Apartment complex charged with discrimination

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Pedro Oliveira Jr.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
— The managers of a government-funded apartment complex in Walworth are being charged with discriminating against a disabled tenant who repeatedly requested accessible parking, federal authorities said Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is accusing Madison-based Cardinal Capital Management of refusing to provide reasonable accommodations to a tenant who has braces on both legs, making it difficult for him to walk, according to federal documents obtained by the Gazette.

The tenant lived at federally funded Village Square Apartments, 204 Madison St., Walworth, from October 2008 to November 2009. At the time, the parking lot of the 18-unit complex had 12 parking spaces, two of them designated handicap accessible, but only the one closest to the door had an accessible pedestrian path, according to the charging papers.

All parking at Village Square, which houses elderly and disabled tenants, was available on a first-come basis. The tenant, who was not named on charging papers, said he was asked by property managers to not park on the parking spot closer to the door because it was “exclusively for pick-up and drop-off of tenants, disabled or not, who did not drive,” according to federal documents.

The tenant started parking across the lot, which he told federal authorities caused him pain and took an extended period of time to get to and from his car. Once again, the tenant said, he asked for an accessible parking space. Charging documents say the manager replied, “[It] is our policy, and that’s how we do things here.”

Later in 2008, the tenant slipped and fell in the parking lot, requiring emergency medical attention, according to federal documents. The man moved out before the following winter, fearing another accident, authorities say.

The man, who lived on Social Security, had to pay for market-price housing and started getting his food from a local food pantry, according to documents.

Dan O’Connell, Cardinal Capital Management vice president, said Tuesday that company officials have reviewed the charging documents and “believe it’s full of inaccuracies.”

“We are very disappointed by what HUD did, here, and we intend on defending ourselves vigorously on this,” O’Connell said.

The company manages Village Square for apartment owner WHPC-DWR, a company also named on the federal charging documents.

O’Connell said his company specializes in affordable housing in Wisconsin. The company manages about 6,000 units throughout the state, about 20 percent of them for people with disabilities.

“We go the extra mile to try to do whatever we can to make their lives better,” he said. “We do whatever we can do to help those residents. We have never had a fair housing complaint. We have had just the opposite: People so thankful for the work we do.”

If proven, the federal charges could cost Cardinal Capital Management $16,000 in fines for a first-time offense. The accusations will be reviewed by a U.S. administrative law judge, unless a party asks the case be moved to federal district court, said Shantae Goodloe, a spokeswoman for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Last updated: 2:31 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

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