June 1, 2011 ADC Statement on Motions to Enforce and to Intervene

Westchester Case

Faced with Westchester’s comprehensive and unrelenting violations of its housing desegregation obligations under a federal court Consent Decree, and with the failure of the federal government and its Monitor to enforce those obligations, the Anti-Discrimination Center (“ADC”) has moved for Court enforcement of the Decree.  Read ADC’s memoranda in support of its Motion to Enforce and its Motion to Intervene.

“The entry of this Consent Decree was supposed to mark the moment — for Westchester and for the country — when serious steps would begin to be taken to overcome the residential segregation that continues to plague our society,” said Robert Stroup, ADC’s co-counsel and a partner at the law firm of Levy & Ratner. “Instead, we have seen almost two years of Westchester continuing the same attitudes and polices that landed it in trouble in the first place.”

ADC’s Executive Director Craig Gurian, the attorney who initiated and co-counseled the underlying multi-year case against Westchester County, said: “The federal government promised that it would hold Westchester’s feet to the fire. Instead, Westchester’s 21 months of violations haven’t even yielded a request from the federal government to the Court to hold an informal conference, let alone an effort to compel the County to obey the Decree.”

“The combination of Westchester non-compliance and government inaction is toxic,” Gurian continued. “HUD, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, and the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District have together let every jurisdiction across the country know that, even where the federal government’s leverage is strongest — where its authority it backed by a binding federal court order — the government is unprepared to fight to overcome open resistance to those Consent Decree civil rights requirements.”

Among Westchester’s attitudes and policies comprising its resistance and violations are the following:

• Denying the demographic reality of continuing residential segregation.

• Ignoring its Consent Decree obligation to use all of its housing programs to end residential segregation throughout the County.

• Taking a “see no evil” posture in respect to its municipalities — openly defying its obligation take legal action against those whose fail to affirmatively further fair housing.

• Avoiding its obligation to develop units that overcome barriers to fair housing choice, instead picking parcels by virtue of their being “non-controversial” (staying away, in other words, from parcels on blocks where a high percentage of White people already live).

• Failing even to identify discrimination as an impediment to fair housing choice.

• Failing to produce a compliant Implementation Plan or a compliant “Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice,” each of which was required by the Consent Decree and is necessary to guide a segregation-reducing process.

• Vetoing legislation to prohibit discrimination based on lawful source of income.


Background on the case

The Consent Decree emerged out of a case that ADC had brought against Westchester in 2006. In that case, after much litigation, the court found in February 2009 that Westchester had “utterly failed” to comply with its affirmatively furthering fair housing (“AFFH”) obligations, and that all of its representations over a six-year period that it had done so were “false or fraudulent.”

Further rulings in favor of ADC approaching trial with little to explain its conduct other than the claim that said in essence, “We’ve gotten away with it before - why should we be held accountable now?”

Faced with certain defeat, Westchester decided to settle the case.

The overall financial scope of the settlement — $62.5 million – represented a sum greater than all of the community development and related funding that Westchester received from federal government during the false claims period.

Most importantly, Westchester was prohibited from ignoring either the residential racial segregation that continues to plague it, or the municipal resistance to affordable housing development that stymies the possibility of changing those patterns.

Throughout the litigation, the federal government refused to intervene to vindicate the civil rights and anti-fraud interests presented by the litigation. Even when the federal government became involved in negotiations as a May 2009 trial date approached, it still refused to intervene on the side of ADC and civil rights. Ultimately, concurrent with the entry of a Consent Decree in August 2009, the federal government did finally intervene, and became the party that was supposed to be enforcing the Consent Decree thereafter.