HUD – RV Park Discriminated in LGBT Incidents
Editor’s Note: The following story describes an issue first reported by www.woodallscm.com last year. The author of this story, David Webb, is a veteran journalist who has written for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. He is now a freelancer. He is the editor of cedarcreeklake.com. E-mail story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a charge of discrimination in August against an Athens, Texas, RV park owner after investigating a complaint by a transgender woman and her female partner who now live in Seven Points.
The action is believed to be one of the first few investigations by HUD to proceed to the trial stage since the federal agency adopted a new policy in March 2012 banning discrimination against LGBT people.
If the charge of discrimination is upheld in a federal administrative hearing or a U.S. federal district court, the park owner could be fined $16,000 and be required to reimburse the complainants for damages. The damages could include moving expenses and compensation for emotional distress.
Roxanne Joganik and Darlina Anthony filed the complaint in the summer of 2012 against George and Amy Toone and In Toone Services LLC, owners of Texan RV Park on Highway 175 West in Athens. The complainants alleged that the Toones discriminated against them on the basis of sex on May 15, 2012, and again on Aug. 18, 2012.
After the park owner refused to accept a rent payment from them and successfully pursued an eviction in now-deceased Justice of the Peace Henry S. Ashford’s court in Henderson County, Joganik offered to move to her son’s residence so Anthony could remain, according to the couple. The park owner again refused to accept the rent payment, leading to the dual charge, they said.
The pair amended the complaints in February 2013 to add charges of harassment and intimidation after the Toones, who are represented by Dallas lawyer Casey Erick, allegedly “sought and assisted in the publication of articles on a campground management website,” according to the complaint outlined in HUD documents.
The articles allegedly contained “inaccurate and negative information about complainant Joganik for the purpose of harassing and intimidating her” in violation of federal law, according to the allegations in the documents.
The Toones denied the allegations of discrimination, claiming that the complainants’ recreational vehicle did not “constitute a dwelling” and should be exempt from the federal housing law. They claimed the owners of the recreational vehicles in the park were not tenants, but instead guests.
The respondents also maintained that Joganik and Anthony were asked to leave the park because Joganik would not sign the park rules presented to him, the pair disrupted other guests’ use of the park and that Joganik had killed park wildlife (turtles in a pond that she said were eating the bait off her fish hooks).
Federal officials found “reasonable cause” of “discriminatory housing practices” by the park owner in the case, according to HUD documents in the possession of the complainants. But the officials rejected the complaint against the owner’s wife and the allegations of intimidation and harassment.
Joganik and Anthony said they are confident they will prevail in the HUD proceedings. Either party in the case can demand that the proceeding take place in federal district court rather than an administrative hearing so the forum and date are yet to be determined.