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Apartment Owners Fined in Racial Bias Case

March 22, 2000

BUENA PARK — The owners of an apartment complex have settled a racial discrimination lawsuit by agreeing to pay $250,000 and give up control of all rental properties for five years.

But Herbert P. and Rose M. Wysard Jr. of Fullerton, after agreeing to the settlement earlier this month, sold the 186-unit Flowertree Apartments. And their lawyer said they own only a few units elsewhere.

Under the settlement, the Wysards must retain a professional firm to manage any rental properties they have or may acquire over the next five years, according to the Fair Housing Council of Orange County, which filed the lawsuit and announced the settlement Monday.

The Wysards did not admit liability in settling claims that they wrongly kept African Americans out of the Flowertree. Housing officials said the settlement is the first they know about in the county and possibly in Southern California that requires owners to give up day-to-day control of their properties because of alleged discrimination.

"I think it sends the message that if you intentionally discriminate and you get caught, that it's not only financially expensive up front, but that it also has a longer-term cost," said D. Elizabeth Martin, the housing council's executive director.

The Wysards could not be reached for comment. But Christine Baran, one of the lawyers representing the couple, said: "The threat of attorney fees was what drove the case to settlement. The settlement was not based on the merit of the case itself."

As part of the settlement, plaintiffs Takisha Spears, who is African American, and Deana Silva and her son, Charles Bailey, who are African American and Mexican, will receive a total of $100,000 in damages.

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