FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1998
TDD (202) 514-1888
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SUES JACKSON APARTMENT OWNER AND
HIS AGENTS FOR EXCLUDING AFRICAN AMERICANS
WASHINGTON, DC -- The owner and operators of rental properties in Jackson, Mississippi, were sued by the Justice Department today for allegedly discriminating against African American home seekers.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson, alleges that A. Waddell Nejam, who owns and rents townhouses and apartments in the Belhaven neighborhood, leasing agent Ann B. Sumrall, and a former leasing agent, Alice Perry, falsely told African Americans that apartments were not available.
While white individuals posing as apartment seekers were told that units were available or soon to become available, similarly qualified African Americans allegedly were told there were no vacancies or were given incomplete information about current or future openings. The Department developed the evidence of discrimination in large part through its fair housing testing program, which has now resulted in a total of 50 cases nationwide.
"It's been thirty years since the Fair Housing Act became law, and we are still having to fight hard to guarantee that everyone in this country has an equal opportunity to live in a place he or she can afford," said Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "The Department's testing program has proven to be an effective weapon in our continuing efforts to ensure fair housing."
The suit seeks a court order barring the defendants from future discriminatory conduct. It also seeks damages for anyone who experienced unlawful discrimination at Nejam Properties.
"Modern-day patterns of race discrimination by landlords may take many subtle forms. This case is one result of our efforts to make sure these quiet but illegal forms of discrimination are detected," said U.S. Attorney Brad Pigott. "We have a duty to seek out racial discrimination in housing, and we are determined to bring legal action as a strong deterrent against any illegal housing discrimination."
Individuals who believe that they may have been discriminated against at Nejam Properties because of either their race or their children, or anyone else who has information concerning this case, should contact the Department of Justice at 1-800-896-7743, or contact Assistant U.S. Attorney Mitzi Dease Paige at 601-965-4480. A. Waddell Nejam Properties is located at 904-A Morningside Street in Jackson.
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