PALMDALE – The City of Palmdale has reached a settlement agreement in the lawsuit brought forward by the NAACP and The Community Action League, which claims Black and Latino families using Section 8 housing vouchers in Lancaster and Palmdale were victims of constant, unbearable harassment at the hands of housing authority investigators, sheriff’s deputies and local politicians.
“While the City Council continues to believe that this is a frivolous lawsuit and that the City of Palmdale has acted at all times in a lawful manner, it also understands that in certain cases, like this, discretion is the better part of valor,” said Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford in a written statement. “We decided it was better to agree to the status quo than waste further taxpayer dollars to achieve the same result in a couple of years.”
The settlement agreement was approved by the Palmdale City Council Wednesday and settles the racial discrimination lawsuit filed in June 2011, according to Public Counsel, the public interest law firm representing the NAACP, TCAL and three Section 8 tenants in the lawsuit. Read the entire complaint here.
Palmdale’s settlement agreement comes a week after Los Angeles County Supervisors voted on Tuesday, Jan. 24, to institute new protocols for Section 8 program investigators and Sheriff’s Department personnel. Read details of the County’s settlement agreement here.
“The City of Palmdale never belonged in this lawsuit and I believe this settlement is indicative of that fact,” said Palmdale City Attorney Wm. Matthew Ditzhazy in a written statement. “The City will not pay plaintiffs or their 21 attorneys a dime and the City did not agree to do anything of substance that it wasn’t already doing or that had not already been surrendered by the politically correct crowd at the County of Los Angeles.”
According to Public Counsel, the terms of Palmdale’s settlement agreement are as follows:
- Section 8 participants in Palmdale cannot be identified. Palmdale will not seek any information as to which of its residents participate in the Section 8 program.
- Palmdale will not fund additional Section 8 investigators. Palmdale will stop using city funds to pay for a dedicated Section 8 investigator in Palmdale, and instead will allow the County housing authority to take full responsibility for policing Section 8 compliance in the City.
- The lawsuit is dismissed against Palmdale. The plaintiffs will dismiss Palmdale from the lawsuit, leaving only the City of Lancaster to face claims of racial discrimination.
“By entering into this agreement, the City of Palmdale is affirming that it welcomes people of all backgrounds and from all walks of life, including those who rely on the Section 8 program for rental assistance,” said Jennifer del Castillo, an impact litigation attorney at Public Counsel. “Nothing in this agreement stops Palmdale from enforcing its laws and protecting its residents’ health and safety. The agreement simply says that Palmdale will treat Section 8 participants the same as everyone else. That is the essence of fair housing and fair governance.”
“Palmdale has always condemned discrimination and continues to condemn discrimination in any form,” said Ledford in a written statement. “The City of Palmdale welcomes people from diverse backgrounds, including people who participate in the Section 8 program.”
Thursday’s settlement means the lawsuit continues against the City of Lancaster only, according to the Public Counsel.
“Lancaster’s mayor has characterized Section 8 families as being “dumped” on the city, and other officials have stated that the city’s goal is to reduce its Section 8 population by half. This runs counter to the purpose of the Section 8 program, which is to enable the participants to live in communities of their own choosing and to encourage economic and racial integration,” reads a press release issued by Public Counsel Thursday.
Ledford speculated that Palmdale may have gotten caught up in the lawsuit due to its close proximity to the City of Lancaster.
“I believe the reason that the city of Palmdale was included in this lawsuit is because of the unfortunate misperception outside of the Antelope Valley that the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster are one and the same,” said Ledford in a statement. “Nothing is farther from the truth… The inflammatory rhetoric advanced by the plaintiffs and the leaders in Lancaster has divided our community, inaccurately depicted our City in the national media, and undermined 20 years of effort on the part of myself and past and current Palmdale City Councils to promote and advance an inclusive community.”
“Now, more than ever, we need the real leaders of our community to step forward and help heal our City, ” Ledford added.
Palmdale’s settlement agreement takes effect immediately, according to City officials.
“The settlement agreement merely restates State and Federal law and the current policies of the City of Palmdale and the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles,” said Assistant City Attorney Noel Doran. “The only difference between today and yesterday is that the City of Palmdale will no longer be in the lawsuit.”
Like the County’s proposed settlement, the City of Palmdale’s settlement must also be approved by the federal court, according to Public Counsel.