U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Administrative Law Judge Constance OBryant has ordered a Mississippi mobile home park owner to pay a $92,709.92 default judgment to resolve complaints of racial discrimination against him. The judgment awards $80,000 in emotional distress damages to two complainants, $1,709.92 in out-of-pocket expenses, and $11,000 in civil penalties. Silas Tucker, the owner and operator of Trailer Village 80 East in Pearl, Mississippi did not respond to the complaint and presented no evidence in his defense, despite being contacted repeatedly by HUD and Judge OBryant.
Angela McMahon is a white woman who lived in a mobile home on Lot 5 in Trailer Village 80 East. McMahon moved into the park in August 1996, and from the time she moved in until May 1997, McMahon lived with a white, female roommate and had no problems. When her African American boyfriend moved in, however, the owner of the park forced her to move her mobile home out.
Owner began harassing white tenant after African American boyfriend moved in with her
McMahon testified that after her African American boyfriend, Dennis Sessions, moved in with her, Tucker became very rude to her. He avoided eye contact with her and ripped down a fence that she had built around her mobile home. Soon after that, Tucker began harassing McMahon and Sessions. Tucker began sending notes concerning violations of park rules, even though Tucker did not sign leases with his tenants and there were no published rules. Tucker would also turn his back on McMahon if they were walking toward each other. Tucker refused to personally accept rent checks from McMahon after Sessions moved in. Tucker instead instructed the parks secretary to take rent checks from McMahon.
On August 1, 1998, Tucker sent a note to McMahon, informing her that she would have to move out of her mobile home, because the city was going to run new sewer lines to the park. McMahon requested that her mobile home be moved to a vacant lot within the park. Tucker refused and said that several other residents were also going to have to move. After asking several neighbors if they had been asked to move, McMahon and Sessions found out that no other residents were asked to move and that no new sewage lines were being run to the park.
McMahon testified that she was embarrassed and humiliated once she learned that Tucker had lied to her. She said that she was sure that her neighbors would think she was being evicted for being a bad tenant. According to hearing documents, both McMahon and Sessions sought treatment to help them deal with the emotional trauma of Tuckers discriminatory acts. McMahon and Sessions moved their mobile home out of Tuckers park and filed a complaint with HUD.
After a probable cause finding, HUD attorneys requested information from Tucker on December 14, 2001. Tucker did not respond, and HUD attorneys asked Judge OBryant to compel him to answer on January 2, 2002. Again, Tucker did not respond, and on February 13, Judge OBryant ordered him to produce the requested evidence "forthwith." After months of warnings from the judge and no responses from Tucker, HUD attorneys requested that a default judgment be entered. Judge OBryant did enter a default judgment on April 26. On June 10, 2002, Tucker wrote a letter to Judge OBryant, asking that the case be reopened so that he might offer a defense. Judge OBryant denied his request.
Judge OBryant: housing discrimination "must be condemned in the strongest way possible"
When deciding to assess the maximum civil penalty against Tucker, Judge OBryant chastised the respondent. She wrote, "Those who would act upon their bigoted thoughts and violate the [Fair Housing] Act must be put on notice that they will pay dearly for their discriminatory conduct. The stark and ugly truth we see in this case is that although Respondent freely allowed Ms. McMahon to have her dog live in his trailer park, he reacted violently when she allowed a Black person to live there. His conduct is a relic of a hurtful and hateful past and must be condemned in the strongest way possible."
HUD v. Tucker d/b/a Trailer Village 80 East
HUD ALJ 04-98-0332-8
Complaint filed: August 1998
HUD Charge Issued: October 18, 2001
Decision and Order: August 14, 2002