UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Case No. 97-C-104
CITY OF MILWAUKEE,
- This action is brought by the United States of America
to enforce the provisions of the Fair Housing Act, as amended,
42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.
- This Court has jurisdiction over this action under
28 U.S.C. § 1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 3614.
- Defendant City of Milwaukee is a governmental
subdivision of the State of Wisconsin, located in Milwaukee
County, within the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Milwaukee is
governed by a Mayor and a Common Council consisting of seventeen
(17) alderpersons, each elected by an aldermanic district.
- The Indian Council of the Elderly, Inc. is a nonprofit
corporation in Milwaukee that was established to serve the
American Indian community of Greater Milwaukee by providing such
services as meals for elderly American Indians, preventative
medical services, counseling services and recreational
- The School Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of
St. Francis of Assisi are two Catholic religious orders located
in the Greater Milwaukee area that have experience in managing
housing complexes for senior citizens that receive funds from the
United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- In or around 1990, the Indian Council of the Elderly,
the School Sisters of St. Francis, and the Sisters of St. Francis
of Assisi (collectively, "ICE") sought to construct a senior
center that would consist of 49 apartment units of senior citizen
housing and a meal site in southwest Milwaukee for the benefit of
American Indian and other senior citizens.
- In September 1993, ICE made an offer to purchase a 3.8
acre parcel of land at 6031 West Howard Avenue ("the Howard
site") in Milwaukee, for the purpose of constructing the ICE
senior center. The Howard site is located adjacent to or across
from several commercial businesses, multifamily housing
complexes, and single family houses. The site was selected, in
part, because of its proximity not only to residential
neighborhoods, but also to retail businesses and service
providers, such as the social security office located across
Howard Avenue from the Howard site. In December 1993, the owners
of the site accepted the offer.
- The proposed 49 units of housing at the ICE senior
center, as well as the Howard site, are "dwellings" within the
meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
- The Howard site is located in the Eleventh Aldermanic
District of Milwaukee. The population of the Eleventh Aldermanic
District is 97.6 percent white, 0.4 percent African American, and
0.4 percent American Indian. The population of the City of
Milwaukee is 65.5 percent white, 31.3 percent African American,
and 1.0 percent American Indian.
- On February 7, 1994, ICE filed an application with the
City to rezone the site from its present zoning classification of
"F-2," which permits only single family housing, to the
classification of "Plan," which permits general planned
development, such as the ICE senior center.
- The Howard site is adjacent to two single family
houses, which abut a multifamily condominium complex. Across the
street from the Howard site are two commercial establishments.
On the same block as the Howard site, in addition to the single
family homes and condominium complex, are a realtor's office and
an auto repair garage. Many additional single family homes are
also located in the area.
- Throughout the time period between December 1993 and
May 1994, Annette Scherbert was the alderwoman of the Eleventh
Aldermanic District. During this time period, Alderwoman
Scherbert actively opposed ICE's rezoning application and engaged
in various activities designed to encourage neighborhood
opposition to the rezoning proposal.
- On at least two occasions, Alderwoman Scherbert made
statements to others that revealed that she opposed the ICE's
rezoning proposal because she did not want American Indians
residing in or visiting the neighborhood near the Howard site.
- At public meetings on January 25, 1994 and March 7,
1994, and at subsequent City Plan Commission and Common Council
meetings, numerous local residents expressed statements in
opposition to the proposal that revealed that they opposed the
approval of ICE's zoning request because they did not want
American Indians to reside in the neighborhood near the Howard
- On April 11, 1994, the City Plan Commission voted
unanimously to approve the proposal to rezone the site and to
construct the ICE senior center, subject to ICE's acceptance of
certain modifications that would satisfy concerns about the site
relating to the volume of visitors, traffic, parking, drainage,
and disruption to neighbors. ICE subsequently amended its
proposal to adopt all of these modifications.
- On May 17, 1994, despite the endorsement of the City
Plan Commission and ICE's acceptance of the Plan Commission's
proposed modifications, the Milwaukee Common Council rejected the
zoning change proposal.
- Based on Alderwoman Scherbert's public and private
assertions made between January 25, 1994 and May 17, 1994,
members of the Common Council were aware that Alderwoman
Scherbert's opposition to ICE's zoning request was based, in
significant part, on her belief that the ICE senior center would
be inhabited and visited by American Indians.
- Based on the public assertions made between January 25,
1994 and May 17, 1994, members of the Common Council were aware
that citizens opposing ICE's zoning request did so, in
significant part, because they believed that the ICE senior
center would be inhabited and visited by American Indians.
- In denying ICE's rezoning request, the Common Council
was influenced by the opposition of Alderwoman Scherbert and
neighborhood residents to the presence of American Indians at the
Howard site. In light of the Plan Commission's approval of the
ICE proposal as meeting all applicable technical requirements,
the Common Council denied the rezoning request for no legitimate
reason but rather to appease the discriminatory animus of
Alderwoman Scherbert and neighborhood residents.
- The actions of the defendant described above have made
dwellings unavailable to persons because of race or national
origin, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a).
- As described above, the defendant's conduct constitutes
a denial to a group of persons of rights granted by the Fair
Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq., which denial raises an
issue of general public importance.
- Persons and entities who have been victims of the
defendant's unlawful actions, such as the Indian Council for the
Elderly, the School Sisters of St. Francis and the Sisters of St.
Francis of Assisi, are aggrieved persons as defined in 42 U.S.C.
§ 3602(i) and are entitled to be compensated by the defendant for
the injuries caused by the unlawful conduct.
- Defendant's unlawful actions were intentional, willful,
and taken in disregard of the rights of others.
WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter an
- Declares that defendant City of Milwaukee's denial of
the ICE zoning change proposal was made on account of race or
national origin, and thus constituted a violation of the Fair
Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.;
- Orders defendant City of Milwaukee, its officials,
agents, employees, and all other persons in active concert or
participation with it to permit ICE to complete the purchase of
the Howard site and begin construction of its senior center on
- Enjoins defendant City of Milwaukee, its officials,
agents, employees, and all other persons in active concert or
participation with it from otherwise discriminating against ICE
on account of race or national origin in violation of 42 U.S.C.
§§ 3601 et seq.;
- Requires such actions by the defendant as may be
necessary to restore all persons aggrieved by the defendant's
discriminatory actions to the position they would have occupied
but for the defendant's discriminatory actions;
- Requires the defendant to take such affirmative steps as
may be necessary to prevent the recurrence of any discriminatory
conduct in the future and to eliminate, to the extent
practicable, the effects of defendant's unlawful housing
- Awards such damages as would fully compensate each
person aggrieved by the defendant's discriminatory actions for
the injury caused by the defendant's discriminatory actions,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B);
- Awards each person aggrieved by the defendant's
discriminatory actions punitive damages because of the
intentional and willful nature of the defendant's conduct
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B); and
- Assesses civil penalties against the defendant in
amounts of money 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.
THOMA P. SCHEIDER
United States Attorney
ISABELLE KATZ PINZLER
Acting Assistant Attorney General
JAMES L. SANTELLE
Assistant United States Attorney
United States Attorney's Office
517 E. Wisconsin Ave., Rm. 530
Milwaukee, WI 53202
PAUL F. HANCOCK
Chief, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
USABELLE M. THABAULT
BARBARA A. BURR
THEODORE D. CHUANG
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. BOx 65998
Washington D.C. 20035-5988
Document Filed: February 3, 1997.