Milwaukee Apartment Owners Agree to Pay $117,000

In what may be the largest settlement of its kind in this area, two Milwaukee brothers have agreed to pay more than $117,000 to settle a fair housing lawsuit that had accused them of racial discrimination in renting units at two apartment complexes they own on the Northwest side.

Dennis and Harold Gritzmacher, owners of Presidio Square Apartments, Presidio Lane, and Lincolnshire Apartments, Lincolnshire Blvd., agreed in September to pay $50,000 in civil penalties to the US government according to the Milwaukee Journal.

Late last year in the same case, the Gritzmachers agreed to pay $33,765 in damages to three black home seekers, various testers and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Fair Housing Council, and $33,744 in lawyer fees and costs.

The US Department of Justice, acting jointly with the US attorney's office in Milwaukee, filed the suit in Federal Court against the brothers in 1993, based on the original complaint of Freda Brown, who had called to inquire about an apartment.

Brown's complaint to the Fair Housing Council was followed up by testers, volunteers sent by the council to see if discrimination occurs when they seek housing. In the meantime, two other women, sisters Drexella Ward and Theresa Barnett, had similar problems when they tried to rent a unit from the Gritzmachers, according to the lawsuit. Ward would have lived in the apartment with her mother, Edna Barnett.

The suit contended that the brothers refused to rent units to certain people, based on race, that they imposed different terms and conditions based on race, and that they falsely claimed that certain amts were not available, based on the race of the person making the inquiry.

The apartments were expensive units, and the people seeking them were middle class, Carla Werthheim, associate director of the Fair Housing Council said.

William Tisdale, the council's executive director, said "This case clearly shows that race discrimination is still the most pervasive kind we see in this office."