The goodness of the American people is codified in the Fair Housing Act. The act in essence states that every effort will be made to allow those with disabilities the physical comforts and conveniences necessary to lead normal and productive lives.
An unfortunate situation in Irmo came to light nearly four years ago when the power of local government was mobilized to deny a citizen of this town her request to build a carport at her own expense. A facility that she deemed necessary to have safe entry and egress from her home.
DOJ got involved and brought legal action on behalf of HUD against the town. DOJ proposed remedial action which would in part make the citizen whole by allowing construction of the carport and giving financial compensation. The case was litigated in federal court and moved at glacial speed. In the meantime, the mayor and two council members were denied reelection. We will never know the cost to taxpayers, but surely the cost of litigation exceeds a quarter million dollars.
The New Irmo News dated September 24, ran an article which summarized action by the council to announce that the court had rendered a decision through arbitration that the town had not acted in accordance with provisions of the Fair Housing Act (the article is available on the New Irmo News website). Remedial action as described in the article was to include no financial compensation, but the town would be required to gain familiarity with laws that provide consideration to those with a physical limitation. The purpose being to preclude treatment of citizens in future circumstances that would mirror mistakes in handling the request for a carport.
On November 6, the court issued a document describing the remedial action in detail. The document includes the following statement – “This settlement not only compensates ($25,000) an individual who was initially prevented from making reasonable accommodations for her disability, but it helps ensure that those in similar situations are protected in the future.” The town is prohibited from engaging in future disability discrimination or interfering with the homeowner’s use of her carport, and town officials must participate in fair-housing training and report to the department any denial of a request for a reasonable accommodation.
I have made an attempt (to no avail) to get an answer from the mayor, council and the business manager of the reason for the discrepancies between what was reported in the New Irmo News article and the court document. Perhaps there is a plausible explanation, but until some answer is forthcoming it seems as though the citizens of the town were lied to. If in fact, we were given false and misleading info then it is but another sad chapter in a repugnant saga that has prevailed for nearly four years.
Patrick Donlon – Irmo