UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
CENTRAL DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff
vs. Case No.
DENNIS OHNSTAD, Individually, d/b/a
SURBANA ESTATES, a/k/a SUR-BANA
MOBILE ESTATES a/k/a SURBANA
ESTATES MOBILE HOME PARK, and in
his capacity as President of RILEY HOMES. INC.;
JOHN NORTH; and SURBANA ESTATES
a/k/a SUR-BANA MOBILE ESTATES, a/k/a
SURBANA ESTATES MOBILE HOME PARK,
a/k/a SURBANA MOBILE ESTATES, INC., a/k/a
SUR-BANA MOBILE ESTATE, INC.,
The United States of America alleges that:
- This is a civil action brought by the United States on behalf of Tommy Murrietta and Linda Stanley to enforce the provisions of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3604(a),(b), and (c) and §3617.
- Defendant Dennis Ohnstad is sued individually and in his capacity as (a) the co-owner of and the person actively doing business as defendant Surbana Estates, (b) manager of Surbana Estates Mobile Home Park, and (c) as president of Riley Homes, Inc., throughout the time period relevant to this action.
- Defendant Surbana Estates, a/k/a Sur-Bana Mobile Estates, a/k/a Surbana Estates Mobile Home Park, a/k/a Surbana Mobile Estates, Inc., a/k/a Sur-Bana Mobile Estate, Inc. owns and operates the mobile home park located at 246 South Dewey Street, Urbana, Champaign County, Illinois.
- Defendant John North is sued in his capacity as co-owner of defendant Surbana Estates.
- This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§1331 and 1345 and 42 U.S.C. §3612(o).
- Venue is proper in the Urbana Division of this judicial district under 28 U.S.C. §1391(b) in that the events giving rise to this action occurred in Champaign County, Illinois, which is in the Urbana Division of this Court.
- Linda Stanley is a Caucasian female who resided in a mobile home purchased from Riley Homes, Inc., and located on a lot at Surbana Estates. Ms. Stanley rented that lot from Surbana Estates pursuant to an oral lease from approximately the spring of 1997 until December 2000.
- The mobile home lot rented by Ms. Stanley is a dwelling within the meaning of Section 802 of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3602(b).
- Tommy Murrietta is an African-American male who in October 1999, moved in with Ms. Stanley at her mobile home in Surbana Estates. At that time, they were involved in a romantic relationship and had plans to get married.
- On or about October 29, 1999, Ms. Stanley delivered a written notice to defendant Ohnstad that Mr. Murrietta would be residing with her. The sole purpose of this notice was to enable Mr. Murrietta's vehicle to be registered with the mobile home park. This was the same procedure Ms. Stanley had followed previously with defendant Ohnstad when her adult son, sister, and mother had lived with her in the mobile home at Surbana Estates.
- Shortly thereafter, defendant Ohnstad served written notice on Ms. Stanley that Mr. Murrietta could not live in her mobile home without approval. Mr. Ohnstadt had not imposed such a requirement on any Caucasian person who had previously resided with Ms. Stanley in her mobile home at Surbana Estates.
- Mr. Murrietta began the process of applying for residence at Surbana Estates, even though he was not to be responsible for payment of any portion of the lot rent Ms. Stanley was obligated to pay pursuant to her lease agreement with the defendants. However, before he had completed all the necessary paperwork, defendant Ohnstad denied Mr. Murrietta's application on or about November 10, 1999, allegedly because of his irregular employment and an inability to verify his income. At the time, Mr. Murrietta received approximately $650 per month in veteran's compensation and was employed. These facts were made available to Mr. Ohnstad.
- Prior to November 1999, Mr. Ohnstad had approved Caucasian individuals for residency at Surbana Estates as the sole leaseholder despite poor credit, insufficient credit, and bankruptcy filings.
- In addition to denying his application for residence, defendant Ohnstad also demanded that Mr. Murrietta vacate Ms. Stanley's mobile home within two weeks. Mr. Murrietta did not do so, and defendant Ohnstad, on or about December 1, 1999, served a written notice on Ms. Stanley to remove Mr. Murrietta from the mobile home. Mr. Murrietta remained at Ms. Stanley's mobile home, and, on or about December 6, 1999, defendant Ohnstad served Ms. Stanley with a 10 day notice to quit or surrender possession.
- While Mr. Murrietta resided at Surbana Estates, defendant Ohnstad made statements to both Ms. Stanley and Mr. Murrietta indicating that the latter was not welcome to live at the park because of his race.
- Because of the defendants' unlawful actions, Mr. Murrietta vacated Ms. Stanley's mobile home in April 2000.
- Because of the defendants' unlawful actions, Ms. Stanley vacated her mobile home in December 2000.
- Defendant Ohnstad has admitted that no African-American has resided at Surbana Estates during the more than 15 years that he has been the manager of the park.
- On or about January 25, 2000, Ms. Stanley and Mr. Murrietta filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (hereinafter "HUD") pursuant to the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §3610. The complaint alleged, inter alia , that Dennis Ohnstad and Surbana Estates were engaged in discriminatory housing practices because of Mr. Murrietta's race and that these practices injured both Ms. Stanley and Mr. Murrietta. The complaint was subsequently amended to add similar allegations against additional respondents.
- Subsequent to the filing of the complaint with HUD, defendant Ohnstadt retaliated against the complainants by refusing to speak with them and by refusing to respond to Ms. Stanley's requests for repairs to her mobile home.
- Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§3610(a) and (b), the Secretary of HUD (hereinafter the "Secretary") conducted an investigation of the complaint and amended complaint, attempted conciliation without success, and prepared a final investigative report. Based on the information gathered in this 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. Therefore, on May 17, 2002, the Secretary issued a charge of discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3610(g)(2) charging defendants with engaging in racially discriminatory practices in violation of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S. §§3604 and 3617.
- On May 31, 2002, the defendants elected to have this matter resolved in the United States District Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3612.
- By their actions, including those described above, defendants discriminated against Ms. Stanley and Mr. Murrietta on the basis of race and intimidated, interfered with, and retaliated against them in the exercise of and on account of having exercised their federally-protected fair housing rights.
- By their actions and statements referred to in the foregoing paragraphs, defendants have:
- made unavailable and denied a dwelling because of race or color, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3604(a);
- discriminated in the terms, conditions, and privileges of rental and occupancy of a dwelling because of race or color, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3604(b);
- made statements with respect to the rental of a dwelling that indicate a preference, limitation, or discrimination based on race or color, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3604(c);
- coerced, intimidated, interfered with, and retaliated against persons in the exercise or enjoyment of, on account of having exercised and enjoyed, and on account of having aided and encouraged another person in the exercise and enjoyment of rights protected by the Fair Housing Act, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3617.
- Defendants' actions and statements described above were intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the fair housing rights of Mr. Murrietta and Ms. Stanley.
WHEREFORE, the United States prays that this Court enter an Order that:
- Enjoins the defendants from discriminating against, intimidating, threatening, interfering with, or retaliating against persons on the basis of race, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§3604 and 3617;
- Awards such damages as will fully compensate Tommy Murrietta and Linda Stanley for all injury occasioned by defendants' discriminatory actions and statements, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3612(o); and
- Awards punitive damages because of the intentional and willful nature of defendants' conduct and statements, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §3612(o).
The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.
JAN PAUL MILLER
United States Attorney
BY:DAVID H. HOFF
Assistant United States Attorney
United States Attorney
201 S. Vine Street, Suite 226
Urbana, IL 61802
Document Filed: July 30, 2002 > >
A. Declares that defendants' discriminatory housing practices violate the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§3601 et seq;