZ;
and DEE WENTZEL,

           Defendants.

__________________________________________



COMPLAINT



The United States of America alleges:



  1. This action is brought by the United States to enforce the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619 ("the Act"). It is brought on behalf of Pamela R. Hebert and Joshua A. Collins ("the HUD complainants") pursuant to Section 812(o) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o), and pursuant to Section 814(a) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).
  2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345, and 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o) and 3614(a).
  3. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because Defendants reside in, and a substantial part of the events giving rise to the claims alleged in this action arose in, the Southern District of Iowa.
  4. Defendant The Housing Agency of Council Bluffs, Iowa ("the Housing Agency") is a public housing authority with its principal place of business located at 505 South 6th Street in Council Bluffs, Iowa. At all times relevant to the events in this case, the Housing Agency oversaw and managed Regal Towers, a 210-unit public housing complex for elderly and disabled persons, located at the same address.
  5. Defendant Mark Schultz was at times relevant to the events in this case the Executive Director of the Housing Agency.
  6. Defendant Dee Wentzel was at times relevant to the events in this case employed by the Housing Agency as a housing specialist.
  7. The units at the Regal Towers are dwellings within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
  8. Pamela Hebert is a person with a handicap, as defined by 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h).
  9. On or about November 10, 2003, Ms. Hebert filed a timely complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") pursuant to subsection 810(a) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a). The complaint alleged that Defendants violated the Act based on handicap. On or about August 19, 2004, Ms. Hebert amended her complaint.
  10. Joshua Collins is a person with a handicap, as defined by 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h).
  11. On or about November 5, 2004, Mr. Collins filed a timely complaint with HUD pursuant to subsection 810(a) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a). The complaint alleged that Defendants violated the Act based on handicap. On or about May 27, 2005, Mr. Collins amended his complaint.
  12. Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD conducted and completed an investigation of the complaints indicated above, attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on 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 discriminatory housing practices had occurred. Accordingly, on July 26, 2005, the Secretary issued a Charge of Discrimination ("Charge") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(g)(1)-(2), charging Defendants with engaging in discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Act.
  13. On or about August 2, 2005, Mr. Collins made a timely election to have the claims asserted in the Charge resolved in a civil action in federal district court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a).
  14. Following the election described in the preceding paragraph, on August 6, 2005, the Secretary of HUD authorized the Attorney General to commence a civil action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).
  15. COUNT I

  16. Plaintiff re-alleges and herein incorporates by reference the allegations set forth in paragraphs 1 through 14, above.
  17. On or about August 13, 2003, Pamela Hebert submitted an application for housing with Defendants. In the application, she indicated she is a person with a disability, and provided, as requested on the application form, information about the treatment she was receiving at the time from a psychiatrist and a therapist, including their names and addresses.
  18. Defendants processed her application and received written positive references from the Council Bluffs, Iowa Police Department, and a former landlord. Defendants also received an unfavorable verbal reference from Ms. Hebert's then-current landlord.
  19. On or about September 2, 2003, Defendant Wentzel sent a letter to Ms. Hebert requesting she sign a release for medical information from her psychiatrist. Subsequently, Ms. Hebert provided Defendants with the signed release.
  20. On or about September 25, 2003, Defendant Wentzel sent Ms. Hebert a letter denying her housing at Regal Towers.
  21. On or about October 20, 2003, at Ms. Hebert's request, Defendant Schultz heard Ms. Hebert's appeal of the decision by telephone.
  22. On or about October 27, 2003, Defendant Schultz sent Ms. Hebert a letter, affirming the initial denial of the unit, and citing, in part, her disability as a reason for the denial.
  23. By their actions as described above, Defendants have:
    1. Discriminated in the rental of, or otherwise made unavailable or denied, dwellings to renters because of handicap, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1); and

    2. Discriminated against persons in the terms, conditions or privileges of rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with a dwelling, because of handicap, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2).

  24. Ms. Hebert is an aggrieved person, as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i), and has suffered damages as a result of Defendants' conduct described above.
  25. Defendants' discriminatory actions were intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of Ms. Hebert.
  26. COUNT II

  27. Plaintiff re-alleges and herein incorporates by reference the allegations set forth in paragraphs 1 through 24, above.
  28. On or about July 12, 2004, Joshua Collins, with the help of a personal representative, submitted an application for housing with Defendants. In the application, he indicated he is a person with a disability, and provided, as requested on the application form, information about his past mental health treatment.
  29. Defendants processed his application and on or about September 4, 2004, Defendants received a reference from the Council Bluffs, Iowa Police Department, which indicated Mr. Collins had a criminal history which dated back to 2000-2001, though it did not involve drugs or violence.
  30. On or about September 8, 2004, Defendants sent Mr. Collins a letter requesting he sign an authorization for release of his mental health records from his former mental health provider.
  31. Mr. Collins refused to sign the release and communicated his decision to Defendants in writing.
  32. On or about September 13 and September 16, 2004, Defendants received two references for Mr. Collins from his then-current landlord and a former landlord.
  33. On or about September 28, 2004, Defendant Wentzel sent a letter to Mr. Collins denying him housing at Regal Towers citing his lack of cooperation in signing the release for mental health information as the reason for the denial.
  34. By their actions as described above, Defendants have:
    1. Discriminated in the rental of, or otherwise made unavailable or denied, dwellings to renters because of handicap, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1); and

    2. Discriminated against persons in the terms, conditions or privileges of rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection with a dwelling, because of handicap, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2).

  35. Mr. Collins is an aggrieved person, as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i), and has suffered damages as a result of Defendants' conduct described above.
  36. Defendants' discriminatory actions were intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of Mr. Collins.
  37. COUNT III

  38. Plaintiff re-alleges and herein incorporates by reference the allegations set forth in paragraphs 1 through 34, above.
  39. From at least 2003 through at least sometime in 2005, Defendants maintained and enforced a policy or practice of requiring prospective tenants to divulge mental health information, and on occasion make their mental health records available to Defendants, as part of the tenancy application process. On more than one occasion, Defendants relied on that information to deny an application for tenancy or relied on a prospective tenant's failure to comply with Defendants' policy to deny an application for tenancy.
  40. The conduct of Defendants described in paragraphs 1 through 36 constitutes:
  41. (a) a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619; or

    (b) a denial to a group of persons of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619, which denial raises an issue of general public importance.

  42. In addition to the HUD complainants, there may be other victims of Defendants' discriminatory actions and practices who are aggrieved persons as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i). These persons may have suffered actual injury and damages as a result of the above actions and practices.

WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter an ORDER that:

  1. Declares that Defendants' policies, practices, and conduct, as alleged herein, violate the Fair Housing Act;
  2. Enjoins Defendants, their officers, employees, agents, successors and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them, from:
    1. discriminating in the rental, or otherwise making unavailable or denying, a dwelling to any renter because of a handicap, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1); and
    2. discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of rental of a dwelling because of a handicap, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2);

  3. Awards monetary damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3614(d)(1)(B), to all persons harmed by the Defendants' discriminatory practices, including the HUD complainants; and
  4. Assesses a civil penalty against each Defendant in an amount authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C) in order to vindicate the public interest.

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



Respectfully submitted,

Alberto R. Gonzales
Attorney General



Matthew G. Whitaker
United States Attorney





_____________________________
Maureen McGuire
Assistant United States Attorney
U. S. Courthouse Annex, 2nd Floor
110 E. Court Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50309-2044
(515) 323-2845
(515) 284-6281 fax
maureen.mcguire@usdoj.gov

____________________________
Bradley J. Schlozman
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division



____________________________
Steven H. Rosenbaum
Chief
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section



____________________________
Keisha Dawn Bell
Deputy Chief
Marta Campos
Attorney
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil Enforcement
Section - G Street
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
(202) 514-4733
(202) 514-1116 fax
marta.campos@usdoj.gov


Document Filed: September 1, 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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