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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
WESTERN DIVISION


United States of America,
     Plaintiff,

v.

CIVIL ACTION NO. 4-00-CV-00698JMM

James "Jim" W. Webb, Dianna S.
"Sue" Webb, General Properties,
Inc., James P. Matthews,
Lakewood House, L.L.P.,
The Woodcrest Company, L.L.P. and
The Crestwood Company,
     Defendants.

___________________________________


COMPLAINT

The United States of America alleges:

  1. This action is brought by the United States on behalf of Nathaniel Black, Diane Black, and Francesca Black, a minor child, pursuant to Section 812(o) of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).

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

  3. The Lakewood House Apartments is a 107 unit rental housing complex located at 4801 North Hills Boulevard, North Little Rock (the "complex") within the Eastern District of Arkansas.

  4. Defendants James "Jim" W. Webb ("Jim Webb") and Dianna "Sue" W. Webb ("Sue Webb") are married and are residents of North Little Rock, Arkansas in the Eastern District of Arkansas. At all relevant times, they have co-managed the Lakewood House Apartments.

  5. Defendant General Properties, Inc. is an Arkansas corporation doing business in the Eastern District of Arkansas. At all relevant times, defendant General Properties, Inc. has managed the Lakewood House Apartments.

  6. Defendant James P. Matthews is a resident of Roland, Arkansas in the Eastern District of Arkansas. At all relevant times, he has been an owner of the Lakewood House Apartments.

  7. Defendants The Crestwood Company, which is an Arkansas corporation, The Woodcrest Company, L.L.P., which is registered in Arkansas, and Lakewood House, L.L.P., which is registered in Arkansas, all do business in the Eastern District of Arkansas. The Crestwood Company, which was an owner of the complex at the time of the discriminatory acts alleged in this complaint, transferred title of the complex to the The Woodcrest Company, L.L.P. on August 31, 1998, which subsequently transferred title of the complex to Lakewood House, L.L.P. on July 30, 1999. Plaintiff is informed and believes that The Crestwood Company, The Woodcrest Company, L.L.P., and Lakewood House, L.L.P. are separate but related entities under the control of defendant James P. Matthews.

  8. The apartments located in the Lakewood House Apartments are dwellings as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).

  9. Nathaniel Black, a black male, and Diane Black, a white female, are married and together with their minor child, Francesca ("the Blacks"), resided in the Eastern District of Arkansas at the time of the discriminatory acts alleged in this complaint.

  10. On or about July 9, 1998, Diane Black telephoned the Lakewood House Apartments to inquire about the availability of a three bedroom apartment and spoke with defendant Sue Webb. Sue Webb confirmed the availability of a three bedroom unit and told Ms. Black that she could look at a vacant three bedroom unit.

  11. On or about July 10, 1998, Mr. and Ms. Black visited the Lakewood House Apartments. During their visit, defendant Jim Webb told Mr. and Ms. Black that there were no vacancies and that none would be coming available.

  12. A test was conducted to determine if the Lakewood House Apartments was discriminating on the basis of race in the rental of apartments. Testers are persons who, without the intent to rent an apartment or buy a house, gather information about housing for rent or sale in order to help determine whether or not discriminatory housing practices are occurring.

  13. On or about July 10, 1998, a white female tester visited the Lakewood House Apartments, met with defendant Sue Webb, and inquired about the availability of a three bedroom apartment. Sue Webb showed the tester a three bedroom unit and told her that such a unit would be available shortly. She offered the tester the next available three bedroom unit and encouraged the tester to leave an application and a deposit with the security guard at the complex by 11:30 p.m. that evening, if she wanted to secure the unit.

  14. On or about August 17, 1998, Mr. and Ms. Black filed a timely complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") alleging that defendants unlawfully discriminated against them on the basis of race or color in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a). In the complaint, which was amended on or about December 1, 1998 and again on March 23, 2000, the Blacks allege, inter alia, that, on or about July 10, 1998, defendants engaged in unlawful discrimination on the basis of race or color by refusing to rent them an apartment in the Lakewood House Apartments.

  15. Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD conducted and completed an investigation of the Blacks' complaint, attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on information gathered in the investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A), determined that reasonable cause exists to believe that discriminatory housing practices had occurred. Accordingly, on August 17, 2000, the Secretary of HUD issued a Charge of Discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A) (the "Charge"), charging defendants with engaging in discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

  16. On or about August 21, 2000, defendants made an election to have the Charge resolved in a civil action filed in federal district court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a).

  17. Following the election, the Secretary of HUD authorized the Attorney General to commence a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).

  18. Defendants, through actions referred to in paragraphs 10-15 above, have:

    1. refused to rent or negotiate for, or otherwise made unavailable or denied, a dwelling because of race or color, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a); and

    2. represented to a person because of race or color that a dwelling was not available for inspection, sale, or rental when such dwelling was in fact so available, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(d).

  19. The Blacks 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.

  20. The discriminatory actions of defendants were intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of the Blacks.

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

  1. Declares that the discriminatory housing practices of 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, and successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with them from discriminating on the basis of race or color against any person in any aspect of the rental of a dwelling;

  3. Awards such damages as would fully compensate the Blacks for injuries caused by the defendants' discriminatory conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c)(1);

  4. Awards punitive damages to the Blacks pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c)(1); and

  5. Awards such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.


JANET RENO
Attorney General

PAULA J. CASEY
United States Attorney

BILL LANN LEE
Assistant Attorney General

STACEY MCCORD
Assistant United States Attorney
425 W. Capitol
5th Floor
Little Rock AR 72201

JOAN A. MAGAGNA
Chief, Housing & Civil Enforcement Section

ISABELLE M. THABAULT
Deputy Chief
REBECCA BOND
Attorney,
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
P.O. Box 65998
Washington, DC 20035-5998
Tel: (202) 305-1457
Fax: (202) 514-1116
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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