A Citizen, Pro Se

The ‘Determination’ – ICRC’s ‘Notice of Finding’

The Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) produced a ‘determination’ that is invalid on both substantive and procedural grounds (see the ‘Notice of Finding’ transcribed below).  The determination was set aside by the ICRC Commissioners and remanded for further investigation.  In order to meet Federal standards  for ‘completing an investigation’  that would provide ‘the totality of evidence’ required for a valid  determination, ICRC would have to enter all excluded evidence (from both Complainant and Respondent) into the TEAPOTS database and then produce a revised Final Investigative Report (FIR) directly from the database. (see ‘Analysis’ page for more detail.)

After the investigation, a FHAP agency (like the Indiana Civil Rights Commission) is supposed to evaluate ‘the totality of the evidence’ and reach a ‘deterimination’ of ‘reasonable cause’ or ‘no reasonable cause’. The standard for ‘reasonable cause’ is: is the evidence that a Fair Housing Act violation may have occurred sufficient for the case to be entered in a state or Federal court? (Note that the evidence does not have to prove discrimination at this point, it just needs to show sufficient likelihood of discrimination to allow a case to be entered — not necessarily won — in court.)

A determination must be based on ‘the totality of evidence’; ICRC’s systematic exclusion of evidence (and, to be frank, its invention of evidence) means that this determination does not meet the standards required by Federal law and regulations, and therefore must be considered invalid. The ICRC Commissioners, in the appeals review, set aside this determination, apparently because of the arguments I raised in my ‘Analysis of Finding’. However, HUD’s TEAPOTS database still shows the ‘no reasonable cause’ determination — perhaps because the database does not include a means for documenting the appeals process or its conclusions. This means that when HUD officials look up my case in the TEAPOTS database, they see a completed determination of ‘no reasonable cause’ based on what looks to them like a complete investigation.

A FHAP agency’s certification (the source of its authority) is based on standards of ‘substantial equvalency’ with Federal law and regulations. ‘Substantial equivalency’ is defined very specifically in 24 CFR, and means that a FHAP agency’s procedures (as well as the laws governing it) must meet Federally-defined standards set out in 24 CFR, the Memorandum of Agreement (MOU – the contract between HUD & FHAP) and the Cooperative Agreement (another contract).

As you can see in paragraph two of the Finding, the ICRC does not even pretend to comply with ‘substantial equivalency’. Instead, the Finding states that the “Indiana Fair Housing Act is virtually analogous to the Fair Housing Act”. The term ‘virtually analogous’ is not defined in the law, and thus must be understood in its everyday, dictionary defintion. The difference between ‘substantially equivalent’ and ‘virtually analogous’ can be illustrated like this: In the seafood section of a good grocery store, you can find (1) live crabs, (2) frozen crab legs, and (3) chopped fish, shaped like crab legs and painted red as a crab substitute. The frozen crab legs (or even crab scraps that were shaped like crab legs) would be ‘substantially equivalent’ to the live crabs — of the same substance, and therefore equvalent. (Or, as we’d say here in Indiana, ‘Like enough to make no never-mind.’) The chopped, shaped, painted fish substitute would be ‘virtually analogous’ to the live crab — of a different substance, and similar only in appearance, therefore not equivalent. The Fair Housing Act mandates that every civil rights case must receive ‘substantially equivalent’ treatment, so that the same level of enforcement — in terms of law and of procedure — is available to every citizen in the nation. In Indiana, you get ‘virtually analogous’ law and procedures — chopped fish painted red calling itself ‘law’.

Also, a note on the Finding’s emphasis on ‘additional inspections’. Beginning with my first phone call to the Chicago (Region V) HUD/FHEO hub, when I initiated my complaint, HUD/ICRC officials kept focusing on the ‘additional inspections’ provision of the first Service Animal Policy I was given. I repeatedly told them the the additional inspections were not the point, the point was that I was being given two contracts in addition to the lease because I was disabled and had a service animal — and that I was being threatened with immediate eviction if I didn’t sign the contracts. The Country Manor case makes it clear that I was right in believing that different ‘terms and condtions’ imposed on a sub-group of disabled tenants is prima facie discrimination (see my August 22 letter). But just to make it clear that my complaint was not about additional inspections, I’ll quote from my first Amended Complaint (May 16) — which was, of course, excluded from the case file and TEAPOTS by ICRC.

I am a disabled resident of Henderson Court Apartments, exercising my right (as defined by Federal law and HUD regulations) to have an assistance animal as a reasonable accommodation to my disability. Henderson Court has repeatedly threatened to deny me housing because I require a service animal as a reasonable accommodation. I believe that Henderson Court’s policies and practices interfere with my right to this reasonable accommodation and subject me to discriminatory terms and conditions because of my exercise of this right.

[…]

Henderson Court’s 5-page Service Animal Policy (with Permit) contains discriminatory terms and conditions which reach beyond the terms of the lease and apply only to disabled residents who are exercising their rights to a service animal as a reasonable accommodation. A tenant who signed the Policy/Permit would be agreeing to grant Henderson Court contractual rights:

(1) to subject the disabled tenant to more frequent inspections due solely to the presence of the service animal (Policy Item 11);
(2) to remove and/or dispose of the disabled tenant’s service animal (19 instances of this language, in Policy Items B-3, B-4, B-5, B-6, B-18 (a list of ten ‘causes’ given), C-2, D-3, D-4, Affidavit and Permit); and
(3) to terminate the lease and evict the disabled tenant for non-compliance with the terms of the Policy and/or Permit (Policy Affidavit and Permit).

My transcription of the Notice of Finding begins below; transcriber’s notes are in [ ] square brackets.

***********
ICRC No.: HOha07040187
HUD Case No.: 05-07-0776-8
[Finding omits two identifying numbers:
[HUD Section 504 Case No: 05-07-0106-4
[HUD Inquiry No: 229400]

‘Anne E. Citizen’,
Complainant
v.
[S] Royer, Property Manger
Sheehan Property Management, [J] Curtis Jr.,
[C] Townsend, Executive Vice President, Henderson Ct. Partnership,
Respondents

NOTICE OF FINDING

The Deputy Director of the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, pursuant to statutory authority and procedural regulations, hereby issues the following finding with respect to the above-referenced case. Reasonable cause does not exist to believe that an unlawful discriminatory practice has occurred. 910 IAC 2-6-6(c)(1)(2001).

On April 18, 2007, ‘Anne E. Citizen’ (Complainant) of Bloomington, IN, filed a complaint with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission (Commission) against [S] Royer, Property Manager, [J] Curtis, Jr., Sheehan Property Management and [C] Townsend, Executive Vice President, Henderson Court Partnership (Respondents)[*see note below text] alleging unlawful discrimination in housing, based on disability. Indiana Fair Housing Act is virtually analogous to the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. [Section] 3601 et seq. Accordingly, the Commission has jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter.

An investigation has been completed. All parties have been interviewed. Based on the final investigative report and a full review of the relevant files and records, the Deputy Dirrector now finds the following:

Complainant alleges because she is disabled, Respondent is denying her the peace and enjoyment of her apartment inviolation [sic] of Sections 804(f)(2) or 804(f)(3)(B) of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 as amended by the Fair Housing Act of 1988. Specifically, Complainant alleges tht Respondent is requiring all disabled tenants with service animals to sign service animal agreements or be subjected to possible eviction. Complainant states that according to Dept of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) regulations, her signed lease agreement alone is sufficient for her to maintain a service animal and that any other document the Respondent requires her to sign is discriminatory due to different terms and conditions.

Respondent denies the allegations of the complaint. Respondent states there are a total of five individuals, including the Complainant, who have service animals. All individuals with service animals received service animal agreements. Respondent reported Complainant was not singled out, since all residents with service animals received the service animal agreements and were asked to sign the document. [sic; two contracts]

Evidence provided indicated the Complainant was initially delivered a five-page service animal agreement that indicated home inspections would take place more frequently for individuals with service animals. The document also stated that violations of the service animal agreement could result in possible eviction. Respondent reported that the five-page service animal document was inadvertently delivered to the Complainant, as that was an outdated and obsolete agreement. Subsequently, a revised three-page service animal agreement was then delivered to the Complainant. The revised service animal agreement does not include the provision of frequent inspections, unless deemed necessary.

Complainant is correct in that, according to the ADA, a service animal is not a pet and not subject to typical pet policies that may be imposed, such as additional deposits. However, an owner may enforce state and local health and safety laws regarding the animal, e.g., leash laws, inoculation, boosters, distemper and rabies shots. In addition, the owner may require that the tenant with a disability who uses an assistance animal be responsible for the care and maintenance of the animal, including the proper disposal of the assistance animals’ waste and cleanliness and maintenance of the tenant’s unit.

Respondent contends that the signing of the service animal agreement would be viewed as a addendum to Complainant’s lease. Respondent further contends that Complainant was not treated differently, as all tenants with service animals were asked to sign the agreement. [sic: two contracts required]
It is encumbered [sic] upon the property owner to enforce state and local laws as they applies [sic] to service animals and require all individuals must obtain the proper identification/ service animal permit, not only for the safety of the Complainant, but for the safety of the entire apartment community. Based on the foregoing, the evidence failed to show the Respondent discriminated against the Complainant based on her disability. Accordingly, The Deputy Director concludes there is no reasonable cause to believe a discriminatory housing act has occurred.

Complainant may appeal this Finding. 930 IAC 1-3-2 (2000)[**see note below]. The written appeal request must be filed with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission within fifteen (15) days of this Notice of Finding and must include any new and additional evidence relied on by the Complainant to support the appeal. Failure to submit a timely appeal may result in a waiver of any right to further review or appeal of this Finding by the Commission or Indiana Courts. Upon the exhaustion of the administrative right to appeal, the complaint in this case is hereby dismissed with prejudice.

**************
[End of Finding text; signature and date line follow; signed 10/10/07 by Christine D. Cde Baca, Deputy Director, ICRC. Attached ‘Service List for Notice of Finding’ includes names and addresses for Complainant and Complainant’s attorney. However, the respondents on this Service List differ from those named in the text of the Finding.]

[*Note on Respondents: Both the Finding and the Service List include respondent [S] Royer in her position or Property Manager of Henderson Court Apartments. The rest of the respondents in the service List do not match the respondents listed in the Finding. [C] Townsend is shown in the Finding as ‘Executive Vice President, Henderson Court Partnership’. However, The Service List shows ‘[C] Townsend, President/Sheehan Property Management’. The Finding contains ‘[J] Curtis, Jr., Sheehan Property Management’ as a Respondent; However, [J] Curtis, Jr. does not appear on the Service List. The name ‘[R] S. Ford/Henderson Court, LP’ appears on the Service List but is not included among the Respondents the text of the Finding.]

[**Note on 930 IAC 1-3-2: There is no section 1-3-2 in Title 930 of the Indiana Administrative Code. After hours of fruitless searching for a non-existent code, Complainant asked the Deputy Director for clarification. The Deputy Director said that the ‘930 IAC 1-3-2′ was “a typo”.]

This transcription of the Indiana Civil Rights Commissions’ ‘Notice of Finding’ of ‘no reasonable cause’ was made by Complainant from a photocopy of the original document dated Oct 10 2007, postmarked Oct 15 (regular mail, not certified), received by Complainant Oct 24. Document is on ICRC letterhead, signed by Christine D. Cde Baca, Deputy Director of Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC).

Transcribed October 27 2007 by Complainant ‘Anne E. Citizen’

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