Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF INDIANA

HAMMOND DIVISION

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

           Plaintiff,

v.

CIVIL NO.

LAKE COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS;
and LAKE COUNTY REDEVELOPMENT COMMISSION

           Defendants.

C O M P L A I N T

The United States of America alleges:

1. This action is brought by the United States on behalf of Richard J. Hucker and the estate of Charles R. McInturf, 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. Venue is proper in this Court because the defendants are both governmental entities in this district and the actions underlying the complaint took place in this district.

4. Defendant Lake County Board of Commissioners (Board of Commissioners) consists of three elected commissioners. At the time of the alleged housing discrimination the members were Frances DuPey, Gerry Scheub, and Rudolph Clay. The defendant Board of Commissioners has authority to appoint the five members of the defendant Lake County Redevelopment Commission (Redevelopment Commission).

5. Defendant Redevelopment Commission oversees the Lake County Community Economic Development Department (Development Department), approves spending and projects for the Development Department, and appoints and contracts with the Development Department's executive director.

6. Defendant Redevelopment Commission consists of five members: one member of the defendant Board of Commissioners, one member of the county council, and three residents of the county. At the time of the alleged housing discrimination, the members of the defendant Redevelopment Commission were Gerry Scheub, Larry Blanchard, John Brezik, A.F. "Pete" Harrigan, and Joseph Krnich.

7. On or about November 30, 2000, Richard J. Hucker filed a timely complaint with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") pursuant to Section 810(a) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3610(a). Mr. Hucker's complaint alleged that the defendant Board of Commissioners and Redevelopment Commission, as well as Board of Commissioners members Gerry Scheub and Frances DuPey and Redevelopment Commission members A.F. Harrigan, Larry Blanchard, John Brezik, Joe Krnich, and Gerry Scheub, violated the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§3601-3619, by engaging in acts of intimidation, harassment, and retaliation against him because he had aided others in the exercise of rights protected by the Act by complying with the Act.

8. On or about March 6, 2001, Mr. Charles R. McInturf filed a timely complaint with HUD pursuant to Section 810(a) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3610(a). Mr. McInturf's complaint alleged that the defendant Redevelopment Commission, as well as Board of Commissioners member Gerry Scheub and Gene Krasoczka, the Acting Director of the Development Department, violated the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§3601-3619, by engaging in acts of intimidation, harassment, and retaliation against him because he aided others in the exercise of rights protected by the Act by supporting a new housing development. Mr. McInturf has subsequently died; his estate is continuing to pursue his complaint.

9. Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD conducted and completed an investigation into both Mr. Hucker's and Mr. McInturf's complaints, attempted conciliation without success, and prepared final investigative reports as to the complaints. Based on information gathered in the investigations, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3610(g)(1), determined that reasonable cause exists to believe that discriminatory housing acts had occurred involving both Mr. Hucker and Mr. McInturf. Therefore, on August 18, 2004, the Secretary issued a Charge of Discrimination as to both complaints pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3610(g)(2)(A), charging defendants with engaging in discriminatory housing practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

10. On or about September 3, 2004, Mr. Hucker served the other parties and HUD with notice of his election to have the charges resolved in a federal civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3612(a). The Chief Administrative Law Judge issued a Notice of Election of Judicial Determination stating that on September 7, 2004 Mr. Hucker made a timely election to have the claims asserted in HUD's Charge of Discrimination decided in a civil action.

11. The Secretary of HUD has authorized the Attorney General to commence a civil action on behalf of Mr. Hucker and Mr. McInturf pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3612(o).

12. Mr. Hucker began working for the Lake County, Indiana, government in 1982 and became the Executive Director of the Development Department in 1984.

13. In 1986, Lake County Economic Development Corporation (Development Corporation) was incorporated. The Development Corporation is a non-profit organization created, among other things, to provide economic revitalization and charitable and educational activities to alleviate unemployment, blight, and deterioration in Lake County, Indiana. Beginning in 1986, Mr. Hucker served concurrently as President of the Development Corporation and as Executive Director of the Development Department.

14. Mr. McInturf began his employment with the Development Department in 1991. In 2000, he was serving under Mr. Hucker in the position of Deputy Director II in the Development Department.

15. In 1992, Mr. Hucker began making plans for a new development, TimberCreek Estates (TimberCreek), which would be a planned subdivision of approximately 182 affordable, owner-occupied, single-family homes. Mr. McInturf participated in planning the development of TimberCreek.

16. In 1994, the Development Corporation purchased approximately 107 acres of property in the City of Lake Station on which TimberCreek was to be developed. The Development Corporation planned to use federal funds (i.e., Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds from HUD), which would be passed through Lake County's Development Department, to finance TimberCreek.

17. In January 1995, the Development Corporation filed its first application with the Advisory Plan Commission of the City of Lake Station, Indiana (Plan Commission), for preliminary plat approval. During the Plan Commission's public hearings regarding TimberCreek, individuals made comments opposing the development because of the likelihood that African-Americans would purchase homes in TimberCreek.

18. On May 17, 1995, after extensive public hearings, the Plan Commission denied preliminary plat approval for TimberCreek. In 1996, the Development Corporation amended its plat proposal and resubmitted it to the Plan Commission for approval. On August 28, 1996, the Plan Commission voted against the amended proposal. At the public hearing for the amended proposal, community members again made comments indicating fear that African-Americans would move into TimberCreek. After the Plan Commission agreed on September 25, 1996 to hear an appeal of its denial, it again voted against the proposal.

19. In July 1995, Mr. Hucker, as executive director of the Development Department, notified the City of Lake Station that the Development Department was suspending federal funding to the City of Lake Station. Mr. Hucker stated that the Plan Commission's recent actions "indicate that the City has not assisted the County in undertaking essential community development and housing assistance activities pursuant to its certifications and [that the City of Lake Station] may have in fact attempted to block or impede the County's goals by official action and by allowing or condoning adverse action of its citizens." In making his decision to suspend funding, Mr. Hucker relied on CDBG program requirements related to civil rights that require the County not to fund governments or activities that do not "affirmatively further fair housing."

20. On August 25, 1995, the Northwest Indiana Open Housing Center (NIOHC) filed a race discrimination complaint with HUD, naming the City of Lake Station and the Plan Commission as respondents. On June 4, 1997, the complaint was transferred to the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division (DOJ) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(C) because it involved the legality of state or local zoning or other land use laws or ordinances.

21. On July 8, 1997, Mr. Hucker wrote a letter to a DOJ attorney who was handling the HUD referral of the NIOHC complaint. Mr. Hucker expressed his view that the lack of adequate sewer capacity, which was at least one of the Plan Commission's explanations for denying the plat approval for TimberCreek, was a racially discriminatory pretext for not allowing TimberCreek to be built. The mayor of Lake Station received a copy of Mr. Hucker's letter and forwarded a copy to the county's Board of Commissioners and Redevelopment Commission.

22. On July 29, 1997, Gerry Scheub, a member of the county Board of Commissioners, wrote a letter to Mr. Hucker telling Mr. Hucker that he should not have written the letter to DOJ and should not "act as an advocate on the issue of any alleged discrimination. Your role is to implement a program."

23. On August 1, 1997, Mr. Hucker responded in writing to Commission Scheub's letter and stated that, in his role as an administrator of a program receiving federal money, Mr. Hucker had an obligation to oversee the administration of that program and all sub-grantees and to ensure compliance with federal laws, including the Fair Housing Act. Therefore, Mr. Hucker's acts in cooperating with DOJ were "central to the implementation of the program."

24. Based on its investigation that arose from the HUD referral of the NIOHC complaint, in December 1998 DOJ filed a complaint in federal court against the City of Lake Station, Indiana, and the Plan Commission. (United States v. City of Lake Station, Indiana, Civil Action No. 2:98 CV 478 RL.) Mr. Hucker continued to assist DOJ in its investigation and litigation of housing discrimination allegations in Lake Station.

25. On March 9, 2000, Mr. Hucker wrote a letter to Robert F. Poffenberger, Director of HUD's Office of Community Planning and Development, stating that on February 23, 2000 the Redevelopment Commission felt it was time to "get out of the housing business." On April 18, 2000, Mr. Poffenberger wrote a letter to the county Board of Commissioners in response to Mr. Hucker's letter advising Lake County officials not to reprogram any CDBG funds previously approved for TimberCreek and not to sell the land acquired for TimberCreek until the DOJ's "pending litigation" was resolved.

26. On September 1, 2000, the Redevelopment Commission voted by a vote of 3 to 2 to extend Mr. Hucker's employment contract as executive director of the Development Department for an additional four-year term, from January 1, 2001 to January 1, 2005. The contract was signed and executed on September 1, 2000.

27. On September 6, 2000, the Board of Commissioners changed the composition of the Redevelopment Commission. The Board of Commissioners replaced all three members of the Redevelopment Commission who had voted on September 1, 2000 to renew Mr. Hucker's contract.

28. On October 6, 2000, the Redevelopment Commission, with three new members, unanimously voted to rescind Mr. Hucker's four-year contract that had been approved at the September 1, 2000 meeting. On October 6., 2000, the Redevelopment Commission also unanimously voted that "we should not be in the business of building homes" but should "concentrate more on the rehabilitation of homes." In addition, at the October 6, 2000 meeting, the Redevelopment Commission voted to return all funds in the Development Corporation's account back to the Development1 Department's account.

29. On October 20, 2000, a Consent Order resolving DOJ's claims in United States v. City of Lake Station, Indiana was lodged with the Court. The Court entered the Consent Order on March 26, 2001. The Consent Order requires the City of Lake Station not to block the development of TimberCreek, to build the necessary sewers, and to consider helpful tax abatements. The Consent Order requires the Plan Commission to grant preliminary and final plat approval for the various phases of TimberCreek's development.

30. On November 9, 2000, the Redevelopment Commission placed Mr. Hucker on administrative leave with pay.

31. After 16 years of employment as the executive director of the Development Department, on December 14, 2000, the Redevelopment Commission voted not to renew Mr. Hucker's contract that expired on January 1, 2001.

32. After nine years of employment with the Development Department, on December 14, 2000 the Redevelopment Commission voted to eliminate the position of Deputy Director II that Mr. McInturf held. Neither the Redevelopment Commission nor the interim executive director of the Development Department chose to assign Mr. McInturf to another position.

Count I

33. The United States re-alleges and herein incorporates by reference the allegations set forth in paragraphs 12 through 32 above.

34. By supporting the development of TimberCreek and by assisting in DOJ's investigation and litigation of housing discrimination allegations in Lake Station, Mr. Hucker was aiding or encouraging other persons in the exercise or enjoyment of rights granted or protected by section 804 of the Fair Housing Act.

35. As a result of Mr. Hucker's actions in support of the Fair Housing Act, the defendants interfered with and retaliated against Mr. Hucker by, among other things, rescinding an executed four-year employment contract and then refusing to renew the contract.

36. By their actions described above, the defendants have committed unlawful discriminatory housing practices in violation of Section 818 of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3617, by interfering with and retaliating against Mr. Hucker on account of his having aided or encouraged others in the exercise or enjoyment of rights granted under Section 804 of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §3604.

37. Mr. Hucker is an aggrieved person as defined in Section 802(i), 42 U.S.C. §3602(i).

38. Mr. Hucker has suffered damages, including economic loss and emotional and physical distress, as a result of defendants' conduct.

39. The discriminatory actions of the defendants were intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of Mr. Hucker.

Count II

40. The United States re-alleges and herein incorporates by reference the allegations set forth in paragraphs 12 through 32 above.

41. By supporting the development of TimberCreek in the City of Lake Station, Mr. McInturf was aiding or encouraging other persons in the exercise or enjoyment of rights granted or protected by section 804 of the Fair Housing Act.

42. As a result of Mr. McInturf's actions in support of the Fair Housing Act, the defendants interfered with and retaliated against Mr. McInturf by, among other things, eliminating his employment position as Deputy Director II, which resulted in the termination of his approximate nine-year employment with the Development Department.

43. By their actions described above, the defendants have committed unlawful discriminatory housing practices in violation of Section 818 of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3617, by interfering with and retaliating against Mr. McInturf account of his having aided or encouraged others in the exercise or enjoyment of rights granted under Section 804 of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §3604.

44. Mr. McInturf is an aggrieved person as defined in Section 802(i), 42 U.S.C. §3602(i).

45. Mr. McInturf has suffered damages, including economic loss and emotional and physical distress, as a result of defendants' conduct.

46. The discriminatory actions of the defendants were intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of Mr. McInturf.

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

1. Declares that the defendants' conduct violates the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3617;

2. Enjoins the defendants, their agents, employees, and successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with them from further coercing, intimidating, threatening, or otherwise interfering with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of rights granted under the Fair Housing Act in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3617.

3. Awards monetary damages to Mr. Hucker and the estate of McInturf, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§3612(o)(3) and 3613(c)(1).

The United States prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.



Dated:    October 6, 2004



JOHN ASHCROFT
Attorney General

______________________
R. ALEXANDER ACOSTA
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division

______________________
STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
Chief, Housing and
Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division ______________________
DONNA M MURPHY
Deputy Chief
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Northwestern Building, 7th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20530
Phone: (202) 514-1775
Fax: (202) 514-1116
donna.murphy2@usdoj.gov

Document Filed: October 6, 2004 > >
Updated August 6, 2015

Was this page helpful?

Was this page helpful?
Yes No