Connecticut Race Complaint Settles For $27,500

(Bridgeport, CT, Oct. 23, 2006) -- In June of 2003, Carmen Vila was hoping her real estate agent would be able to find her and her family a suitable home closer to her place of employment; she was NOT expecting to hear the agent's views on race and color. So the fact that her agent-Nina Marcuccio of Ferraro & Ferraro Real Estate- did not consider African-Americans very clean people or couldn't tell one Black from another was not exactly the kind of assistance she was looking for. And now that the agent and her real estate firm have just paid $27,500. to settle a discrimination complaint filed by Ms. Vila after hearing those unsolicited observations, the assumption is that maybe agent Marcuccio understands that point a little better now.

About three and a half years ago, Carmen Vila (residing in Bridgeport at the time)was searching the inter-net when she noticed a home for sale in the Waterbury area that sounded intriguing. Looking to relocate with her husband and three sons, she proceded to contact the listing agent who turned out to be Marcuccio. Agent Marcuccio then arranged to show her the listing she had spotted and others. It was while she was looking at homes with Marcuccio that they came across one occupied by a Black family that was especially well-maintained. According to Ms. Vila's sworn affidavit, Marcuccio then remarked how surprised she was that the house looked so clean for "these kind of people". She continued to make the point that "these people are normally not clean people." To make matters worse, Marcuccio continued by stating she couldn't tell the difference between these people and how one Black looks like another.

The comments made by the agent were especially disturbing to Ms. Vila (herself a light-skinned Hispanic) because her sons were in fact African-American because their father was Black. In her affidavit, she stated" --I found Ms. Marcuccio's bigotted statements most upsetting and just kept wondering what she would say if she knew my children were African-American. I also couldn't help but wonder how my kids would react if they heard her say such things. At this point, I decided I wanted nothing more to do with this woman." The situation even got worse when Marcuccio made a follow-up call to her home. The clueless agent questioning why Ms. Vila did not want to make an offer on the listing asked whether her reluctance was due to "those people". Ms. Vila's affidavit reads, "At this point, I could hardly control my emotions so I said I had to go and hung up."

After she hung up, however, Ms. Vila made a call to complain to the Connecticut Association of Realtors where she was in turn referred to the Fair Housing Association of Connecticut. Joe Wincze- FHACT President- assisted her in filing a complaint against the agent and her agency- Ferraro & Ferraro Real Estate- with the Connecticut Commission On Human Rights & Opportunities. Wincze also assisted her in getting legal representation and Attorney Alan Rosner of Bridgeport agreed to take the case.

 In June of 2004, the Ct Commission made a CAUSE FINDING after making a full investigation of the facts; and in September, 2006 the parties finally agreed to settle for the sum of $27,500. In addition to the monetary settlement, the terms also required mandatory fair housing training for the agency's employees including Marcuccio and monitoring to be done by CHRO for the next two years.

Wincze pointed out that it was unfortunate that the case continued for over three years before the respondents finally agreed to settle. "For them, to drag the case out did not help their situation any. If the agent had responded with a sincere apology at the outset rather than an emphatic denial, chances are the complaint would have settled for a whole lot less. Real estate agents have to understand when they make any sort of statements of a racial nature to a client (regardless of their intention), it may have the effect of influencing someone's decision and that is steering." Wincze further observed, "when the agent made her thoughtless, racist remarks, it was a serious mistake. However, when she tried to deny it and unnecessarily prolong the issue- the issue became magnified ten-fold!"

For Further Information contact: Joe Wincze (203)576-8323