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October 10, 1995

Housing Discrimination Complaint Filed In Mobile Federal Court

A complaint has been filed by 19 persons in Federal Court in Mobile in late August, 1995, against Mitchell Brothers, Inc. alleging they had been denied the opportunity to rent apartments under its management because of their race. The complaint stated that when the plaintiffs applied for rental of property managed by the defendant, they were asked to fill out an information card, and that in late 1994 to early 1995, they learned these cards were marked with a code for discrimination purposes. Because none of the plaintiffs were offered rental by the defendant, the complaint cited violations of the Fair Housing Act, the Civil Rights Acts, and the Alabama Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The complaint also petitions the court to allow the plaintiffs to file the charges as a class action lawsuit.

Donald Briskman, attorney for MBI, told The Harbinger last week "I don't comment on pending litigation." In July, 1995, Briskman faxed The Harbinger a statement in reply to a reporter's request to interview three MBI officials about allegations of housing discriminations charged by eight former MBI employees: "MItchell Brothers, Inc. has an outstanding record of opposing racial discrimination in any and all forms for the past thirty-five (35) years. The media is not the appropriate forum to respond to reckless charges by disgruntled former employees." (See "Housing Discrimination By MBI," Vol. XIII, #19.)

According to complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and affidavits, four former MBI lease agents said they were told to mark the information cards to distinguish white applicants from those who are minorities.

Miriam L. Steiner said in her affidavit: "About two weeks before I was fired, Debbie Brown (manager of Maison de Ville apartments) told me to pull the marked cards out of the file and to throw them away. I pulled the cards out and did put them in the garbage. I then decided to keep the cards. I have attached true and correct copies of these cards to this affidavit as Exhibit 1."

In August, the Mobile daily reported that an investigator from the U.S. Department of Justice visited Mobile to collect information concerning allegations of housing discrimination by MBI.

-- Edmund Tsang

-- October 10, 1995

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