Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

                        Plaintiff,                                       Case No.:

            v.

THE CITY OF AGAWAM,
MASSACHUSETTS,
THE AGAWAM BOARD OF APPEALS,
LARRY HOAGUE AND
DOREEN PROUTY, in their
official capacities as
Members of the City of Agawam
Board of Appeals,

                        Defendants.

COMPLAINT

     The United States of America alleges:

    1. This action is brought by the United States to enforce Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. ァァ3601, et seq. (the "Fair Housing Act").

    2. The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ァァ1331 and 1345 and 42 U.S.C. ァ3614(a).

    3. Defendant City of Agawam (the "City") is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, located within the District of Massachusetts, Western Division. The City is governed by a Mayor and an elected City Council, which is comprised of eleven at-large Councilors.

    4. The Agawam Board of Appeals is elected by the City Council. The Board hears appeals of actions involving the City's building code and zoning ordinances.

    5. Larry Hoague and Doreen Prouty were members of the Board of Appeals at all times relevant to this action. Each resides in the District of Massachusetts, Western Division.

    6. According to the 2000 Census, of Agawam's 28,144 residents, 97.3% are White, while fewer than 1% are Black and 1.8% are Hispanic.

    7. C & E Tobacco, Inc. ("C & E") is a licensed agricultural concern conducting business in Massachusetts and Connecticut. C & E employs approximately 60 workers annually in the harvesting of broad leaf tobacco.

    8. C & E participates in a federally-regulated guest-worker program, known as the "H-2A Program," which was designed to aid United States farmers in filling temporary labor shortages, pursuant to 8 U.S.C. ァ1101(a)(15)(H)(ii), ァ1188 and 20 C.F.R. ァ655.0 et seq.

    9. Beginning in 1998, C & E leased three adjacent parcels of agricultural land on North West Street in Agawam and secured a contract to purchase the central portion of this land for the purpose of harvesting tobacco. In 1999, C & E's President, Calvin Arnold, Jr., formed a Massachusetts Limited Liability Corporation, "CJA III," and transferred C & E's real estate holdings to CJA III.

    10. C & E is required to provide housing for its seasonal non-local farm laborers pursuant to 20 C.F.R. ァ655.102. C & E currently houses its non-local farm employees at two labor residences located in West Suffield, Connecticut and one in Enfield, Connecticut. C & E pays approximately $14,000 per year to rent the Enfield housing facility for its workers. During the harvest season, the farm workers residing in Enfield, spend approximately one and one-half to two hours per day round-trip commuting by bus between their Connecticut housing to C & E's Agawam farm. C & E does not pay the workers for the time they spend commuting each day to or from C & E's Agawam property.

    11. For the past six years, all of C & E's seasonal non-local farm workers who have required grower-provided housing have been Black Jamaican or Hispanic Puerto Rican men.

    12. On January 29, 2001, C & E submitted a Site Plan and an Application for Site Plan Approval to the Agawam Planning Board. The Application proposed to build a residence for approximately 27 seasonal farm workers and a maintenance building for farm equipment on the North West Street tobacco farm.

    13. The proposed farm labor residence is a "dwelling" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. ァ3602(b).

    14. Various City officials, including the Agawam Building Inspector/Zoning Officer, the Mayor of Agawam and the City Solicitor, directly participated in the process of reviewing and recommending changes to the C & E proposal during the Site Plan Application process. C & E responded to each suggested recommendation, modifying the Site Plan according to the officials' suggestions.

    15. On April 19, 2001, the Agawam Planning Board voted unanimously to approve the C & E Site Plan, conditioned upon receipt of a letter from the Agawam Building Inspector indicating whether the proposed uses are "allowed uses" under the Agawam Code and applicable state law.

    16. On or about June 5, 2001, the City of Agawam Law Department issued a Memorandum in response to a request from the Agawam Mayor and the Agawam Building Inspector/Zoning Officer. The Memorandum declared that C & E's Plan to build housing for seasonal farm workers was not an allowed or permitted use under the Town of Agawam zoning ordinances.

    17. On or about July 23, 2001, after numerous public hearings in the matter during which White Agawam residents expressed strong opposition to the housing Site Plan, the Agawam Board of Appeals, by unanimous vote, reversed the decision of the Agawam Planning Board.

    18. The Defendants opposed the proposed housing Site Plan because of local residents' opposition to the housing based on concerns that the housing would be occupied by Black Jamaican and Hispanic Puerto Rican workers.

    19. Because of the Defendants' opposition to the C & E farm worker housing Site Plan, C & E has not built a residence and will therefore be required to continue renting housing facilities for its farm workers in Connecticut during the 2002 growing season and transporting them daily, unless the Defendants' actions are reversed.

    20. The above-stated actions of the Defendants have made dwellings unavailable to persons because of race, color and national origin, in violation of 42 U.S.C. ァ3604(a).

    21. The Defendants' conduct as stated above constitutes a denial of Fair Housing Act rights to a group of persons, which denial raises an issue of general public importance in violation of 42 U.S.C. ァ3614(a).

    22. C & E and the prospective residents of its planned housing have been injured by Defendants' discriminatory housing practices. Such persons are aggrieved persons as defined in 42 U.S.C. ァ3602(i).

    23. Defendants' conduct was intentional, willful, and taken in reckless disregard of the rights of others.

WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the Court enter a JUDGMENT that:

    1. Declares that the actions of the Defendants described herein constitute a violation of the Fair Housing Act, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ァ3614(d)(1)(B), and 28 U.S.C. ァ2201;

    2. Enjoins the Defendants, their officials, agents, employees, and all other persons acting in concert or participation with the Defendants from discriminating on the basis of race, color and national origin in violation of the Fair Housing Act, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ァ3614(d)(1)(A);

    3. Requires the Defendants to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to prevent the recurrence of any discriminatory housing practices in the future and to eliminate the effects of Defendants' unlawful practices described herein, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ァ3614(d)(1)(A);

    4. Awards such damages as would fully compensate each person aggrieved by Defendants' discriminatory housing practices, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ァ3614(d)(1)(B);

    5. Awards each person aggrieved by Defendants' discriminatory housing practices punitive damages, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ァ3614(d)(1)(B); and

    6. Assesses a civil penalty against the Defendants to vindicate the public interest, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ァ3614(d)(1)(C).

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

JOHN ASHCROFT
Attorney General

RALPH F. BOYD, JR.
Assistant Attorney General
for Civil Rights

MICHAEL J. SULLIVAN
United States Attorney

KAREN L. GOODWIN, Esq.
Massachusetts Bar No.: 549398
Assistant U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Massachusetts
U.S. Courthouse
1550 Main Street, Room 310
Springfield, MA 01103
(413) 785-0235

JOAN A. MAGAGNA
Chief, Housing and Civil
Enforcement Section

DIANE L. HOUK
Special Litigation Counsel

LORI K. WAGNER
Virginia Bar No.: 39446
Trial Attorney
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing & Civil
Enforcement Section

Mailing address:
950 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530
Street address: 1800 G Street, NW, Suite 7002
Washington, D.C. 20006
Telephone: (202)305-3107
Facsimile: (202)514-1116


Document Filed August 13, 2002 > >
Updated August 6, 2015

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