Using New 1990 Ordinance, Chicago Commission Orders $128,000 Paid to Complainants in Four Cases

The Chicago Commission on Human Relations ordered payments of $134,000, in four cases among its first rulings since Chicago's fair housing ordinance was strengthened in 1990. Included were $6,000 in fines.

The Commission included payments of significant punitive damages to be paid to complainants. Each of the orders followed hearings, and included substantial attorney's fees. Most have been appealed.

Muslim Couple Charged Higher Rent

In their highest damages award, the Chicago Commission ordered $35,310 paid to a Muslim African American couple based on their race and religious discrimination complaints. The complaints were against Vera and Drago Magdenovski, owners of an apartment building on Chicago's near North side. The CCHR levied a $4,500 civil penalty against the Magdenovski's. The Commission found that Magdenovski charged the couple higher rent than white nonmuslim tenants, broke into their apartment and removed property. He also verbally and physically harassed the couple and their family.

Complainants Ernestine Lisa Collins and Hassan Ali complained that the owners told another tenant they were unwelcome because "They are Muslims, and I am Christian, and I don't want them in here."

The Commission found the neighborhood was 75%o Mexican American, 20% African American, and 5% Puerto Rican. But only one African American had lived in Magdenovski's building in 20 years.

Respondents were ordered to pay compensatory damages of $9,000 to Collins and $15,000 to Ali, plus punitive damages of $5,000 to each complainant. They had to pay complainants $1,310 for out of pocket damages, and a fine of $4,500 to Chicago. Attorney fees were $14,160 and costs $1,143.

The Couple was represented by attorneys Jan Susler of the People's Law Office and Denise Debelle of the Metropolitan Open Communities Lawyers Revolving Fund Collins & Ali v. Magdenavoski, No. 91-FHO-705655 Chicago Commission on Human Rights 9-16-92.

$25,500 Paid For Refusal to Allow Dog as Therapy for Disabled Man

Reinaldo Santiago's doctors recommended that he own a small dog as part of his therapy for a severe psychiatric condition. But his landlord, Bickerdike Apartments, would not allow a dog in his family's apartment based on its "no pets" policy.

The Chicago CHR found that he was disabled and the landlord unreasonably refused for 14 months to accommodate his disability by not allowing him to keep a dog. Twenty-one year old Santiago suffered from a learning disability and severe depression.

The CHR told the landlord to accommodate the special needs of the complainant and to pay him $25,000 "for emotional injury damages, embarrassment and humiliation," and a $500 fine.

Cheryl Graves of Access Living was complainants counsel. Santiago v. Bickerdike, No. 91-FHO-54-5639 - Chicago CHR 5-20-92.

Landlord Who Wanted Hispanic Renter Told to Pay $9,530 to Black Woman

The Commission ordered payment of $9,530 to a black woman who was denied rental of an apartment above a funeral home. Landlord Daniel Rozdilsky twice told complainant Kathy Gould that he wanted to rent the three bedroom apartment to a Hispanic family. He also asked if she spoke Spanish and about her race and ethnic background.

The Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities conducted tests which confirmed Ms Gould's claims.

The CHR found that Rozdilsky's claims that he was seeking a Spanish-speaking caretaker rather than a tenant were not credible. They said the ability to speak Spanish was "clearly not a bona fide qualification for an apartment rental."

The Chicago CHR told the respondent to pay Gould $6,600 for hardship, mental anguish, stress, humiliation and embarrassment, $2,930 out of pocket costs, $500 fine, and $24,000 Attorney fees & costs.

Complainants counsel was Laura Hutchinson of Potter & Schaffner Gould v. Rozdilsky, No. 91-FHO-25-5610 - Chicago CHR 1-15-92.

National Origin & Race Discrimination Cost Landlord $6,644

The Chicago Commission awarded $6,144 to Cristobal Castro, a Dominican Republic native who alleged that he was denied an apartment that was still for rent. He said the owner, Augustine Georgeopoulos, told him it had been rented when it hadn't. Castro's claim was confirmed by a white tester for the Leadership Council.

The Commission awarded Castro punitive damages of $5,000, actual damages of $1,144, a fine to the City of $500, plus $11,747 attorney fees and $697 costs.

Ed Vochi of the Leadership Council was counsel for Mr. Castro. Castro v. Georgeopoulos No. 91-FHO-6-5591 - Chicago CHR 12-18-91.