Civil Action No. 00-K-2542
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE COUNTY OF MONTEZUMA,
The United States initiated this action pursuant to section 814(a) of the Fair Housing Act, as amended 42 U.S.C. §3614(a), which authorizes the Attorney General to initiate a lawsuit in federal court whenever he or she has reasonable cause to believe that any person or a group of persons is engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of any of the rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, or that any person or group of persons has been denied any such rights and such denial raises an issue of general public importance. In its Complaint, the United States alleged that Defendant Board of County Commissioners of the County of Montezuma ("Board") violated Sections 804(a), 804(b), 804(f)(1), and 804((f)(2) of the Fair Housing Act (F.H.A.) on the basis of disability, race, color or national origin when it refused to issue a land use permit for the establishment of a group home in Montezuma County for adolescents, some of whom may be Native American, who are recovering from alcohol and/or drug dependency.
The County denies that it violated any provisions of the Fair housing Act in this instance. The County also denies the allegations of the Complaint, which contend that the denial of the permit at issue here was based on the handicap or ethnicity of the persons to be served by this group home.
The County and the Unites States desire to avoid costly and protracted litigation and agree that the claims against the County should be resolved without a trial. The parties have agreed to entry of this Consent Decree, which resolves all of the plaintiff's claims for injunctive and monetary relief.
The parties jointly enter into and file this Consent Decree. Accordingly, they AGREE, and the Court ORDERS, as follows:
I. JURISDICTION AND SCOPE OF ORDER
1. The parties stipulate and the Court finds that the Court has personal jurisdiction over the Defendant for purposes of this Civil Action, and subject matter jurisdiction over the claims in this Civil Action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1345 and 42 U.S.C. §3614(a).
2. This Consent Decree shall remain in effect for a period of three (3) years from the effective date of the Consent Decree. The Court shall retain jurisdiction over this Action for the duration of this Consent Decree for the purpose of enforcing any of its provisions and terms.
3. The parties and their attorneys agree to work cooperatively with one another and in good faith to resolve informally any differences regarding interpretation of and compliance with this Consent Decree prior to bringing such matters to the Court for resolution, and to effectuate the purposes of this Consent Decree.
4. For the purposes of this Decree, the terms "discriminate," "otherwise make unavailable" and "deny" refer to what the term "discrimination" includes under Section 804 of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §3604, including, but not limited to, any refusal to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a handicapped person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.
5. For purposes of this Decree, the term "handicap" and "disability" are defined as the term "handicap" is defined in section 802(h) of the Fair Housing Act as amended, 42 U.S.C. §3602(h), and include, but not limited to recovery from alcohol and/or drug addiction, and mental or emotional disabilities that otherwise meet the definition contained in Section 802(h).
6. "Effective date" of the Consent Decree refers to the date the Court gives final approval to and enters this Consent Decree.
7. The Montezuma County Commissioners believe that they did not violate the Fair Housing Act in this instance. However, the Board agrees that it will comply with and follow the requirements of the Fair Housing Act in all respects, including applications for residential treatment facilities and any other use of a dwelling, without regard to the handicap, race, or national origin of the applicant or potential tenant.
Further, the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners acknowledges the clear need for a residential, adolescent treatment facility for substance abuse, to be located in Montezuma County, consistent with the F.H.A.
8. Beginning on the date of entry of this Decree and throughout its term, the Board and/or County will adhere to the following requirements when and if it receives a request of any type for zoning or land use approval from an applicant seeking to establish a facility in Montezuma County for adolescents with substance abuse problems.
If the County elects to decline the request for zoning or land use approval, whether by denying an application for a high impact permit or otherwise, the County will make specific findings of fact and will prepare written findings explaining the specific reason(s) it elected to decline the request for zoning or land use approval. If one or more of the reasons is that the proposed land use is likely to create an adverse "impact" or adverse effects on the surrounding neighbors or neighborhoods, or the "health," "safety," and/or "welfare" of the Citizens of Montezuma County, the County shall specifically identify the nature of the impact and/or effects.
9. The Board agrees to conduct training on the Fair Housing Act, which will initially involve in-person training by a representative of the State of Colorado or other entity approved by the United States. This training will be videotaped and repeated as necessary to inform newly elected or appointed County staff of the requirements of the Fair Housing Act. This training shall be directed to the Commissioners, the County Planning Staff and Commission, and the County Administrator. The County will bear the cost of this training, but not to exceed $500.00. Records of the attendees at this training will be forwarded to the Plaintiff's representative during the pendency of this Decree, within thirty (30) days after completion of said training.
The initial training will take place within sixty (60) days after the entry of this Decree, and thereafter within sixty (60) days after new staff are elected or appointed.
10. During the pendency of this Decree, the County will advise the United States of each application for a land use permit which is received by the County for purposes of establishing a residential facility in Montezuma County for adolescents with substance abuse problems. This report will be submitted to the Plaintiff's designee within thirty (30) days of receipt of same. The Plaintiff's designee shall then have the opportunity to insect such application or application and records of the County's action on the same, upon reasonable notice to the County.
11. In order to settle the monetary claims of the United States, including those on behalf of the aggrieved persons, the County shall pay the total sum of $65,000.00, plus any accrued interest, by making the three payments indicated below. Within thirty (30) days of the effective date of this Decree, the County shall provide to the United States a check made payable to John Brach for $30,000.00. In consideration of this payment, Mr. Brach will execute a release of claims form substantially equivalent to that set forth in Exhibit A appended hereto signifying that the payment he receives will constitute full settlement of any claims he may have relating to the subject matter of this lawsuit. Counsel for the United States shall obtain the signed release form and shall provide it to the County upon receipt of the damages check. Within thirty (30) days of the date of the effective date of this Decree, the County shall also deposit $30,000.00 into an interest bearing escrow account for the purpose of creating a fund to provide financial assistance in paying costs and fees incurred in obtaining treatment for youth in Montezuma and Dolores counties with alcohol and/or drug dependency problems from non-governmental treatment providers. Verification of this account will be provided to the United States at the time the account is established. The funds will be allocated by an entity or entities approved by the United States. Within ninety (90) days of the effective date of this Decree, the United States will notify the County of the entity or entities to whom these funds should be distributed and the County will promptly make such distributions, including all accrued interest. Finally, the County shall also pay the United States the sum of $5,000.000, by check made payable to the United States Treasury. Such payment shall be forwarded to the United States within fifteen (15) days of the effective date of this Decree.
JOHN L. KANE
United States District Court Judge
|FOR THE BOARD OF COUNTY
COMMISSIONERS OF THE
COUNTY OF MONTEZUMA:
|FOR THE UNITED STATES:|
David R. Brougham
HALL & EVANS, L.L.C.
1200 17th St., Suite 1700
Denver, CO 80202-5817
Isabelle M. Thabault
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Civil Rights Division
Housing & Civil Enforcement Section
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20530
In consideration for the parties' agreement to the terms of the Consent Order entered in the case of United States v. Board of County Commissioners of the County of Montezuma, Civ. No. 00-254, and the defendant's payment to John Brach the sum of thirty ($30,000), I, John Brach, hereby agree, effective upon receipt pf payment, to remise, release and forever discharge all claims of any kind, nature or description whatsoever, related to the facts at issue in the litigation referenced above, or in any way related to that litigation, up to the date of this release, that I may have against Defendant.
I acknowledge and understand that, by signing this Release and accepting this payment, I am waiving any right to pursue my own legal action based on the discrimination alleged by the United States in this case.
I also acknowledge that I have been informed that I may review the terms of this Release with an attorney of my choosing, and to the extent that I have not obtained that legal advice, I voluntarily and knowingly waive my right to do so.
I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct.
Document Filed: August 6, 2002 > >