Complaint United States v. Applewood of Cross Plains (W.D. Wis.)
Case: 3:16-cv-00037 Document#: 1 Filed: 01/15/16 Page 1of15
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
APPLEWOOD of CROSS PLAINS, LLC,
WILLIAM RANGUETTE, and CANDACE
Case No. 16-cv-37
The United States of America ("United States"), by its undersigned counsel,
hereby states and alleges as follows:
NATURE OF ACTION
1. This action is brought by the United States on behalf of Laura Doty and
Brenda Doty to enforce the provisions of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (the
"Fair Housing Act" or "Act"), as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of
1988, 42 u.s.c. §§ 3601-3619.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331
and 1345, and 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(0) and 3614(a). Venue is proper in this judicial district
pursuant to 28U.S.C.§1391(b) and 42 U.S.C. § 3612(0), as defendants are located in this
district and the events or omissions giving rise to the claims occurred in this district.
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AGREIVED PERSONS, DEFENDANTS, AND THE SUBTECT PROPERTY
3. Laura Doty ("Laura Doty" or "Complainant"), who during the relevant
time was over the age of 55, has cerebral palsy, is sight impaired, and is a person with a
disability, as defined by 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h).
4. Laura Doty is the court-appointed guardian of, and resides with, Brenda
Doty, her daughter, who during the relevant time was age 21. Brenda Doty is also a
person with a disability, Down Syndrome. Laura Doty has the legal authority to act on
behalf of her daughter Brenda.
5. Sandie Kisting ("Kisting") is a close friend of Laura Doty and her
daughter Brenda Doty (collectively, the "Dotys"), and has served as the representative
payee for the Dotys' Social Security benefits from November 2013, to the present. Ms.
Kisting also frequently serves as an advocate for the Dotys, and assists t11em with things
such as finding housing, communicating with others on their behalf, shopping, and
6. At all relevant times, defendant Applewood of Cross Plains, LLC
(" ACP"), a Wisconsin Limited Liability Corporation, owned Applewood Apartments,
located at 2704 Military Road, Cross Plains, Wisconsin 53528 (the "Subject Property").
ACP operates under t11e Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program administered by the
Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority ("WHEDA"). The Subject
Property contains 15 rental units, including 12 two-bedroom apartments and 3 onebedroom
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7. At all relevant times, defendant William Ranguette ("Ranguette") had an
ownership interest in ACP. ACP authorized Ranguette to manage the Subject Property,
and to act on its behalf in the overall operation and maintenance of the Subject
Property. Ranguette was also the only person authorized to take adverse actions
against tenants at the Subject Property.
8. Between November 2013, and June 2014, defendants ACP and Ranguette
employed defendant Candace Wood ("Wood") to serve as an agent and the resident
manager of the Subject Property. Her responsibilities included showing apartments to
potential tenants, discussing eligibility guidelines with potential tenants, collecting
paperwork and application fees from potential tenants, and receiving tenant
9. The Subject Property constitutes a dwelling within the meaning of 42
U.S.C. § 3602(b), and is not exempt from the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.
10. During the relevant time period, the Subject Property was advertised and
presented to the public as housing with eligibility restricted to individuals 55 years or
older. ACP also had an obligation to make the Subject Property available to individuals
with disabilities pursuant to a Land Use Restriction Agreement with WHEDA.
11. On July 21, 2013, the Dotys signed a lease with defendant Ranguette,
signing for defendant ACP, for Unit 7 at the Subject Property. Ms. Kisting assisted the
Dotys with finding the Subject Property, which was more accessible than their prior
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living situation, and was located in an area that allowed them to do such things as walk
to go shopping, to the doctor, and to church. The Dotys' lease term began on August 1,
2013, and expired on June 30, 2014.
12. With Ranguette' s permission, the Dotys began moving their belongings to
the Subject Property on July 26, 2013. From July 26, 2013, through June 30, 2014, the
Dotys resided in Unit 7 in the Subject Property.
13. While moving their belongings into the Subject Property between July 26,
and 29, 2013, the Dotys were subjected to offensive comments and gestures by at least
three other tenants. One tenant, identified as Lucille Blythe, pointed at Brenda Doty
stating "You don't belong here ... You belong in an institution," or similar words to that
14. Defendant Ranguette admitted that between approximately July 26, and
July 29, 2013, three tenants complained to him about the Dotys, referred to Brenda Doty
as "mentally retarded," and indicated to him that Brenda Doty should not be living at
the Subject Property.
15. On July 29, 2013, Kisting, on behalf of the Dotys, contacted Ranguette by
Brenda had a few rough evenings around bedtime ... crying loudly ... [Laura
Doty] calmed her down and put her to bed. Brenda usually goes to sleep M-F at
8 pm because she works at 8:30 am daily. Let me know if there are any concerns
because the trio of ladies were saying that they don't think Brenda should he
living there. She's a great kid and an honor student. She made National honor
society 4 yrs of high school. ..
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16. On or arom1d July 30, 2013, defendant Ranguette and Kisting spoke by
telephone. Ranguette informed Kisting that his policy was not to get involved with
neighbor disputes. Notwithstanding this assertion, during this conversation,
Ranguette requested through Kisting that the Dotys develop a "plan" to deal with noise
complaints regarding Brenda Doty.
17. Term 32(b) of defendant ACP's lease with the Dotys states that "[A]s a
condition of tenants continuing right to use and occupy the premises te1mis [sic] agrees
and promises to: ... Not to make or permit use of the premise or building for any
unlawful purpose for [sic] any purpose that will damage injure or adversely affect the
premise or building [sic] the other tenants the landlord or the agent."
18. Term 30 of defendant ACP' s lease with the Dotys states that" [S]hould
tenant neglect or fail to perform and observe any of the terms of this lease landlord will
give tenant written notice of such requiring tenant to remedy. [sic] The breach or vacant
19. Term 22 of ACP's lease provides that tenants should "File noise complaint
tlu·ough the police department."
20. Between July 31, 2013, and August 5, 2013, Kisting, on behalf of the Dotys,
communicated by email with the Tenant Resource Center in Madison, Wisconsin, about
the situation asking for assistance because the Dotys' landlord was not responding to
complaints of disability-based harassment and was requiring a written plan for them to
continue living at the Subject Property.
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21. On August 9, 2013, defendant Ranguette emailed Kisting stating, "I spoke
to my insurance [sic] Call me when you have time to discuss."
22. On or around August 9, to August 13, 2013, defendant Ranguette and
Kisting spoke by telephone. During this conversation, Ranguette stated his opinion that
Brenda Doty was not capable of "independent living" and stated falsely that his
insurance company would not cover the Subject Property with her living there.
Defendant Ranguette stated that Brenda Doty could not stay in the unit.
23. On August 13, 2013, Kisting, on behalf of the Dotys, emailed defendant
Ranguette "I finally located the fair housing statutes that you may need for use with
future tenants ... This way you will have the correct information for future endeavors."
A few minutes later, Kisting emailed Ranguette again stating that she was contacting
"involved parties" to discuss how "we can deal with the fact that your insurance agent
is refusing to cover you because of Brenda's inability to live alone."
24. On August 16, 2013, defendant Ranguette emailed Kisting asking," Any
progress on a plan? Is there anything I can help with?" In a separate email that same
day, defendant Ranguette expressed indignation that Kisting had sent him fair housing
25. On August 16, 2013, Laura Doty and Kisting contacted the police to allege
harassment by the Dotys' neighbor, Lucille Blythe. In the police report, the officer states
I contacted Lucille Blythe at her apartment, #2. I informed Blythe of the
complaint and asked what she knew about it. Blythe denied any knowledge of
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contact with anyone in apartment #7. I informed Blythe that I did not believe her
and that she was not to harass anyone in apartment #7 or their guests. I told
Blythe she is not to follow tenants from #7 around the building. I informed
Blythe that tenants in apartment #7 were not the problem and have every right to
live in the building.
26. On August 18, 2013, Kisting, on behalf of the Dotys, emailed defendant
Ranguette to report that Blythe was following Laura Doty to the laundry room when
Blythe was not doing laundry, Blythe was coming out of her apartment to observe
Laura in the hallway when she heard Laura talking to others, and that Blythe and other
tenants informed Laura that she could not use the common foyer area with tables and
chairs. In this communication, Kisting informed Ranguette that Brenda Doty had been
remaining inside the apartment so that she was not bothered by other tenants. Kisting
further informed Ranguette that police had become involved and that the police had
informed them that Laura Doty and her daughter should be able to move freely around
the building without fear of other tenants.
27. In this August 18, 2013 email, in response to defendant Ranguette asking
about Laura Doty moving, Kisting stated that "I'm not sure they can afford to move.
They just put out $1300.00 to move into Applewood." The next day, Ranguette replied
to this email, ignoring the reported harassment, but stating that he would refund the
Dotys' security deposit if they were to move.
28. On August 20, 2013, police were again summoned by Laura Doty. She
informed the officer that she was fearful that she and her daughter would be evicted by
Ranguette. She also stated that Blythe followed her up and down the hallway of the
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building and the sidewalk. The officer informed her that the landlord could not evict
her without following state law.
29. On or about September 19, 2013, Jodi Hansen, from Catholic Charities,
spoke to defendant Ranguette about his efforts to have the Dotys move and the
offensive comments and actions of other tenants.
30. During this conversation, Hansen raised the issue of the harassment of the
Dotys with defendant Ranguette, who replied that he did not get involved in tenant
disputes. Defendant Ranguette also stated to Hansen that his insurance could be
affected by renting to the Dotys because Brenda Doty was not capable, in his opinion, of
31. For the remainder of the Dotys' tenancy, the Dotys and Kisting continued
to complain to Ranguette and defendant Wood about Blythe following the Dotys,
staring at them, and making offensive comments to them and their guests; such as that
the Dotys should not be living there. Defendant Wood told Laura Doty to ignore the
other tenants and defendant Ranguette took no action. Wood allegedly failed to report
these further complaints to Ranguette as she stated that she only reported issues
relating to the "safety and welfare" of tenants.
32. The actions identified in Paragraphs 13-31 above diminished the Dotys'
use and enjoyment of their home and left Brenda Doty fearful of leaving the apartment.
33. In a letter dated May 1, 2014, addressed to "Laura Doty" and "Brenda
Doty," defendant Ranguette informed the Dotys that their lease would terminate on
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June 30, 2014, and would not be renewed for another term. He provided no reason for
34. Thereafter, Kisting contacted Ranguette to obtain a reason for the
nonrenewal. Ranguette stated that he was under no obligation to provide one.
35. On or around May 28, 2014, in response to continued offensive comments
and actions by Blythe, Laura Doty and Kisting sent a "cease and desist" letter by
certified mail to Blythe, with a copy to defendant Ranguette. This letter stated:
Please cease and desist any and all activities that cause harassment or
intimidation of Laura J Doty and Brenda C Doty ... [We have] asked you
repeatedly to stop following Laura and Brenda in the hallway or common areas.
We have spoken to you about making snide comments to Laura and other
tenants regarding Brenda's disability .... You continually harass Laura despite
the verbal warnings from the Police Deparhnent, Laura , and [Kisting].
36. Defendant Ranguette took no action in response to this letter.
37. After the notice of nonrenewal, Kisting assisted the Dotys in trying to find
an accessible place for them to live. As a result, Kisting took time off work, and,
ultimately, helped the Dotys move for the second time within one year.
38. Laura and Brenda Doty vacated the apartment on June 30, 2014, in
accordance with ACP' s and Ranguette' s lease non-renewal letter.
39. After vacating the apartment, Laura and Brenda Doty spent
approximately one month living with Kisting before they were able to move to a more
expensive unit that was less conveniently located and not fully accessible for people
with disabilities. Kisting also assisted the Dotys with moving and locating temporary
storage. The Dotys are now less able to independently access services because of their
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location, so rely to a greater extent on Kisting to assist with such things as grocery
shopping and errands.
HUD ADMINISTRATIVE PROCESS
40. On or about February 4, 2015, Laura Doty timely filed a complaint with
the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD"), on behalf
of herself and Brenda Doty, alleging discrimination on the basis of disability. The
complaint was amended on May 12, 2015, and September 9, 2015.
41. Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD conducted
and completed an investigation of the complaint, attempted conciliation without
success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based upon the information gathered
in the investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A), determined
that reasonable cause existed to believe that illegal discriminatory housing practices had
occurred because of disability. As a result, on September 30, 2015, the Secretary issued
a Charge of Discrimination, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A), charging that the
defendants had engaged in discriminatory practices, in violation of the Fair Housing
Act, as amended.
42. On October 22, 2015, defendant ACP elected to have the claims asserted in
HUD' s Charge of Discrimination decided in a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
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43. On October 23, 2015, the Chief Administrative Law Judge issued a Notice
of Election of Judicial Determination and terminated the administrative proceedings on
the complaint filed with HUD.
44. Following this Notice of Election, the Secretary of HUD authorized the
Attorney General to commence a civil action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(0).
FAIR HOUSING ACT VIOLATIONS
45. The United States reasserts the allegations set forth in paragraphs 11-42
above as if fully set forth herein. Through the actions described above:
a. Defendants ACF and Ranguette violated subsection 804(f)(l) of the
Act by refusing to renew Laura Doty' s lease because of her and her daughter Brenda
Doty's disabilities, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(£)(1);
b. Defendants ACF and Ranguette violated subsection 804(f)(2) of the
Act by demanding that the Dotys develop a" plan" to deal with Brenda Doty' s
disability-related behavior, by pressuring Laura Doty and her daughter Brenda to
move, and by refusing to allow them to remain at the Subject Property due to their
disabilities, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2);
c. Defendants ACF, Ranguette, and Wood violated subsection
804(£)(2) of the Act by failing to fulfill their duty to take prompt action to correct and
end the disability-related harassment suffered by Laura Doty and her daughter Brenda
Doty from other tenants, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2);
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d. Defendants ACP, Ranguette, and Wood violated section 818 of the
Act by failing to fulfill their duty to take prompt action to correct and end the disabilityrelated
harassment suffered by Laura Doty and her daughter Brenda Doty from other
tenants, 42 U.S.C. § 3617;
e. Defendants ACP and Ranguette retaliated against Laura Doty and
her daughter Brenda Doty in violation of section 818 of the Act by refusing to renew the
Dotys' lease because Laura Doty asserted her right to an equal opportunity to use and
enjoy the property without being subject to disability-related harassment, 42 U.S.C. §
f. Defendants ACP and Ranguelte denied rights granted under the
Fair Housing Act to a group of persons and such denial raises an issue of general public
importance, 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).
46. Laura Doty, Brenda Doty, and Sandie Kisting are each" aggrieved
persons" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i).
47. As a result of defendants' discriminatory conduct, Laura Doty, Brenda
Doty, and Sandie Kisting have suffered damages.
48. The discriminatory actions of the defendants were intentional, willful, and
taken in disregard of the federally-protected rights of Laura Doty, Brenda Doty, and
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- RELIEF REQUESTED
WHEREFORE, the United States requests the Court enter an order:
1. Declaring that the discriminatory conduct of defendants as set forth above
violates the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619;
2. Enjoinillg defendants, their agents, employees, successors, and all other
persons in active concert or participation with any of them from:
a. discriminating in the sale or rental, or otherwise making m1available or
denying, a dwelling to any buyer or renter because of disability, in violation of 42 U.S.C.
b. discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of
a sale or rental of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in cmmection
with such dwelling, because of disability, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(2);
c. coercing, intimidating, threatening, or interfering with any person in the
exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of his or her having exercised or enjoyed, or on
accom1t of his or her having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or
enjoyment of any right granted or protected by the Fair Housing Act, in violation of 42
u.s.c. § 3617.
3. Requiring defendants to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary
to restore, as nearly as practicable, Laura Doty, Brenda Doty, and Sandie Kisting to the
position they would have been in but for the discriminatory conduct;
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4. Requiring defendants to take such actions as may be necessary to prevent
the recurrence of any discriminatory conduct in the future and to eliminate, to the
extent practicable, the effects of their unlawful conduct, including implementing
policies and procedures to ensure that no applicants or residents are discriminated
against because of disability;
5. Awarding monetary damages to Laura Doty and Brenda Doty, pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(0)(3), 3613(c)(1), and 3614(d)(l)(B);
6. Awarding monetary damages to Sandie Kisling, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
7. Assessing civil penalties against defendants in amounts authorized by 42
U.S.C. § 3614(d)(l)(C) to vindicate the public interest; and
8. Awarding such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.
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Dated this 15.ili day of January 2016.
LORETTA E. LYNCH
Attorney General of the United States
/s/ Vanita Gupta
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division
/s/ Elizabeth A. Singer
SAMEENA SHINA MAJEED
ELIZABETH A. SINGER
Director, U.S. Attorney's Fair Housing Program
Housing & Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pem1sylvania Avenue, N\l\T - NWB
Washington, DC 20530
(202) 514-6164 (telephone)
(202) 514-1116 (facsimile)
JOHN W. VAUDREUIL
United States Attorney
Isl Leslie K. Herje
LESLIE K. HERJE
Assistant United States Attorney
Chief, Civil Division
Assistant United States Attorney
222 West Washington A venue
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 264-5158 (telephone)