By: Joe Strupp
The San Antonio (Texas) Express-News is accused of running more than 40 discriminatory ads for rental housing over two years that sought to exclude potential renters based on race, religion, sex or family status, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
HUD filed charges against the Hearst Communications Inc. paper today that accuse it of violating the federal Fair Housing Act by publishing 42 such ads between November 2000 and October 2002.
“Some newspapers still do not understand their obligations even though the Fair Housing Act has been the law-of-the-land for more than three decades,” Carolyn Peoples, HUD’s assistant secretary for fair housing and equal opportunity, said in a statement. “HUD is committed to enforcing the nation’s fair housing laws, and we will act vigorously to keep peoples’ rights from being violated.”
Express-News Publisher Larry Walker could not be reached for comment Thursday. Hearst spokesman Paul Luthringer also declined comment, saying only “We have not yet seen the complaint so a comment would be premature.”
The HUD charge is related to an April 2002 complaint filed by the Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio, a non-profit organization funded by HUD through its Fair Housing Initiatives Program (FHIP) to investigate alleged violations of the act, the statement said.
The San Antonio FHIP had been investigating possible violations of the Act by the paper dating back to late 2000. HUD cited the following ad as typical of the type of ad that ran:
“WALZEN Area, Hispanic or White male pref., to share home…”
HUD set an Oct. 5 date for a hearing on the charges before a U.S. Administrative Law Judge in the San Antonio area, unless either side elects to have the case decided by a federal judge in U.S. District Court, officials said. A decision to go to trial in district court must be made by Aug. 9.
The 237,000 daily-circulation paper could face a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 for a first offense, plus actual damages for the complainant, injunctive or other equitable relief, and attorney fees, HUD said.