Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN

MILWAUKEE DIVISION

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

Plaintiff,

                        v.                                                                   Civil No. ______

EDITH HALVORSEN,
PHYLLIS HASENSTAB, and
REALTY 100, Inc., d/b/a/
RE/MAX REALTY 100,

COMPLAINT

            The United States alleges as follows: 

NATURE OF ACTION

            1. This action is brought by the United States 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 ("Fair Housing Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.

            2. The United States brings this action on behalf of Tami Doss ("Doss") and Margaret Silkey ("Silkey") pursuant to Section 812(o) of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. & 3612(o).

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

            3. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1345 and 42 U.S.C.§ 3612(o).

            4. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because the actions giving rise to the United States' allegations occurred in the Eastern District of Wisconsin and the subject property is located in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

PARTIES AND PROPERTY

            5. Doss is an African-American woman. She currently resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

            6. Silkey, at all relevant times, served as Doss' real estate agent and was an agent with First Weber Group Realtors. She currently resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

            7. Defendant Edith Halvorsen ("Defendant Halvorsen") is a white woman. She currently resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

            8. Defendant Phyllis Hasenstab ("Defendant Hasenstab") is a white woman. At all times relevant to this action, Defendant Hasenstab served as Defendant Halvorsen's real estate agent and was employed as a real estate agent by Defendant Realty 100, Inc., d/b/a RE/MAX Realty 100 ("RE/MAX"). She currently resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

            9. Defendant RE/MAX is an independently owned and operated franchise of RE/MAX International. Defendant RE/MAX is a Wisconsin corporation that does business in the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

            10. The subject property is a single family home located in Milwaukee County, 9042 West Mount Vernon Avenue, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53226 (the "subject property" or "property"). At all times relevant to this action, Defendant Halvorsen owned the subject property.

            11. The subject property is a dwelling as defined in Section 802(b) of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).                      

ALLEGATIONS

            12. In July 2005, Silkey learned that Defendant Halvorsen planned to sell the subject property. Silkey informed Defendant Halvorsen that she had a prospective buyer who she thought would be interested in the property. Silkey was referring to Doss. Defendant Halvorsen asked Silkey if her client was black and made statements indicating she did not want to sell the property to a black person.

            13. On or about July 28, 2005, Defendant Halvorsen signed a listing agreement with Defendant Hasenstab regarding the sale of the subject property.

            14. On or about July 29, 2005, Silkey saw a "for sale" sign outside the property. On at least two occasions thereafter, Silkey called Hasenstab and left messages saying that she wanted to schedule an appointment to show the property to a prospective buyer. Hasenstab did not return her call.

            15. On or about July 29, 2005, Silkey spoke with an employee of the Multiple Listing Service ("MLS") and informed that employee of Halvorsen's discriminatory statement. The MLS employee informed Hasenstab of Silkey's complaint against Halvorsen. After learning of Silkey's complaint, and knowing that Silkey was attempting to show the property to a black prospective buyer, Defendants Hasenstab and Halvorsen amended the listing agreement to add a provision excluding Silkey from showing the subject property to any client. The exclusion read: "EXCLUDED FROM SHOWING THIS PROPERTY IS AGENT MARGARET SILKEY OF FIRST WEBER." Defendant Halvorsen signed the amendment on August 1, 2005. Defendant Hasenstab also signed, but did not date, the amendment. When Silkey called RE/MAX for a third time on or about August 4, 2005, an employee of RE/MAX informed Silkey that under the listing agreement, she was excluded from showing the subject property.

            16. Defendants excluded Silkey from showing the subject property because of race and with the intent to prevent Silkey from showing the property to a black prospective buyer.

            17. On or about August 11, 2005, Defendant Halvorsen accepted an offer to purchase the subject property from a white male. The property was later sold to that individual.

THE ADMINISTRATIVE COMPLAINT

            18. On or about December 5, 2005, Silkey filed a timely verified complaint of discrimination with the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") alleging that Defendants Halvorsen, Hasenstab, and RE/MAX violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to negotiate for the sale of a dwelling and by making discriminatory statements because of the race of her client, Doss, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3604(a) and (c).

            19. On or about June 13, 2006, Doss filed a timely verified complaint of discrimination with HUD alleging that Defendants Halvorsen, Hasenstab, and RE/MAX violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to negotiate for the sale of a dwelling and discriminating in brokers services because of her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(a) and 3606.             

            20. Pursuant to the requirements of 42 U.S.C. §§ 3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD ("Secretary") conducted and completed an investigation of the complaints and engaged in conciliation efforts. On March 2, 2006, Silkey entered into a conciliation agreement with Defendant Halvorsen, which was approved by the Secretary. Conciliation efforts were otherwise unsuccessful.

            21. Thereafter, the Secretary prepared a final investigative report based upon the information gathered during the investigation, and the Secretary, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3610(g)(1), determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that discriminatory housing practices had occurred.

            22. On or about September 26, 2006, HUD issued its Determination of Reasonable Cause and Charge of Discrimination ("Charge") against the Defendants on or about September 26, 2006, 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, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(a), (c), (d), 3605, and 3617.

            23. On or about October 3, 2006, Defendants Hasenstab and RE/MAX made a timely election to have the claims resolved in federal court, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(a).

            24. Subsequently, on or about October 4, 2006, the Secretary, through the Regional Counsel of HUD for Region V, authorized the Attorney General to file this action on behalf of the Complainant, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3612(o)(1).VIOLATIONS OF THE FAIR HOUSING ACT

            25. By their actions and statements referred to in paragraphs 12-17, Defendants have:

            a.         refused to negotiate for the sale of, or otherwise made unavailable or denied, a dwelling because of race or color, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a);

            b.         made statements with respect to the sale of a dwelling that indicate a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race or color, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(c);

            c.         discriminated against a person (or persons) in making available a real estate-related transaction because of race or color, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3605; and

            d.         coerced, intimidated, threatened, or interfered with, a person (or persons) in the exercise or enjoyment of, or on account of the person's (or persons') having exercised or enjoyed, or on account of the person's (or persons') having aided or encouraged any other person in the exercise or enjoyment of, any right granted or protected by §§ 3603-3606, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3617.

            26. As a result of Defendants' conduct, Doss and Silkey have suffered damages and are aggrieved persons within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i)(1).

            27. The discriminatory actions of Defendants were intentional, willful, or taken in disregard of the rights of Doss and Silkey.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

            WHEREFORE, the United States prays that this Court enter an ORDER that:

            1. Declares that Defendants' conduct as alleged herein violates the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601, et seq.;

            2. Enjoins Defendants, their agents, employees, and successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with them from discriminating on the basis of race against any person in any aspect of the sale of a dwelling, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c)(1);

            3. Awards monetary damages to Doss from all Defendants and awards monetary damages to Silkey from Defendants Hasenstab and RE/MAX pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 3612(o)(3) and 3613(c)(1); and


            4. Awards such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.







ALBERTO R.
GONZALES Attorney General


STEVEN M. BISKUPIC
United States Attorney


   s/ Matthew V. Richmond
MATTHEW V. RICHMOND
517 East Wisconsin
Avenue 

Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202
Tel: (414) 297-1700
Fax: (414)297-4394
   s/ Wan J. Kim
WAN J. KIM
Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division


  s/ Steven H. Rosenbaum
STEVEN H. ROSENBAUM
Chief, Housing and Civil
Enforcement Section


   s/ Jeffrey D. Preston
TIMOTHY MORAN
Deputy Chief
JEFFREY D. PRESTON
Trial Attorney
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil

Enforcement Section - G St.
950 Pennsylvania Avenue,
N.W. Washington, DC 20530
Tel: (202) 305-0056
Fax: (202) 514-1116






Document Filed: November 2, 2006

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Updated August 6, 2015

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