WASHINGTON – The U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota has ordered the former property managers of the Lakeport Village Apartment in Sioux Falls, S.D., to pay a total of $30,000 in civil penalties because they racially discriminated against three families in violation of the Fair Housing Act, the Department of Justice announced today. The former owner of the complex, TK Properties LLC, and one of its principals, Scott Terveen, had previously paid $30,000 to settle the United States’ claims against them as part of a settlement approved by the court on Dec. 21, 2010.
The government’s lawsuit, filed on Oct. 15, 2009, alleged that former property manager Ann Wagner and former maintenance supervisor Corey Anderson created a racially hostile housing environment for one African-American family and two white families who associated with the African-American family while they were tenants at Lakeport Village. The complaint alleged that Wagner and Anderson used racial epithets in reference to the African-American family and in the presence of all three families, including minor children. The complaint also alleged that Wagner and Anderson retaliated against two white families that had befriended the African-American family. All three families eventually moved out as a result of the defendants’ racially hostile and retaliatory conduct. Wagner and Anderson did not respond to the complaint and the court entered a judgment of default against them in July 2010.
“No person or family should be discriminated against because of race, or retaliated against because of the race of their friends or relatives,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The court’s decision makes clear that such discrimination is unacceptable and that perpetrators will be penalized.”
“This decision helps ensure that equal housing opportunities required by law are available to all South Dakotans. Our office will not tolerate discrimination against persons based upon their race,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of South Dakota Brendan Johnson
The lawsuit originated as a result of complaints the three families filed with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). After an investigation, HUD found reasonable cause to believe that unlawful discrimination had occurred and referred the matter to the Justice Department.
“Today, HUD and the Justice Department stand together against housing discrimination,” said John Trasviña, HUD Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity . “More than that, we will not tolerate retaliation against individuals or families who file discrimination complaints or assist those who do.”
The order, issued on March 9, 2011, by Judge Karen E. Schreier, requires Wagner and Anderson to each pay a $15,000 civil penalty. The order also enjoins Wagner and Anderson from participating in the management or operation of rental housing for a three year period.
Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at www.justice.gov/crt .
Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777.