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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN



UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

          Plaintiff,

No.

v.

WALTER PERLICK FAMILY TRUST,
ROBERT PERLICK, TONY RUSSELL,
and PATRICIA RUSSELL,

          Defendants.

COMPLAINT

The United States of America alleges:

1. This action is brought by the United States of America on behalf of Sharon Spears and her minor child, Cierra Y. Lewis ("Complainants"), pursuant to Section 812(o) of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o), and on behalf of other aggrieved persons pursuant to Section 814(a) of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 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).

3. Complainants Sharon Spears and her minor child are residents of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

4. Defendant Walter Perlick Family Trust owns residential property within the Eastern District of Wisconsin, including a 15-unit apartment complex located at 4215 W. Martin Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53218 ("the subject property").

5. Defendant Robert Perlick is both a Co-Trustee of the Walter Perlick Family Trust and the principal beneficiary of the trust. He makes the decisions and policies relating to the rental and management of the subject property.

6. Defendant Tony Russell is the superintendent of the subject property.

7. Defendant Patricia Russell is Tony Russell's spouse. She receives phone calls and provides information regarding the availability of units at the subject property.

8. The subject property is a dwelling within the meaning of Section 802(b) of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).

9. On or about October 7, 2003, Patricia Russell answered a telephone call from Sharon Spears, who was calling in response to an advertisement for 1 and 2 bedroom apartments in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Ms. Russell asked Ms. Spears if she had any children. Ms. Spears responded that she had one child, and Ms. Russell replied, "no kids." Ms. Spears asked what she meant by "no kids," and Ms. Russell responded that there were "no kids allowed."

10. On or about October 7, 2003, Patricia Russell also answered a phone call from Katherine Spears, Sharon Spears' mother. Ms. Russell told Katherine Spears that they "don't rent to children." Katherine Spears replied that it is illegal to say that and Ms. Russell replied that she was just doing what she was told.

11. On or about October 2003, Patricia Russell was acting as an actual or apparent agent of the Walter Perlick Family Trust and/or Robert Perlick when she answered the phone in that she acted as if she had the authority to discuss the availability of the apartment units when she spoke with Sharon Spears and Katherine Spears.

12. On or about October 13, 2003, Sharon Spears called the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council ("MMFHC") and filed a complaint, claiming that she and her daughter had been the subject of discrimination in housing based upon Ms. Spears having a daughter.

13. As a result of the Spears' complaint, MMFHC engaged two testers (one woman with a three month old child and one woman who was married with no children) to telephone the Defendants and ask about the availability of apartment units.

14. Between October 15 and October 23, 2003, Tester A spoke three times to Tony or Patricia Russell. Tester A informed Mr. Russell that she was looking for an apartment for her and her daughter. Mr. Russell initially scheduled a time for Tester A to view the apartment; however, Tester A was unable to make that appointment that day and called to cancel and spoke to Ms. Russell. When Tester A called back on October 23, 2003, to reschedule the appointment, Mr. Russell confirmed that the two-bedroom apartment was still available. When Tester A stated to Mr. Russell that the apartment was for herself and her three-month-old daughter and asked if she could view the apartment, Mr. Russell stated that the apartment was not available to be shown and that Tester A would "need to be in the other building, because this is a seniors building." Tester A clarified with Mr. Russell that 4215 W. Martin Drive was the building he was referring to as a senior building. Mr. Russell also stated that there were no available apartment units in the other building.

15. On October 23, 2003, Tester B spoke by telephone to Tony Russell, inquiring whether a two-bedroom apartment was available. Mr. Russell asked if Tester B had any children, and she replied that the apartment would be for her and her husband. Mr. Russell responded "Okay, because this is senior housing." Later on October 23, 2003, Tester B, escorted by Mr. Russell, viewed the subject property. During her visit, Mr. Russell told Tester B that no children were allowed to live in the building and that the apartment they viewed was available for rent on the day they viewed it.

16. Upon information and belief, Defendants have not rented to families with children at the subject property since at least May 1998. Only one family with a child has lived at the property during that time and that child was born while the mother was living at the property.

17. Defendant Robert Perlick has previously been the subject of a familial status housing discrimination complaint. On or about December 9, 1991, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) brought a charge of discrimination against Robert Perlick in HUD ALJ Case No. 05-90-1369-1, alleging a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a), (c) and (d) for allegedly applying a "singles only rental policy" at the subject property. On or about March 9, 1992, Robert Perlick entered into an Initial Decision and Consent Order to resolve the controversy. That Consent Order includes a permanent injunction against familial status discrimination.

18. On May 17, 2004, Complainant Sharon Spears filed a complaint of discrimination (HUD Form 903) with the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") alleging that the Defendants discriminated against her and her minor children, on the basis of their familial status, in violation of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq.

19. Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD ("Secretary") conducted and completed an investigation of the complaint and engaged in conciliation efforts, which were unsuccessful.

20. Thereafter, the Secretary prepared a final investigative report based upon information gathered during the investigation, and the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discriminatory housing practices had occurred. HUD issued its Determination of Reasonable Cause on July 14, 2005

21. HUD issued its Charge of Discrimination against the Defendant on July 14, 2005, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(g)(2)(A), charging Defendants with engaging in discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq.

22. On August 2, 2005, Defendant made a timely election to have Complainants' claims resolved in federal court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a).

23. Subsequently, on August 3, 2005, the Secretary, through the General Counsel of HUD, authorized the Attorney General to file this action on behalf of the Complainants, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o)(1).

COUNT I

24. Plaintiff, United States of America, realleges and incorporates by reference the allegations set forth in paragraphs 1 through 23 above.

25. Defendants, Walter Perlick Family Trust, Robert Perlick, Tony Russell and Patricia Russell have discriminated against Complainants, Sharon Spears and her minor child by:

  1. denying or refusing to negotiate for the rental of, or otherwise making a dwelling unavailable on the basis of familial status, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a); and
  2. making, printing or publishing, or causing to be made, printed or published notices or statements with respect to the rental of a dwelling that indicate a preference, limitation, or discrimination, based on familial status, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c).

26. As a result of the conduct or actions of the Defendants, Complainants Sharon Spears and her child have suffered damages and they are aggrieved persons within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i).

27. The discriminatory conduct or actions of the Defendants were intentional, willful, and taken in disregard of the rights of the Complainants and others.

COUNT II

28. Plaintiff, United States of America, realleges and incorporates by reference the allegations set forth in paragraphs 1 through 23 above.

29. There may be other persons who have suffered damages as a result of Defendants' conduct or actions, and they would be aggrieved persons within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i).

30. Defendants engaged in conduct that constitutes:

  1. A pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a); or
  2. A denial to a group of persons of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, which denial raises an issue of general public importance, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).

31. Specifically, Defendants have discriminated against Complainants Sharon Spears and Cierra Y. Lewis and other aggrieved persons by:

  1. denying, or refusing to negotiate for the rental of, or otherwise making a dwelling unavailable on the basis of familial status, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a);
  2. making, printing or publishing, or causing to be made, printed or published notices or statements with respect to the rental of a dwelling that indicate a preference, limitation, or discrimination, based on familial status, or an intention to make any such preference, limitation, or discrimination in 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c).

32. The discriminatory conduct or actions of the Defendants were intentional, willful, and taken in disregard of the rights of Complainants Sharon Spears and Cierra Y. Lewis and other aggrieved persons.

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

1. Declares that the discriminatory housing practices of Defendants Walter Perlick Family Trust, Robert Perlick, Tony Russell and Patricia Russell, as set forth above, violate the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq.;

2. Enjoins Defendants Walter Perlick Family Trust, Robert Perlick, Tony Russell and Patricia Russell, their employees, agents, successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with any of them, from continuing to discriminate on the basis of familial status against any person in any aspect of the rental of a dwelling, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3), 3613(c)(1) and 3614(d)(1)(A);

3. Awards monetary damages to the Complainants for their injuries caused by the discriminatory housing practices of Defendants Walter Perlick Family Trust, Robert Perlick, Tony Russell and Patricia Russell pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3), 3613(c)(1) and 3614(d)(1)(B); and

4. Assesses a civil penalty against the Defendants 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.

STEVEN M. BISKUPIC

517 East Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202
Tel: (414) 297-1700
Fax: (414) 297-4394

United States Attorney

s/ Matthew V. Richmond
MATTHEW V. RICHMOND
Chief, Civil Division

ALBERTO R. GONZALES
Attorney General

s/ Bradley J. Schlozman
BRADLEY J. SCHLOZMAN
Acting Assistant Attorney General

s/ Steven H. Rosenbaum
STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
Chief, Housing and Civil
Enforcement Section

s/ Carl A. Anderson
DONNA M. MURPHY
Deputy Chief
CARL A. ANDERSON
Trial Attorney
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil
Enforcement Section - G St.
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530
Tel: (202) 305-1077
Fax: (202) 514-1116


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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