BOSTON – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division today filed an amended complaint that alleges that the Chicopee Housing Authority and its Executive Director, Monica Blazic, violated the Fair Housing Act by engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination based on race, national origin, and disability, and also violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The United States initially filed suit against the defendants on April 19, 2021, alleging that the defendants failed to make reasonable accommodations and discriminated against a tenant based upon her disability. The amended complaint includes additional claims against the defendants, alleging that they engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination based upon race or national origin over a period of years. Specifically, the amended complaint asserts that the defendants discriminated against Black and Hispanic tenants and potential tenants. As alleged in the amended complaint, Blazic preferred White tenants and made discriminatory statements about and to Black and Hispanic tenants, including the use of racial slurs. In addition, Blazic intimidated or coerced tenants and potential tenants based upon their race or national origin.
The matter was originally investigated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which, in March 2021, issued a charge against the Chicopee Housing Authority and Blazic after finding that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to allow a tenant to transfer to a first floor or elevator accessible unit to accommodate her disability. The tenant has end stage renal disease and without the transfer to another unit, was unable to receive daily in-home dialysis. As alleged in the amended complaint, the tenant applied for a transfer based on her disability in 2017, and since that time the Chicopee Housing Authority offered 10 vacant apartments – any one of which could have accommodated the tenant – to other individuals.
“The racist conduct alleged in the amended complaint is shocking – here we have a public housing official openly using racist slurs to impugn tenants she is paid to serve,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell. “Public officials are supposed to do competent work with common decency. When they stray this far from what is acceptable, they run afoul of the law and can expect to hear from this office.”
“It is simply inexcusable for the head of a public housing authority to repeatedly use racial slurs and make other bigoted statements about Black and Hispanic residents, or for the housing authority to repeatedly violate the rights of residents with disabilities,” said Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice. “The Department of Justice will vigorously pursue housing providers who use brazenly unlawful and discriminatory conduct to threaten and intimidate tenants. All people deserve access to housing free from discrimination.”
“Racial discrimination and discrimination against persons living with disabilities have absolutely no place in our country’s housing market, and those who discriminate must be held accountable,” said Demetria McCain, HUD's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “HUD applauds the Justice Department for taking today’s action and will continue supporting its efforts to hold housing providers accountable when they fail to meet their obligations under the nation’s housing laws.”
The lawsuit seeks an order requiring the defendants to cease discrimination against any tenant based on race, national origin, or disability, pay damages to aggrieved parties and to accommodate residents’ disabilities.
Acting U.S. Attorney Mendell, Assistant Attorney General Clarke and HUD FHEO Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary McCain made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gregory Dorchak and Michelle Leung of Mendell’s Civil Rights Unit are handling the matter.
Individuals who have information about this case can contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office by calling 1-617-275-756 or by emailing USAMA.CivilRights@usdoj.gov.
The Civil Rights Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been enforcing federal civil rights matters since 2015. For more information on the Office’s civil rights efforts, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-ma/civil-rights.