Atlanta Metro Settles Race Discrimination Suit for $140,000

Metro Fair Housing Services, along with five other named plaintiffs, has settled a race discrimination suit against Redland Crest Apartments in Lawrenceville, Georgia for $140,000.  Joe Shifalo, Executive Director of Metro, a private, non-profit fair housing agency in Atlanta, said: "'This is the largest monetary settlement during my tenure at Metro and in the entire history of Metro, I believe."

Plaintiffs Gloria Balcacer, Timothy Bright, Michelle Bright and Ashford Williams each received $17,000. Lisa Betts received $25,000, and Metro got $3,500. The remainder was for attorneys' fees.

In addition to the monetary settlement, the defendants, Redland Crest, in a consent decree, agreed to make apartment employees familiar with "all applicable Fair Housing Laws" and to keep accurate records of all applicants and actual renters of apartments.

Black and Puerto Rican Complainants

In the suit filed in the U. S. District Court in Atlanta, Defendants Timothy Bright, Michelle Bright and Ashford Williams alleged that they were denied housing at Redland Crest because they were Black. Ms. Balcacer, who is of Puerto Rican origin, contended that she was forced to move from Redland Crest because she was married to Mr. Williams, a Black Jamaican. Ms. Betts, who is white, alleged that she had to leave the apartment complex because she had a Black boyfriend.

They alleged that hey were forced to leave Redland Crest because of an unsubstantiated complaint that they were playing loud music. Hugh Weatherly, the resident manager of Redland Crest Apartments, gave the Brights until Christmas to move. Gloria Balcacer, along with her husband Ashford Williams, was told to move when Weatherly discovered that Williams was a Black Jamaican. He, upon first seeing Mr. Williams, demanded to know who he was and when told by Ms. Balcacer that he was her husband, asked to see a marriage license.

Lisa Betts, who is white, was asked to leave Redland Crest by Weatherly after her boy friend, who is Black, along with her parents and brother, came for a weekend visit with her at her apartment. Betts taped her telephone conversation with Weatherly in which he stated his reasons for requiring her to move.

Weatherly, who is no longer employed by Redland Crest, was quoted in an article in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution on July 17, 1994 as saying: "They [Betts and her boy friend] seemed to be lovey-dovey, holding hands, and before, she didn't seem to be that kind of person. I said if this is your lifestyle, I'd suggest you moving in with him." Weatherly also at one point allegedly told Betts that Thomas Jefferson, not God, said that all people are created equal.

Metro Fair Housing conducted a series of rental tests on Redland Crest Apartments in which interracial couples were referred to a complex down the street and the white testers were shown apartments and/or encouraged to move to Redland Crest. In each of the race tests conducted, the white tester was treated more favorably than the Black tester or interracial couples.