After prior dismissals were twice "set aside" by the HUD Secretary, a Salt Lake City Black woman has been awarded $95,600, because of discrimination in the rental of a home. Complainant Ms. Bobbie Burris alleged discrimination by Jess and Barbara Alyett. Ms. Burris and the owners completed the rent-subsidy documents but they rented to Joe Trujillo, a light skinned person whose race was not identified.
Ms. Burris complained that the Alyetts violated Section 805(c) of the Fair Housing Act when Barbara Aylett told Bobbie Burris "My husband will never rent to a Black person." Ms. Burris said that Ms. Aylett qualified that statement by saying that she would recommend her as a tenant to her husband because they knew each other from high school. Nonetheless, the Alyetts still refused to rent to Ms. Burris even though there were no other applicants for weeks.
Both Remand Orders 1, and 2, by the Secretary's Designee, Bruce Katz, turned on the trustworthiness of those claims by Ms Burris. In Remand Order 2, the Secretary found that Ms. Aylett made the statements alleged in the charge and concluded that 42 U.S.C. (s) 3604(b) and (c) had been violated. That order entered judgment for the Complainant and the Government and remanded the case for 60 days for additional findings concerning liability and for assessment of damages.
Third ALJ Order Details Damages
In his third order issued January 5, HUD ALJ, Paul G. Streb detailed six pages of findings in support of $80,000 in damages for emotional distress and humiliation plus $15,600 for future medical expenses.
This damage award was based on the complainant's testimony and expert testimony by Dr. Gloria Johnson-Powell, a professor and psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School Ms. Burris testified that,"I felt angry, hurt, belittled ...It made me think that I had to be white to rent from them, and that hurt ...When somebody says something to you like that and it's never happened before, it does hurt a lot. Nobody's ever told to my face before ...that I couldn't have something because of my color." Ms. Johnson-Powell explained how racial discrimination damages one's self esteem and creates a feeling of rejection and a fear of facing similar situations, all of which she found had happened to Ms. Burris. ALJ Streb credited this testimony and concluded that both of the Alyetts are liable for the damages.
First Dismissal in May, 2nd in October
In May 1993, Judge Streb dismissed the charge because he found the testimony by Alyetts and their 21 year old son, William J. Memmott to be credible. Ms. Alyett denied making the statements and her son who was a short distance away, supported her.
On the first remand June 23, 1993, in which the ALJ was directed to consider the HUD investigator's notes that revealed the respondent's bias against Blacks, ALJ Streb found that the notes were not sufficiently trustworthy.
In the second remand Designee Katz found that Mr. Frant's notes were trustworthy and admissible. He also found that Mr. Frant's notes were corroborated elsewhere in the record, and showed that Ms. Aylett made the racially charged statements.
"The Secretary's office was great in this case and proved that the new administrative complaint process can work even, despite repeated errors by the ALJ," said Kerry Scanlon who was the lead counsel at both hearings.
The third ALJ order became final February 5, when it was not appealed. It included a $4,500 civil penalty. Kerry Scanlon and Judith Browne of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund were counsel for complainant.
Filed with HUD 9-12-90
HUD Charge Issued 9-30-92
ALJ Order 1-Dismissal 5-24-93
Secretary Remand Order 1 6-23-93
Hearing Reconvened 7-20-93
ALJ Order 2 - Dismissal 10-21-93
Secretary Remand Order 2 11-19-93
ALJ Order 3 1-05-94