St. Louis EHOC to receive nearly $30,000 in Justice Department settlement of racial discrimination case

The U.S. Department of Justice settled a St. Louis racial discrimination case for $30,000 earlier this year. Most of that money will go to the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council (EHOC) based on that organization's help in the Justice investigation.

After conducting tests in April 1993 at the Forder Road Apartments, a Missouri apartment complex, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sued owners Marjorie Stanec, Vince Stanec (her husband), and Andy Thielemier for alleged violations of the Fair Housing Act. The testers used in the DOJ investigation were recruited by the Equal Housing Opportunity Council. The Department of Justice testing revealed that African-American applicants at Forder Road were treated differently from White applicants, but the lawsuit did not name any aggrieved persons.

The Justice Department threatened to publish notice of a discrimination lawsuit against Forder Road Apartments to identify potential plaintiffs. The Department of Justice attorneys filed a notice to inform the court of the government's intention to publish notice of the lawsuit. They stated that the notice was necessary to locate people who have been discriminated against by the apartment complex. The Department of Justice could not contact any potential complainants since the complex did not maintain any records of persons who inquired about apartments. A federal judge ruled that the Department of Justice would be allowed to publish the notice.

The Stanecs applied for an injunction, asking the court to prohibit publication of the notice. They argued that the damage to their reputations which would result from the notice outweighed the public interest served by the publication. The court refused to grant the injunction.

In an order denying the Stanecs' request for an injunction, Judge Jean C. Hamilton ruled that the public interest in "eradicating discrimination" outweighed the interest in protecting the reputations of the complex owners. While she agreed that the Stanecs could suffer some harm to their reputations, she concluded that the harm was "not irreparable" and that it was "reasonable for the government to attempt to locate potential aggrieved persons" to determine whether or not the Stanecs actually engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination.

When the Stanecs request for an injunction was denied, they agreed to settle the case in order to prevent publication of the discrimination notice and a lengthy trial.

The Consent Order includes a provision that the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Council will receive most of the $30,000 monetary settlement to be used to continue their programs in the greater St. Louis area. These programs are designed to combat illegal discrimination in the sale and rental of housing and to educate the public concerning fair housing.

"We are, of course, thrilled to receive the confidence of the Department of Justice," explained EHOC Executive Director Bronwen Zwirner, "but most of all we hope that this case is a wake-up call to the housing industry in our region."