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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
CIV. NO.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

                                     Plaintiff,
                                                                                      COMPLAINT
                           v.
                                                                                     JURY TRIAL DEMANDED
DENNIS and SUSAN GUSTAFSON,

                                     Defendants.

The United States of America, for its Complaint, states and alleges as follows:

INTRODUCTION

1. This is an action brought by the United States of America (United States) to enforce the provisions of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (the Fair Housing Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 - 3619.

2. The United States brings this action on behalf of Randal Perron, John Perron, Louise Perron, Lisa Jorgenson, Brian Jorgenson, John Kopp and Stanley Jakubowski pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

3. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).

4. Venue is proper in this District pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391.

THE DEFENDANTS

5. Defendants Dennis and Susan Gustafson (Defendants) are residents of Harris, Minnesota. At all times relevant to this Complaint, Defendants were the developers of a subdivision platted as Whispering Pines and located in Harris, Minnesota. They also owned an excavating firm in North Branch, Minnesota, called Gustafson Excavating, Inc.

THE HUD COMPLAINANTS

6. Randal Perron is a resident of North Branch, Minnesota and is a person with a disability under 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h). Having suffered a severe stroke several years ago, Mr. Perron is substantially limited in one or more major life activities, including, but not limited to, walking, performing manual tasks, and taking care of himself.

7. John and Louise Perron (the Perrons) are residents of Stillwater, Minnesota and the parents of Randal Perron.

8. Lisa and Brian Jorgenson (the Jorgensons) are residents of Forest Lake, Minnesota. Lisa Jorgenson is the sister of Randal Perron and is married to Brian Jorgenson.

9. John Kopp is a resident of North Branch, Minnesota and is a builder of homes in east-central Minnesota.

10. Stanley Jakubowski is a resident of North Branch, Minnesota and is a real estate agent licensed by the State of Minnesota.

ALLEGATIONS

11. On or about March 11, 1999, Defendants Susan and Dennis Gustafson entered into a five-year lease and option purchase agreement with Shirley and Richard Anderson, the owners of a 50-acre tree farm in Harris, Minnesota. Pursuant to the agreement, Defendants assumed control of the property as lessees and within the five year term of the agreement could purchase the property and develop it in whole or in part.

12. After entering into the agreement with Shirley and Richard Anderson, Defendants Susan and Dennis Gustafson began the process of having the property platted as a residential subdivision known as " Whispering Pines." On the proposed plat, the property was subdivided into ten lots, each approximately five acres in size. Defendants planned to build their own home on one of the lots, leaving nine others to be sold to the general public.

13. On or about August 20, 2001, Defendant Dennis Gustafson appeared before the Harris City Council to seek approval of the plat for Whispering Pines. At that meeting, Defendant Dennis Gustafson also presented the restrictive covenants for the development, one of which defined the minimum size requirements for the dwellings. None of the covenants involved restrictions on the type of dwellings which were to be built on each lot or the nature of their use.

14. In September 2001, Defendant Dennis Gustafson and John Kopp agreed that G & K Builders would be the exclusive seller and builder of homes on the remaining nine lots in Whispering Pines.

15. On the basis of the agreement referred to in paragraph 14 above, John Kopp entered into listing agreements with two local real estate agencies to market the nine lots. John Kopp listed five of the lots in Whispering Pines with local real estate agent Stanley Jakubowski of Remax Integrity.

16. The lots in Whispering Pines being sold to the general public in the fall of 2001 were "dwellings" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).

17. On or about September 24, 2001, Stanley Jakubowski had a large sign erected on the property advertising lots for sale at Whispering Pines and listing G & K Builders as the exclusive builder of homes in the subdivision.

18. In October 2001, John Kopp began constructing two model homes on lots in Whispering Pines and intended to market them to potential home buyers interested in purchasing prebuilt homes. Prior to the commencement of this construction, defendants' company, Gustafson Excavating, Inc., readied the sites for these two homes by excavating the properties.

19. In October 2001, the Jorgensons contacted Stanley Jakubowski to look at lots in Whispering Pines. On October 19, 2001, the Jorgensons signed a hold agreement for lot 1, block 1 in Whispering Pines. On or about November 11, 2001, the Jorgensons signed a purchase and construction contract with G & K Builders to build a house on the lot.

20. Also in October 2001, the Perrons (the parents of Lisa Jorgenson) contacted Stanley Jakubowski to look at lots in Whispering Pines. On or about October 30, 2001, the Perrons signed a hold agreement for two lots in the subdivision. They planned to build a home for themselves on lot 3, block 1 and to build a four-bedroom home on lot 4, block 1 for their son, Randal Perron, and three additional individuals with disabilities who would be interested in living there. Their plan was for the home to be accessible to persons with disabilities.

21. In November 2001, Defendants Susan and Dennis Gustafson began construction of their own home on lot 2, block 2 of Whispering Pines.

22. The lot on which the Perrons planned to have the accessible group home built for their son was across the street from the lot on which Defendants were building their own home.

23. On or about November 28, 2001, Stanley Jakubowski, at the Perrons' request, contacted the City Clerk of Harris to inquire about the City's zoning regulations as they related to the accessible group home planned by the Perrons for use by their son and three other persons with disabilities. The City Clerk informed Mr. Jakubowski that the city zoning regulations define " family " as a group of not more than four unrelated persons, maintaining a common household and using common cooking and kitchen facilities.

24. That same day, on or about November 28, 2001, the City Clerk contacted Defendant Dennis Gustafson by telephone to inform him of her discussion with Mr. Jakubowski regarding the City's zoning regulations as they related to the accessible group home that the Perrons were planning to build at Whispering Pines.

25. Several hours later, on or about November 28, 2001, Defendant Dennis Gustafson informed Mr. Kopp that he would not allow a group home to be built in Whispering Pines.

26. On the following day, on or about November 29, 2001, Defendant Dennis Gustafson revised the written restrictive covenants for Whispering Pines by inserting the following sentences: "The use of any lot shall be restricted to single family dwellings. Two-family, multifamily, group homes and townhomes are strictly prohibited." He submitted the amendment to the City that same day.

27. Upon submitting the amended restrictive covenant described in paragraph 26 to Harris City Hall on or about November 29, 2001, Defendant Dennis Gustafson told the Mayor of Harris that the reason for the amendment was that he did not want a group home in his development.

28. The Perrons' plan to build a four-bedroom home in which no more than four persons with disabilities, including their son, would reside comports with state and local law.

29. On or about December 5, 2001, John Kopp met with Defendants Susan and Dennis to convince them that they should allow the sales of the two lots to the Perrons to proceed. Defendants told John Kopp that they would not allow the sale of the two lots to the Perrons to proceed and that they would also no longer honor their agreement to allow John Kopp to sell or build on the remaining lots in Whispering Pines, other than the two lots on which the model homes were already being built by G &K Builders.

30. Because Defendants Susan and Dennis Gustafson refused to sell any additional lots in Whispering Pines to John Kopp, the three lots on which the Perrons and Jorgensons had placed a hold could not be sold to them.

31. Because Defendants Dennis and Susan Gustafson refused to sell any additional lots in Whispering Pines to John Kopp, Stanley Jakubowski was not able to market and sell the five lots in Whispering Pines pursuant to his listing agreement with John Kopp.

32. On or about December 27, 2001, John Perron wrote to Defendant Dennis Gustafson pleading with him to allow the sale of the lots to the Perrons and Jorgensons to proceed. In the letter, John Perron stated, in part:

"I am writing to you on behalf of my family and in particular, my son, Randal, who is handicapped. We have been looking for land for several months in which to build a new home for my wife and I and a separate home for our son, where we can be close to each other, yet maintain our independence.

Our son, Randal, is thirty-six years old, and a former deputy sheriff who became disabled from a stroke seven years ago. Randy spent the last six years in and out of several hospitals and nursing homes, trying to regain his health to a point where he could have a better quality of life as a disabled person.

Last year, we were finally able to get Randy into a community group home in North Branch that could adequately provide for his daily needs in a home environment versus a nursing home/hospital environment. The unfortunate part is, that none of the other residents are able to speak and vocally communicate with or to develop friendships with or to simply share in his daily life. We, as Randy's parents, are only trying to provide a good home for our son in which he can be close to us as well as his sister and her family and so he can have an independent, meaningful life setting. We hope to provide the same environment for three other individuals with similar handicaps to help create a positive, home-like atmosphere, to improve their quality of life as well.

* * *

We would be more than willing to meet with you or anyone else to discuss our plans and possibly answer any questions that you may have about the handicap accessible home that we plan to build for our son and other individuals who may potentially reside in the home with Randy.

We look forward to hearing back from you to further discuss this matter and hopefully work toward a positive resolution. We look forward to building our new homes as well as becoming good neighbors."

33. Defendant Dennis Gustafson never responded to Mr. Perron's December 27, 2001 letter.

34. On or about January 7, 2002, John Perron filed a timely complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) alleging discrimination in housing on the basis of handicap pursuant to Section 810(a) of the Fair Housing Act. On or about February 9, 2002, Louise Perron filed a timely complaint with HUD alleging discrimination in housing on the basis of handicap pursuant to Section 810(a) of the Fair Housing Act. In their complaints, as amended, the Perrons alleged that Defendants refused to allow the sale to them of two lots in the Whispering Pines subdivision because they planned to build a handicapped accessible home for their son, who is disabled, on one of the lots.

35. On or about February 9, 2002, John Perron, as the conservator of Randal Perron, filed a timely complaint with HUD on behalf of Randal Perron alleging discrimination in housing on the basis of handicap pursuant to Section 810(a) of the Fair Housing Act. In this complaint, as amended, Randal Perron, who is a person with a disability, alleged that Defendants refused to allow the sale to the Perrons of a lot in the Whispering Pines subdivision because the Perrons planned to build an accessible group home for him on it.

36. On or about February 12, 2002, the Jorgensons filed a timely complaint with HUD alleging discrimination in housing on the basis of handicap pursuant to Section 810(a) of the Fair Housing Act. In their complaint, the Jorgensons alleged that Defendants refused to allow the sale to them of a lot in the Whispering Pines subdivision for which they had signed a purchase agreement because of the Perrons' plan to build an accessible group home for Lisa Jorgenson's brother, Randal Perron, on one of the lots.

37. On or about March 26, 2002, John Kopp filed a timely complaint with HUD alleging discrimination in housing on the basis of handicap pursuant to Section 810(a) of the Fair Housing Act. In his complaint, Mr. Kopp alleges that Defendants refused to sell G&K Builders seven lots in Whispering Pines, pursuant to agreement, because of a plan to build an accessible group home on one of the lots in the subdivision for Randal Perron and three persons with disabilities.

38. On or about April 1, 2002, Stanley Jakubowski filed a timely complaint with HUD alleging discrimination in housing on the basis of handicap pursuant to Section 810(a) of the Fair Housing Act. In his complaint, Mr. Jakubowski alleged that he was injured as a result of Defendants' refusal to sell lots to John Kopp and G & K Builders because of plans to have an accessible group home on one of the lots in the subdivision.

39. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD conducted an investigation of the complaints received by Randal Perron, John Perron, Louise Perron, Lisa Jorgenson, Brian Jorgenson, John Kopp, and Stanley Jakubowski. Based on the information gathered in this investigation, the Secretary of HUD, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), determined that reasonable cause existed to believe that discriminatory housing practices had occurred.

40. On or about May 30, 2002, the Secretary of HUD issued a Determination of Reasonable Cause and a Charge of Discrimination, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A), charging that Defendants Dennis and Susan Gustafson engaged in discriminatory housing practices in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604 (c), 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1)(B), and 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2)(B).

41. On or about June 10, 2002, Randal Perron, John Perron, Louise Perron, Lisa Jorgenson, Brian Jorgenson, John Kopp, and Stanley Jakubowski elected to have the charges resolved in a federal civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a).

42. The Secretary of HUD authorized the Attorney General to file this action on behalf of Randal Perron, John Perron, Louise Perron, Lisa Jorgenson, Brian Jorgenson, John Kopp, and Stanley Jakubowski pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).

43. By agreement of the parties, the date by which the United States could timely file its complaint in this litigation was extended to August 12, 2002.

44. Plaintiff United States realleges and incorporates by reference, as if fully set forth herein, paragraphs 1 through 43 above.

45. Defendants Dennis and Susan Gustafson , through the actions referred to in paragraphs 11 through 33, have:

  1. refused to sell, or to negotiate for the sale of, or otherwise made unavailable or denied, a dwelling because of handicap, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604 (f)(1)(B;

  2. discriminated in the terms, conditions, or privileges of sale of a dwelling because of handicap, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604 (f)(2)(B) ; and

  3. made, or caused to be made, statements with respect to the sale of a dwelling that indicate a preference, limitation or discrimination based on handicap, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c).

46. Randal Perron, John Perron, Louise Perron, Lisa Jorgenson, Brian Jorgenson, John Kopp, and Stanley Jakubowski are aggrieved persons, as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i) and have suffered damages as a result of the Defendants' conduct described above.

47. The discriminatory actions of Defendants were intentional, willful and taken in disregard for the rights of others.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff United States demands and prays that the Court enter an order that:

1. Declares that the discriminatory housing practices of the Defendants as set forth above violate the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.;

2. Enjoins the Defendants, their agents, employees, successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with them from discriminating on the basis of handicap against any person in any aspect of the rental or sale of a dwelling;

3. Awards such damages as would fully compensate each person aggrieved by Defendants' discriminatory housing practices, including Randal Perron, John Perron, Louise Perron, Lisa Jorgenson, Brian Jorgenson, John Kopp, and Stanley Jakubowski pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3614(d)(1)(B); and

4. Awards punitive damages to each person aggrieved by Defendants' discriminatory housing practices, including Randal Perron, John Perron, Louise Perron, Lisa Jorgenson, Brian Jorgenson, John Kopp, and Stanley Jakubowski, because of the intentional and willful nature of Defendants conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3).

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

THOMAS B. HEFFELFINGER
United States Attorney
District of Minnesota

BY: GREGORY G. BROOKER
Assistant U.S. Attorney
Attorney ID Number 166066
600 U.S. Courthouse
300 South Fourth Street
Minneapolis, MN 55415
(612) 664-5600


Document Filed: August 12, 2002
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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