LANCASTER – Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris Tuesday demanded an apology from the NAACP for filing and then withdrawing a housing discrimination complaint against the City of Lancaster.
The complaint, which alleged a pattern of harassment by Lancaster leaders against mainly black and Latino residents on the Section 8 program, was without merit and cost tax payers millions of dollars, Parris said.
NAACP representatives rebuffed calls for an apology Wednesday.
“If he’s searching for an apology then he can continue his search,” said Juan Blanco, President of the NAACP, Antelope Valley.
“There will be no apology,” said Pharaoh Mitchell, NAACP member and founder of The Community Action League (TCAL). “It was the NAACP’s decision to withdraw the complaint to focus on the lawsuit.”
Mitchell said an apology is not needed because the concerns that prompted the NAACP to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are valid. However, the NAACP withdrew the HUD complaint to focus on a separate and ongoing federal lawsuit, which addresses many of the concerns cited in the HUD complaint, NAACP officials said.
“It’s important to understand that our withdrawal of the HUD complaint has no bearing on our lawsuit against Lancaster and is simply a strategic decision to focus our advocacy and bring about a speedy resolution for the residents of Lancaster who for years have endured rampant discrimination at the hands of city officials,” Dorcas Gilmore, Assistant General Counsel for the NAACP, said in a prepared statement. “Fair housing is core to the NAACP’s mission and the mission of all the groups and individuals who have been fighting the devastating discrimination in Lancaster, and we are moving forward with our lawsuit to ensure people of color have meaningful choices and opportunities in where they choose to live.”
The federal lawsuit, which was filed in June 2011, was brought forward by the NAACP, The Community Action League (TCAL) and three Section 8 tenants against the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale. It claims black and Latino families, using Section 8 housing vouchers in Lancaster and Palmdale, are victims of constant, unbearable harassment at the hands of housing authority investigators, sheriff’s deputies and local politicians. Read the entire complaint.
In late January, the County Board of Supervisors approved a settlement agreement, though the county was not named in the lawsuit. A week later, Palmdale settled the lawsuit, leaving Lancaster alone to fight the lawsuit.
“Community members have called TCAL to thank us and tell us that HUD was talking to them about getting their [Section 8] vouchers back because their vouchers were unfairly taken,” Mitchell said.
Parris has so far refused to settle the lawsuit on behalf of Lancaster and maintains that he will fight it to the very end.
Mitchell said he hopes the mayor will reconsider his position.
“Our case is stronger than ever, and we can win this case; but we would rather sit across the table and talk [to the mayor] than to battle and cause more separation in this community,” Mitchell said. “Our goal is to bridge the gap between our broken community, and this is the only reason why we have taken the actions that we have taken. We hope that the mayor will work with us toward that goal.”
“We need to focus on positive things in our community, such as job creation for youths and adults, more programs for youths and senior citizens, as well as the Wellness Homes,” Mitchell continued. “In order for these positive changes to continue we must be willing to sit across the table, set aside our differences and work toward the betterment of our community.”