Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents

RALPH F. BOYD, JR.
Assistant Attorney General
STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
Chief, Housing and Civil
   Enforcement Section
TIMOTHY J. MORAN
Deputy Chief, Housing and Civil
   Enforcement Section
ERIC I. HALPERIN
Attorney, Housing and Civil
   Enforcement Section - G St.
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530
Tel: (202) 353-9706
Fax: (202) 514-1116

JAMES A. MCDEVITT
United States Attorney
PAMELA DERUSHA
Assistant United States Attorney
P.O. Box 1494
Spokane, WA 99210-1494
Tel: (509) 353-2767
Fax: (509) 353-2766

Attorneys for Plaintiff
United States of America


UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

           Plaintiff,

BOWEN PROPERTY MANAGEMENT,
SPOKANE HOUSING AUTHORITY,
WESTFALL VILLAGE APARTMENTS,
L.P., JOHN BALLAS,
AND KERREY LEMONS,

           Defendants.

_____________________________

Civil No.:

COMPLAINT

The United States of America alleges:

  1. Jurisdiction. The United States brings this action to enforce the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 - 3619 ("Fair Housing Act"). This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1345; 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o); and 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).
  2. Venue is proper in the Eastern District of Washington because the claims alleged herein arose in this District.
  3. DEFENDANTS
  4. Defendant Bowen Property Management is an Oregon corporation that does business in the state of Washington. At all times relevant to this action, Bowen Property Management managed Westfall Village Apartments located at 3724 N. Cook Street in Spokane, Washington.
  5. Defendant Spokane Housing Authority is a public housing authority established in 1971 and provides housing for low-income, disabled, and elderly individuals in Spokane, Pend Oreille, Stevens, and Whitman counties.
  6. Defendant Westfall Village Apartments, L.P. is a for-profit limited partnership registered with the State of Washington. Westfall Village Apartments, L.P. is the owner of Westfall Village Apartments. Defendant Spokane Housing Authority is the general partner of Westfall Village Apartments, L.P.
  7. Defendant John Ballas was, at all times relevant to this action, the vice president and general manager of operations for Bowen Property Management. Mr. Ballas is a defendant only for the claim brought on behalf of Natalya Prach.
  8. Defendant Kerrey Lemons was, at all times relevant to this action, an area manager for Bowen Property Management. Ms. Lemons was responsible for the management of Westfall Village Apartments, including the selection of new tenants and the approval of transfers by existing tenants to new apartments.
  9. DISCRIMINATORY CONDUCT
  10. The units at Westfall Village Apartments are dwellings within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
  11. Westfall Village Apartments opened for occupancy in the summer of 1997. There was an initial period when new applicants could receive an apartment immediately, but eventually the number of applicants was greater than the number of available units. Bowen Property Management maintained a waiting list of individuals interested in renting an apartment at Westfall Village Apartments.
  12. In December 1999, Natalya Prach, a tenant at Westfall Village Apartments, began working for Bowen Property Management as an assistant resident manager. Ms. Prach was supervised by Kerrey Lemons. Ms. Prach speaks Russian and is of Russian national origin. One of her responsibilities was to serve as translator for conversations between Russian tenants and applicants, who could not speak English, and Ms. Lemons, who could not speak Russian.
  13. Defendant Kerrey Lemons charged applicants for initial tenancy or transfer who were of Russian national origin an additional fee that was not charged to applicants who were not of Russian national origin. The applicants who paid the fee were given apartments at Westfall Village Apartments even though non-Russian applicants, who had inquired about an apartment earlier, were on the waiting list.
  14. Mikhail and Nadry Azarov emigrated to the United States from Russia in December 1999. They are of Russian national origin. In early 2000, they contacted Westfall Village Apartments, and asked if there was a unit available for immediate occupancy. They were required to make a $200 payment to Kerrey Lemons, which was in addition to the regular fees required of new tenants, and moved into Westfall Village Apartments approximately two weeks later, in February 2000. Ms. Lemons never told the Azarovs that they would have to be placed on a waiting list before they could receive an apartment.
  15. In or about April 2000, Mikhail and Nadry Azarov wanted to move to a second-floor apartment. Ms. Azarov contacted Kerrey Lemons and asked if they could transfer to a different unit at Westfall Village Apartments. Ms. Lemons told Ms. Azarov that Ms. Azarov would need to pay $200 for the new apartment. Ms. Azarov paid the fee and they moved into a second-floor apartment on May 5, 2000. Ms. Azarov was never told that she would have to be placed on a waiting list before she could transfer to a new apartment at Westfall Village Apartments.
  16. In July 1997, Irina and Vladimir Greben moved into a two-bedroom unit at Westfall Village Apartments. They had one child that lived with them at the time. The complex had just opened and there was no waiting list. Irina and Vladimir Greben are of Russian national origin.
  17. In or about March 2000, Ms. Greben contacted the Westfall Village Management office and requested a transfer to a larger apartment. Ms. Greben was pregnant and was concerned that her two-bedroom apartment would be cramped with two adults and two children, and she preferred a larger apartment. Ms. Greben was informed that she could have a three-bedroom apartment if she paid $300 to Ms. Lemons. Ms. Greben went to the management office, and, in the presence of Ms. Prach, paid Ms. Lemons $300. The Grebens, however, never received a three-bedroom apartment.
  18. Vera Filipenko is a tenant at Westfall Village Apartments. In or about February 2000, Ms. Filipenko was required to pay $150 to Kerrey Lemons, which was in addition to the regular fees required of new tenants, for Nadezhda and Aleksey Pronkin, Ms. Filipenko's sister and brother-in-law, to move into an apartment at Westfall Village Apartments. Mr. and Ms. Pronkin moved into Westfall Village Apartments in or about March 2000; they did not have to place their names on a waiting list before receiving an apartment. Mr. Pronkin, Ms. Pronkin, and Ms. Filipenko are all of Russian national origin.
  19. Kerrey Lemons accepted fees, which were in addition to the regular fees required of new tenants, from other Russian applicants, as well as the Azarovs, the Grebens, and Vera Filipenko.
  20. The Defendants did not solicit such payments from non-Russian applicants.
  21. On or about May 30, 2000, Natalya Prach informed John Ballas of Bowen Property Management that Kerrey Lemons was accepting and soliciting additional fees from Russian tenants and applicants in return for renting them apartments.
  22. After Ms. Lemons learned that Ms. Prach had complained, Ms. Lemons told Ms. Prach that Ms. Prach would be fired and evicted from her apartment if Ms. Lemons got in trouble for accepting and soliciting extra payments from Russian applicants.
  23. On or about June 1, 2000, John Ballas fired Natalya Prach from her position as an assistant resident manager at Westfall Village Apartments. When Mr. Ballas fired Ms. Prach, he had information from another Bowen employee verifying Ms. Prach's statements that Kerrey Lemons accepted extra payments from Russian applicants.
  24. On or about June 9, 2000, Bowen Property Management served a three-day notice to quit and vacate the premises demanding that Natalya Prach leave her apartment or face eviction proceedings.
  25. After Ms. Prach was fired, Kerrey Lemons continued to be employed by Bowen Property Management as an area manager with responsibility for managing Westfall Village Apartments. Upon information and belief, Kerrey Lemons were not disciplined by Bowen Property Management for accepting extra payments from Russian applicants.
  26. The decision by Bowen Property Management to fire Natalya Prach and serve a three-day notice to vacate the premises on Natalya Prach was made in retaliation for her complaining that Kerrey Lemons was soliciting and accepting additional payments from Russian applicants.
  27. Non-Russian applicants were denied the opportunity to rent available apartments on the same basis as Russian applicants because Russian applicants who made extra payments were given preference over non-Russian applicants.
  28. COUNT I  -  SECTION 3612(o)(1) CLAIM
    ON BEHALF OF RUSSIAN TENANT COMPLAINANTS
  29. On or about July 11, 2000, Mikhail Azarov, Nadry Azarov, Irina Greben, Vladimir Greben, and Vera Filipenko filed timely complaints of housing discrimination with the Department of Housing and Urban Development against Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., John Ballas, and Kerrey Lemons pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a). Each of these three complaints alleged that Defendants discriminated against the complainants in the terms, conditions, privileges or services of rental on the basis of national origin.
  30. Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD conducted an investigation of the complaint and attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on the information gathered in the investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), determined that reasonable cause existed to believe that a discriminatory housing practice had occurred based on national origin. Accordingly, on or about September 30, 2002, HUD issued a Determination of Reasonable Cause and Charge of Discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A), charging Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., and Kerrey Lemons with discriminating against the Azarovs, the Grebens, and Ms. Filipenko on the basis of national origin in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b).
  31. On or about October 16, 2002, Bowen Property Management made a timely election to have the Charge resolved in a civil action filed in federal court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a), and the Secretary of HUD authorized the United States Attorney General to commence a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).
  32. The parties subsequently agreed that the statutory deadline to file this action under 42 U.S.C. 3612(o) be extended. Accordingly, this action is timely.
  33. Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., and Kerrey Lemons discriminated against the Azarovs, the Grebens, and Ms. Filipenko in the terms, conditions and/or privileges of rental of a dwelling, and/or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of national origin in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b).
  34. The discriminatory actions of Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., and Kerrey Lemons, and their failures to act were intentional, willful and/or taken in disregard for, and/or with deliberate indifference to, the rights of the Azarovs, the Grebens, and Ms. Filipenko.
  35. The Azarovs, the Grebens, and Ms. Filipenko are aggrieved persons as defined in Section 802(i) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i), who suffered actual injury and damages as a result of the Defendants' conduct.
  36. COUNT II  -  SECTION 3612(o)(1)CLAIM
    ON BEHALF OF NATALYA PRACH
  37. On or about July 11, 2000, Natalya Prach filed a timely complaint of housing discrimination with the Department of Housing and Urban Development against Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., John Ballas, and Kerrey Lemons pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a). The complaint alleged that Defendants discriminated against her by interfering with her in the exercise or enjoyment of, and/or on account of having exercised or enjoyed, and/or on account of having aided and/or encouraged any other person in the exercise and/or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by 42 U.S.C. § 3604, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3617.
  38. Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD conducted an investigation of the complaint and attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on the information gathered in the investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), determined that reasonable cause existed to believe that a discriminatory housing practice had occurred based on national origin. Accordingly, on or about September 30, 2002, HUD issued a Determination of Reasonable Cause and Charge of Discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A), charging Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., John Ballas, and Kerrey Lemons with discriminating against Ms. Prach on the basis of national origin in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3617.
  39. On or about October 21, 2002, Bowen Property Management made a timely election to have the Charge resolved in a civil action filed in federal court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a), and the Secretary of HUD authorized the United States Attorney General to commence a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).
  40. The parties subsequently agreed that the statutory deadline to file this action under 42 U.S.C. 3612(o) be extended. Accordingly, this action is timely.
  41. Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., John Ballas, and Kerrey Lemons discriminated against Ms. Prach by interfering with her in the exercise or enjoyment of, and/or on account of having exercised or enjoyed, and/or on account of having aided and/or encouraged any other person in the exercise and/or enjoyment of, rights granted or protected by 42 U.S.C. § 3604, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3617.
  42. The discriminatory actions of Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., John Ballas, and Kerrey Lemons, and their failures to act, were intentional, willful and/or taken in disregard for, and/or with deliberate indifference to, the rights of Ms. Prach.
  43. Ms. Prach is an aggrieved person as defined in Section 802(i) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i), who suffered actual injury and damages as a result of the Defendants' conduct.
  44. COUNT III  -  SECTION 3612(o)(1)CLAIM
    ON BEHALF OF NORTHWEST FAIR HOUSING ALLIANCE
  45. Northwest Fair Housing Alliance (NWFHA) is a private non-profit corporation whose mission is to ensure equal housing opportunity for the people of eastern Washington through education, counseling, and advocacy.
  46. In June 2000, NWFHA received complaints alleging that the Defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating on the basis of national origin. The NWFHA expended significant resources as a result of the Defendants' discriminatory conduct, including but not limited to counseling complainants about their rights under the Fair Housing Act and investigating the complaints. The NWFHA was forced to divert resources from other activities to investigate and respond to the complaints.
  47. On or about July 11, 2000, Northwest Fair Housing Alliance (NWFHA) filed a timely complaint of housing discrimination with the Department of Housing and Urban Development against Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., John Ballas, and Kerrey Lemons pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(a). The complaint alleged that NWFHA was injured by Defendants' discriminatory housing practices based on national origin.
  48. Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD conducted an investigation of the complaint and attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on the information gathered in the investigation, the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), determined that reasonable cause existed to believe that a discriminatory housing practice had occurred based on national origin. Accordingly, on or about September 30, 2002, HUD issued a Determination of Reasonable Cause and Charge of Discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(2)(A), charging Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., and Kerrey Lemons with discriminating on the basis of national origin in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(b) and 3617.
  49. On or about October 16, 2002, Bowen Property Management made a timely election to have the Charge resolved in a civil action filed in federal court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a), and the Secretary of HUD authorized the United States Attorney General to commence a civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o).
  50. The parties subsequently agreed that the statutory deadline to file this action under 42 U.S.C. 3612(o) be extended. Accordingly, this action is timely.
  51. Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., and Kerrey Lemons, by their actions and failure to act:
    1. discriminated on the basis of national origin in the terms, conditions and/or privileges of rental of a dwelling, and/or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b); and
    2. interfered with the exercise or enjoyment of, and/or on account of having exercised or enjoyed, and/or on account of having aided and/or encouraged any other person in the exercise and/or enjoyment of, rights granted or protected by 42 U.S.C. § 3604, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3617.
  52. The discriminatory actions of Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., and Kerrey Lemons, and their failures to act, were intentional, willful and/or taken in disregard for, and/or with deliberate indifference to, the rights of NWFHA.
  53. NWFHA is an aggrieved person as defined in Section 802(i) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i), who suffered actual injury and damages as a result of the Defendants' conduct.
  54. COUNT IV -  PATTERN OR PRACTICE CLAIM UNDER SECTION 3614(a)
  55. The conduct of Defendants Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., and Kerrey Lemons described above in paragraphs 9 - 27 constitutes:
    1. A pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a); and
    2. A denial to a group of persons of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, which denial raises an issue of general public importance, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).
  56. The conduct described above made unavailable and/or denied dwellings to persons who are not of Russian national origin because of their national origin, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a), and discriminated against persons who are not of Russian national origin in the terms, conditions and/or privileges of rental of a dwelling, and/or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of national origin, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b).
  57. The discriminatory actions of Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., and Kerrey Lemons, and their failures to act, were intentional, willful and/or taken in disregard for, and/or with deliberate indifference to, the rights of persons who were subjected to their discriminatory housing practices.
  58. The persons of non-Russian national origin who were subjected to Bowen Property Management, Spokane Housing Authority, Westfall Village Apartments, L.P., and Kerrey Lemons' discriminatory housing practices are aggrieved persons, as defined in Section 802(i) of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i) and suffered actual injury and damages as a result of their conduct.

WHEREFORE, the United States prays for an Order from this Court that:

(1) Declares that the discriminatory housing practices of the Defendants, as set forth above, violate the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 - 3619;

(2) Enjoins the Defendants, their agents, employees and successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with the Defendants, from:

  1. refusing to negotiate for the rental of, or otherwise making unavailable or denying, a dwelling to any person because of national origin;
  2. discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions or privileges of rental of a dwelling because of national origin; and
  3. coercing, intimidating, threatening, or interfering with persons, including the complainants, in the exercise or enjoyment of any right granted or protected by 42 U.S.C. §§ 3603, 3604, 3605, or 3606.

(3) Requires such injunctive relief against the Defendants as is necessary to effectuate the purposes of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.;

(4) Awards monetary damages to the complainants and other persons pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3), 3613(c)(1), and 3614(d)(1)(B), except that Defendant John Ballas shall only be liable for monetary damages related to the claim brought on behalf of Natalya Prach in Count II; and

(5) Awards civil penalties to the United States against Defendants, with the exception of John Ballas, in an amount authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C) in order to vindicate the public interest.

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

JOHN ASHCROFT
Attorney General
JAMES A. MCDEVITT
United States Attorney
PAMELA DERUSHA
Assistant United States
Attorney
P.O. Box 1494
Spokane, WA 99210-1494
Tel:     (509)353-2767
Fax:    (509)353-2766

________________________________
RALPH F. BOYD, JR.
Assistant Attorney General

________________________________
STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
Chief

________________________________
TIMOTHY J. MORAN
Deputy Chief, Housing and
Civil Enforcement Section
ERIC I. HALPERIN
MICHAEL S. MAURER
Attorneys
Housing and Civil
   Enforcement Section - G
St.
Civil Rights Division
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20530
Tel:    (202) 353-9706
Fax:     (202) 514-1116


Document Filed: July 18, 2003 > >
Updated August 6, 2015

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