LANCASTER – The City of Lancaster has filed a lawsuit against the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (HACoLA), officials announced Tuesday.
The lawsuit aims to recoup nearly $400,000 the city spent defending itself in legal battles over the Antelope Valley’s now-defunct Section 8 fraud investigation program, according to a city news release.
“The ongoing litigation over our Section 8 fraud investigation program, which aimed only to protect taxpayers by eradicating fraud from the system and freeing up vouchers for those who are truly in need, has cost the City dearly,” said Mayor R. Rex Parris, in a city news release. “The fact that over 96% of terminations recommended by these investigators were upheld in court shows how successful this program was. Yet, not only did Los Angeles County abandon the Antelope Valley to the whims of those who would defile this excellent program for political gain, they also added fuel to the fire by feeding false information about the City’s liability to the Community Action League and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in order to deflect any responsibility from themselves.”
The litigation stems from a 2011 complaint that claimed the fraud investigation program – a joint venture between HACoLA, Lancaster and Palmdale – was racially discriminatory.
The complaint was filed with HUD and in Federal Court.
The HUD complaint has since been withdrawn, and claims related to the Section 8 fraud investigation program have been removed from the Federal Court filing, according to the city news release.
The city claims it expended nearly $400,000 in legal fees to date defending itself against the claims.
HACoLA’s agreement to defend Lancaster and hold it harmless was in full effect at the time of the complaints; however, HACoLA failed to defend the city as required by the contract, the city claims.
“Despite Los Angeles County’s legal obligations to defend us, Lancaster has been left to weather this storm alone,” Parris said.
In August 2011, the City served the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors with a formal request to provide the City with a defense against the complaints as contractually obligated, but to date, this defense has not been provided, the city claims.
“The Cities of Lancaster and Palmdale jointly funded the fraud investigation program, while it was Los Angeles County’s responsibility to hire, train, supervise and have complete employer control over the investigators,” said Parris. “This is clearly stated in our contract, as is the fact that Los Angeles County must defend, hold harmless and indemnify the city from all costs and claims for damages arising from their investigators’ work.”
“The City is merely asking HACoLA to make good on its promises and give the citizens of Lancaster what they are owed – defense against these baseless allegations, and reimbursement of the nearly $400,000 we have already been compelled to spend in order to defend the actions of HACoLA’s own employees as part of this indispensable program,” Parris continued.
Updated 8.15.12: View the city’s entire complaint against the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles here.