County responds to federal lawsuit

The Community Action League (seen here at a press conference in December) is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, which prompted the proposed settlement.

LANCASTER/ PALMDALE – Deputies can no longer ride along on Section 8 compliance checks, law enforcement can no longer know which homes are Section 8 homes, and there will be no extra Section 8 housing investigators for Lancaster and Palmdale. This according to the details of a proposed settlement agreement approved late Tuesday by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The settlement is the County’s response to a federal lawsuit against the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, which claims Black and Latino families using Section 8 housing vouchers are victims of constant, unbearable harassment at the hands of housing authority investigators, sheriff’s deputies and local politicians. Read the complaint here.

The County is not named in the lawsuit, but only because County officials agreed to negotiate in good faith before the lawsuit was brought forth, according to plaintiff attorney Maria Palomares.

“We sent demand letters to the County, the city of Lancaster, and the city of Palmdale before we actually filed the lawsuit,” said Palomares. “The Housing Authority and the Sheriff’s Department, both represented by the County, came to us and said ‘we would like to talk to see how we can resolve this,’ and we’ve been in ongoing discussions since then.”

She said they were not able to achieve the same dialog with the cities.

“The City of Lancaster created the Section 8 Commission and tried to use their business license as a way to limit the number of Section 8 tenants that were coming into the City,” Palomares said. “So for their actions, this lawsuit is still very much alive and moving forward.”

The County’s proposed settlement does not affect the racial discrimination lawsuit against Lancaster and Palmdale. The settlement must be approved by the federal court, which Palomares anticipates will happen within the next two weeks.

“It’s rare that a judge would ever disapprove a settlement,” she said. “We really look forward to it being approved by the judge so it can go into effect and there can be oversight by the judicial court. That way this would be more than just words on paper. The cities can start to heal and welcome Black and Latino families.”

The settlement was approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Michael Antonovich opposed. The settlement agreement includes the following provisions:

The County will not fund additional investigators. Currently, there are three housing investigators responsible for ensuring Section 8 compliance in Los Angeles County. Since 2005, Lancaster and Palmdale have had agreements with the County, which provide for additional housing investigators in the Antelope Valley. These investigators were employed by the County Housing Authority but paid for out of City and Fifth District funds. The County previously suspended these agreements in the wake of the lawsuit, and now they will stop altogether. The County Housing Authority cannot enter into any agreements with the cities of Lancaster or Palmdale for additional housing investigators for least three years.

Section 8 participants cannot be identified. The Housing Authority agreed not to provide identifying information about Section 8 participants (i.e. a Section 8 participant’s or landlord’s name or address) to any public entities outside of HUD. This means law enforcement will no longer know which homes are Section 8 homes.

Deputies cannot accompany housing investigators in conducting Section 8 compliance checks. Except in cases where the investigator documents a legitimate threat to his or her safety, deputies will not be allowed on Section 8 compliance checks. If the investigator documents a threat to safety, the investigator must get approval from senior Housing Authority officials and the local Sheriff’s station’s watch commander to allow for a deputy to go on a compliance check. In those cases, no more than one deputy will be assigned to the housing compliance check and the deputy must remain outside the home unless given separate consent to enter.

Housing investigators cannot terminate Section 8 in the field. New investigations protocol will be developed, which will no longer allow housing investigators to issue proposed Section 8 terminations in the field. Rather, the housing investigator’s report will be reviewed by an analyst, and only the analyst may recommend termination, which must then be approved by a senior Housing Authority officer.

There will be a hotline for Section 8 recipients to report discrimination. The Housing Authority will publicize a hotline number that Section 8 recipients can call to report incidents of racial or ethnic discrimination. This number will directly connect callers to attorneys in the Section 8 lawsuit.  The Housing Authority must also provide all Section 8 participants with notice at least twice a year that the purpose of the Section 8 program is to enable participants to choose to live where they wish.

News of the settlement agreement was met with jubilation from community groups involved in the lawsuit and outrage from at least one City leader.

“The agreement sends a strong message that the Antelope Valley is one community and everyone belongs here,” said V. Jesse Smith, of the Community Action League.

The Community Action League and the NAACP, both plaintiffs in the lawsuit, will hold a press conference Thursday to discuss community reaction to the settlement.

In contrast, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris called the proposed settlement outrageous. Read more here.

  9 comments for “County responds to federal lawsuit

  1. Mercedes
    March 7, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    to all the anti sec 8 people,

    You should not blame an entire group of people because of a few bad ones! Just because someone applied for and qualified to receive an assistance that is offered, doesn’t make them low-class or a bunch of criminals.
    Sure there are those that cheat the system and commit fraud, but trust me, it is much greater in what you deem to be upper class societies; and with your tax money as well. I mean we have a guy who is the head of the Federal Reserve who got caught cheating on his taxes! Our Congress has so many who go into office and by the time they leave are multimillionaires. That they are even making $175,000 a year to start is an outright theft of taxpayer money!
    Why do I say this? Well I don’t live in Lancaster or Palmdale but instead I’m in Orange County. I am/was on the Section 8 program.
    I saw an add in the paper saying if you make under so much a year, etc; so I applied. I was on a waiting list close to 2 years then I sent in practically every form of financial record to school record you could imagine, and I was accepted into the program.
    I’m Hispanic, but fool most Hispanics who think I’m white until they hear me speak Spanish, I have red hair even! I don’t do drugs, I hardly drink and if I ever do, I certainly do not drive, I don’t smoke cigarettes, I have a few close friends some who are married with kids, I was in a committed relationship with a normal boyfriend for 8. I have not criminal record, I have not had even so much as a parking ticket in ten or so years, I keep my surroundings tidy, never have loud obnoxious people over or parties at my home, just me and 2 cats, plus the raccoons I feed outside, and I had a job the whole time up until last year when I broke up with my boyfriend and things went south from there.
    Funny thing, I’m a conservative! I used to think what’s wrong with the ACLU? If you are not doing anything you shouldn’t be, who cares if your phone is tapped?!
    Well, that all change when one morning just after 7am (I’m a nightowl by the way) someone pounded with such force on my front door, I was like those cartoon characters when spooked grab hold of the ceiling! I live in a small one bedroom and have a doorbell so I thought my building might be on fire or something!
    I open the door still half asleep to find to a man and woman who I had something about “housing authority” asking to come in.
    I said no I wasn’t expecting anyone and since I had just been getting over the flu, my place was messy and I would be embarrassed (messy to me is a few dishes in the sink and not vacuuming for 5 days). It didnt matter the guy basically shoved his way past me saying he just had a few questions. He began asking me how I was making ends meet since I had not been working, I told him I had saved up money and don’t spend much so that is how I have been paying for things like my food and bills, yes the rental assistance helped a lot. But as he began asking me all types of odd questions like where a deposit into my checking account for 160.00 from 8 months ago came from, I told i would have to look in my records! 
    Then he just walks into my bedroom and literally going through my closets and my drawers; when he got to the underwear drawer I said what the hell?! First off why is a man going through my things when a female is his partner and why the heck was he doing this. I asked what he was looking for and when he just kept looking I told him to show me a warrant or leave!
    Then I got the “talking to”. He wasn’t with the housing authority he was an investigator from the district attorney’s office who is contracted by the housing authority, a cop basically without a uniform. He told me he did not need a warrant and I agreed to that every year I sign on the rules agreement with the housing voucher program. I grabbed my rules and read to him that it said I must allow my home to be inspected at a reasonable time having been given reasonable notice! I was in my PJ’s that is not reasonable! He said that on another rule it said I agreed to cooperate with the DA at all times when they are doing a housing investigation! So I argued cooperating and giving up my 4th amendment constitutional right to privacy in my own home were not the same thing!
    Then he said if I did not allow them to finish I would be kicked off the rental assistance!
    Nice huh, I haven’t done anything wrong in my entire life but because I allowed myself to enter into a government program I am somehow less of a citizen! 
    Sure I understand them being more diligent and catching fraud, but for goodness sakes, I’m living in a one bedroom and drive a 20 year old car! The people they should find more of are those living in 4500 square foot mansions driving mercedes and what have you!
    Into his search they find three receipts from a department store showing they were for a returns and then two more sales receipt from the same store!
    You could not believe how nuts they went! They asked if I had reported these returns and I said no why would I they were refunds from clothes I bought two years earlier, never wore them, and if the store’s policy accepts the returns regardless of time, then!
    Well they started going through everything more and more, then they began with comments like that my TV must have been expensive…except for it being 12 years old, then the girl asked how could I afford an iPhone, well the fact that it is my only phone and the thing was FREE if I signed up for a 2 year contract, THAT’s How!
    I endured this crap for almost two hours before they left!
    the best part is after all that. I am sent a notice from the Housing Authority terminating me for unreported income!
    I had an informal hearing to challenge the termination yet when that same investigator testified he went on an on about all the expensive clothes I had and that I must be pulling a scam because the receipts totaled about $550 and he just had pictures of three of them, there only were three! But they tried saying it was income. Regardless of the proof I had showing that when I originally bought the items was when I had a job and had already reported that income to the Housing Authority, so how is it income twice?! The hearing officer hired by the housing authority sided with them and terminated me. At least Lancaster has legal aid groups helping them, there is no help in Orange County, Legal Aid doesn’t have a housing attorney.
    I am having to challenge them in superior court in a legal proceeding that is by far one of the more technically detailed ones.
    I am challenging them not so much because I feel entitled to that rental assistance (although I have used up my emergency money and really do need the help) I will manage but it’s more on principle that I followed the rules and I should not have been terminated that I’m challenging them in court!
    Luckily, I’m above average in intelligence and I do not have to worry about children, etc, that I can take this on. But I feel bad for someone who is less educated, has children, unfortunately relied upon a program she qualified for,
    but then is bullied by overly zealous Investigators and a housing authority eager to see if they could claim that money is owed to them which they can keep half of. They said I had unreported income but did not say I owed them a thing… What does that say? They had no evidence I had unreported income (because I had no income!) so they just terminated me to save face.
    Nice, people are facing homelessness by the actions of the group who is supposed to be helping prevent that. Go figure, most of the staff at the agency is no different then those of the DMV!
    So yes, say all you want about how it your tax money and these section 8 are taking it and that means they must submit to such abuse, and it was abuse, or even if you don’t think it is, then how is it that you don’t see the guys from that solar company Solyndra who got $550million from the government and still went BK in a year, why is no one searching their homes without warrants? What about the auto manufacturers, they got a nice chunk of change? Farmers? Oil Execs? No one is forcing then to have their houses searched?!
    See if it ever happens to you, because you’ll never know what may happen! How would you feel having some hostile stranger going through your home making all types of allegations of you being some type of criminal,
    all because you are poor and you qualified for help! That’s wrong!!!

  2. mark
    January 31, 2012 at 8:40 am

    There is a huge disconnect in America where elected officals who are mostly wealthy are making laws and regulations that impugn the freedoms of middle and lower class citizens. They took an oath to SERVE the people they represent but somehow that has turned into RULE the people that elected them.

    Our leaders should pay heed to what’s happening in the middle east… the cities are riddled with destruction, their people are disgusted with the leaders and many leaders and their families suffer indiscriminate violence because the burden of the people is so great. Our country is on the verge of these types of reactions. Please let calm, fair and humanitarian goals be the driving force behind legislation… PLEASE

  3. Palmdale_Steve
    January 28, 2012 at 9:12 am

    How about a local hotline to report Section 8 problems. The phone will ring on TRex desk, after receipt of a complaint a searchlight projecting an image of a “TRex” will appear in the night sky over Lancaster summoning the forces of good.

    OK, so just a hotline then.

  4. john
    January 27, 2012 at 10:29 am

    What a farce, section 8 is horrible, ruins the area, and Im a minority, cant condone it or EBT.

  5. WOW
    January 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Looks whose the racist here. This should have nothing to do with race but crime and statistics. I called the cops to come when I had BLACK intruder at 4AM and it was a BLACK cop that came to my door. Section 8 is section 8 and there is alot of fraud and abuse. Its all of OUR tax paying money and anyone who would agrue that is on section 8.

    • Stinger
      January 26, 2012 at 3:43 pm

      “…and anyone who would agrue that is on section 8.”

      Sounds like Parris-paid blogger talk to me. ;-)

      • Leo
        January 31, 2012 at 10:03 am

        when will you get over your obsession of “Parris paid” bloggers?

        so just because someone disagrees with you they have to be “parris paid”?

        or maybe youre really just a lil bit terrified that MANY of us do agree with Parris and are not being paid?

        • Stinger
          January 31, 2012 at 10:18 am

          How much is he paying for this campaign, “Leo?” Does it come with free koolaid? ;-)

  6. WOW
    January 26, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I’m moving from this hell hole. Im sure the eye in the sky will become a race thing too.

Comments are closed.