Housing And Civil Enforcement Cases Documents

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF WISCONSIN

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
     Plaintiff,

v.

WELLSTON CORPORATION, dba
WELLSTON PROPERTIES;
MARY THELMER; and JERRY
BRAUNREITER
     Defendants.

______________________________________

COMPLAINT

The United States of America alleges:

  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, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.
  2. This Court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 3614.
  3. Defendant Wellston Corporation is a Wisconsin corporation whose principal office is located in the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.
  4. Wellston Corporation, operating under the name of Wellston Properties, manages properties located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at 3715 S. 75th Street, 3723 S. 75th Street, 3733 S. 75th Street, 3743 75th Street, 7251 W. Tripoli Avenue, 7301 W. Tripoli Avenue and 7309 W. Tripoli Avenue (hereafter collectively the "Tripoli Apartments") and at 1576 N. Warren Avenue, 1579 N. Farwell Avenue, 1580 N. Farwell Avenue (also known collectively as the Brixen Apartments), and other real estate located in Milwaukee County consisting of residential rental apartments.
  5. The apartments in the Tripoli Apartments and the Brixen Apartments are dwellings within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
  6. Defendant Mary Thelmer is the resident manager of the Tripoli Apartments.
  7. Defendant Jerry Braunreiter is the resident manager of the Brixen Apartments.
  8. The United States Department of Justice conducted an investigation to determine defendants' compliance with the Fair Housing Act. As part of its investigation, the Department of Justice and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council (hereafter "MMFHC"), conducted a series of tests to evaluate the defendants' compliance with the Fair Housing Act.
  9. The investigation revealed that the defendants are engaged in housing practices that discriminate on the basis of race or color, including:
    1. failing to tell black testers about apartments that were or would be available at Tripoli or Brixen apartments while providing white testers with information on available apartments; and
    2. providing more favorable terms or conditions of rental at the Tripoli apartments to white testers from those provided to black testers.
  10. The conduct of the defendants described in the previous numbered paragraph constitutes:
    1. making dwellings unavailable to persons because of race or color in violation of §3604(a);
    2. discriminating in the terms and conditions, or privileges of the rental of a dwelling that indicates a preference or discrimination on the basis of race or color in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3604(b); and
    3. representing to persons because of race or color that dwellings are not available for inspection or rental when such dwellings are in fact so available in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(d).
  11. The investigation revealed that defendants Wellston Corporation and Jerry Braunreiter are engaged in housing practices that discriminate on the basis of familial status at the Brixen Apartments, including:
    1. limiting families with children to rental of only first floor apartments while permitting persons with no children to rent any vacant units in the complex;
    2. representing to persons inquiring about apartments that families with children were not permitted to occupy apartments above the first floor;
    3. discouraging persons with children from renting at the Brixen Apartments, while encouraging persons without children to rent there; and
    4. failing to provide the same information about apartment availabilities to persons with children as provided to persons without children.
  12. The conduct of the defendants described in the previous numbered paragraph constitutes:
    1. refusing to rent a dwelling to persons because of their familial status in violation of §3604(a);
    2. discriminating in the terms and conditions, or privileges of the rental of a dwelling that indicates a preference or discrimination on the basis of familial status in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3604(b);
    3. making statements with respect to the rental of a dwelling that indicate a preference or discrimination based on familial status in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3604(c); and
    4. representing to persons because of their familial status that dwellings are not available for rental when such dwellings are available in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(d).
  13. The conduct of the defendants described above constitutes:
    1. a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of rights granted by the Fair Housing Act; and
    2. a denial to a group of persons of the rights granted by the Fair Housing Act where that denial constitutes a matter of general public importance.
  14. Persons who may have been the victims of defendants' discriminatory housing practices are aggrieved persons as defined in 42 U.S.C. §3602(i) and may have suffered injuries as a result of defendants' conduct described above.
  15. The defendants' conduct described above was intentional, willful, and taken in disregard for the rights of others.

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

  1. Declares that the defendants' policies and practices, as alleged herein, violate the Fair Housing Act;
  2. Enjoins the defendants, their officers, employees, agents, and all other persons in active concert or participation with defendants, from:
    1. discriminating against any person on the basis of race, color, or familial status in any aspect of the rental of a dwelling;
    2. failing or refusing to notify the public that dwellings owned or operated by the defendants are available to all persons on a nondiscriminatory basis; and
    3. failing or refusing to take such affirmative steps as may be necessary to restore, as nearly as practicable, the victims of the defendants' unlawful practices to the position that they would have been in but for the discriminatory conduct;
  3. Awards such damages as would fully compensate each person aggrieved by the defendants' discriminatory housing practices for injuries caused by the defendants' pattern or practice of discriminatory conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B);
  4. Awards each person aggrieved by defendants' discriminatory conduct punitive damages because of the intentional and willful nature of the defendants' conduct, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B); and
  5. Assesses a civil penalty against the defendants 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.

JANET RENO
Attorney General

BILL LANN LEE
Acting Assistant Attorney General
Civil Rights Division

JOAN A. MAGAGNA
Chief, Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
Civil Rights Division

ISABELLE M. THABAULT
Deputy Chief MICHAEL L. BARRETT
Attorney
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Housing and Civil Enforcement Section
P.O. Box 65998
Washington, D.C. 20035-5998
(202) 514-2447

THOMAS P. SCHNEIDER
United States Attorney
517 E. Wisconsin Street
Room 530
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53202
(414) 297-1700 > >

Updated August 6, 2015

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