Philadelphia, PA

Firm violated housing act

August 11, 2004
The owner of a Milford mobile home community has been ordered to pay a $32,500 fine for trying to keep families with children out of his park.
     Rennels Property Management, which owns Marlin Court Mobile Home Park on Old Bethlehem Pike, has settled a complaint filed by former residents Frank and Laura Mercon and the Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia, which claimed the park owner violated the Fair Housing Act, according to the council.
     The Mercons and the council filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's office of Housing and Equal Opportunity after the couple tried to sell their property to a family with children but was told that under a new park policy no one under 40 could live there, said James Berry, executive director of the council.

Housing bias is hard to detect

July 14, 2004
More than 35 years after the federal government made housing discrimination illegal, finding a place to live still means a battle against bias for millions of Americans.
     The distressing reality, said Melvin Alston, a North Carolina real estate agent on the NAACP's housing committee, is that "housing discrimination is alive and well."
     The Washington-based National Fair Housing Alliance estimates that at least 3.7 million violations occur annually. While the post-9/11 housing market has grown ever more hostile toward those of Arab descent, African Americans experience more discrimination than any minority, reporting about 1.7 million cases a year.
     Making a troubling situation worse, fair-housing advocates say, is that detecting discrimination is more difficult than ever.
     "No longer do you get 'I don't rent to black people,' " said Rachel Wentworth, assistant director of the Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia. "Now, people don't know it's happening to them."

Agent opened doors for black homeowners

July 14, 2004
Hate ruled Folcroft the summer that Horace and Sara Baker tried - twice - to move in.
     On Aug. 29, 1963, protesters hurled tomatoes, stones and paint at their van as it entered the Delaware County town. A lit cigarette tossed inside set fire to the Bakers' belongings.
     The next afternoon, escorted by a police car, the truck headed again into the all-white Delmar Village section, into a mob of 1,500 and a hail of bricks, eggs and racial epithets. Every window in their new rowhouse had been shattered. "N-" was scrawled across the door.
     Televised nationally, the Folcroft riot raged for three days before 150 state police restored order, and the Bakers and their 2-year-old daughter settled into their Heather Road home under the watch of civil rights activists and clergy.
     The painful victory was not the Bakers' alone. It belonged as much to the woman who had brokered the sale, a middle-aged Quaker of slight build, inherited wealth, and a lodestar belief: No door in the suburbs should be closed to home buyers because they are black.

NAACP leader castigates Bush

July 12, 2004
Civil rights pioneer and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond continued to express the civil rights organization's frustration with President Bush yesterday, delivering a stinging criticism of his administration's policies from civil rights to the war in Iraq while lamenting the 2000 election debacle as an "outright theft of black votes."
     Bond's remarks follow the chiding of Bush by NAACP President Kweisi Mfume as the first sitting president since Herbert Hoover not to address the group.
     Bush declined an invitation to speak at the event, while the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, is scheduled to speak here Thursday.

40th anniversary: A turning point

March 29, 2004
This city has long ignored the 1964 lynchings of three civil rights workers that carved it into the nation's psyche as a place that harbored hate.
     Now a new generation, upset by such a stereotype, wants to acknowledge that dark past in hopes of forging better race relations and a brighter future.
     A tri-racial task force is forming in preparation for the 40th anniversary of the June 21, 1964, lynchings of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman. There is talk of a brochure and a museum to recognize the deaths, and, yes, there is even talk of justice.

Judge slashes lawyer's rate for typos, careless writing

February 25, 2004
Finding that attorney Brian Puricelli's courtroom work was "smooth" and "artful" in securing a $430,000 verdict in a civil rights suit, but that his written work was "careless" and laden with typographical errors, a federal magistrate judge has ruled that his court-awarded fees should be paid at two rates -- $300 per hour for the courtroom work, but $150 per hour for work on the pleadings.
     "Mr. Puricelli's complete lack of care in his written product shows disrespect for the court. His errors, not just typographical, caused the court a considerable amount of work. Hence, a substantial reduction is in order. We believe that $150 per hour is, in fact, generous," U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart wrote in his 12-page fee opinion in Devore v. City of Philadelphia.
     In the suit, plaintiff John Devore, a former Philadelphia police officer, claimed that he was harassed and ultimately fired in retaliation for reporting that his partner had stolen a cell phone.

Housing bias to be tested in Del.

January 08, 2004
Fair housing advocates will use a $1 million grant to determine how pervasive housing discrimination is in Delaware.
     The Community Legal Aid Society and the Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia will begin a testing program in July that will send trained volunteers of different races to shop for houses, apartments, mortgages, and homeowners' insurance. The testers will have similar credit scores and incomes. Researchers will look to see whether they are treated differently based on race, disability or family size.
     We hope to make an impact here, let people know discrimination isn't acceptable," said Christopher W. White, deputy director of the Community Legal Aid Society in Delaware.

Housing case spotlights landlord-regulator friction

November 17, 2003
A housing-discrimination case that stirred a campaign controversy did little to affect the race for Montgomery County commissioners, but did expose a rift between local landlords and the federally funded agency that polices them.
     When Republican County Commissioner James Matthews stymied a housing-discrimination case against his friend and political backer, Harold Rosen, Matthews said he was acting as a fellow landlord outraged at the tactics of a local fair-housing organization.
     "I wasn't protecting Harold as much as a class," said Matthews, who owns about 30 rental apartments in the county.
     When Ruth Damsker, the Democratic county commissioner and Matthews' opponent, made the matter public a week before the Nov. 4 election, she said she was exposing Matthews' lack of ethics. She suggested that Matthews intervened because Rosen was a large contributor to Matthews' campaign.

Federal court takes up Mengel lawsuit

May 30, 2003
A federal judge on Thursday estimated he could rule by June 13 which issues will be presented to a jury in the scheduled July 9 trial of North Wales businesswoman Donna L. Mengel‚ who sued the borough‚ her neighbors and public officials in federal court for civil rights discrimination and defamation.
     Mengel‚ who seeks $5 million in the suit‚ alleges that North Wales Borough attempted to impose unfair zoning restrictions on four residences run by the Lamb Foundation‚ a nonprofit corporation that Mengel operates which provides housing and care for the mentally and physically disabled and older adults.
     Mengel sued her neighbors and various elected officials in the borough in February 2001‚ alleging they conspired and discriminated against her and the disabled residents of the Lamb Foundation. She claims they also filed unfounded complaints with the borough‚ and pushed for Mengel’s properties to be licensed.

Arguments planned in Mengel suit

May 28, 2003
The federal civil rights discrimination case filed by North Wales businesswoman Donna L. Mengel and her Lamb Foundation against the borough and her neighbors hinges on whether a federal judge dismisses the defendants on Thursday morning or orders the case to trial.
     Oral arguments are slated for 10:30 a.m. Thursday before federal Chief Judge James T. Giles in Courtroom 17-A on the 17th floor of the federal courthouse‚ 601 Market St.‚ Philadelphia.
     Mengel and the Lamb Foundation – a nonprofit corporation she runs to provide housing and care to the elderly and those with special needs – filed the federal civil rights‚ fair housing violation and defamation action in February 2001.


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