Magistrate judge rules for city housing authority in motions related to lawsuit
WILLIAMSPORT - A federal magistrate judge has all but dismissed a lawsuit against the Shamokin Housing Authority (SHA) and its director over the non-acceptance of a city resident into the Housing Choice Voucher program.
In an order issued Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt ruled that a motion for a preliminary injunction to have the authority process the voucher claim of Brenda Everett, of Shamokin, was denied and Everett's claim of misconduct under the U.S. Housing Act was dismissed with prejudice. He also dismissed executive director Ronald Miller from the case.
The ruling leaves Everett with only one claim left in the suit - that her due process rights under the 14th Amendment were violated.
Everett filed the lawsuit in June after SHA withheld subsidies for the apartment she lived in with her two disabled daughters for the past nine months. She was a participant in the voucher program through the Harrisburg Housing Authority (HHA), but said she moved out of the city because of a high incidence of criminal activity near her residence.
The Harrisburg authority helped Everett transfer the voucher to Shamokin, which issued a voucher to her on Aug. 24, 2012. That same day, Everett made a request for SHA to inspect her apartment. She said that did not occur.
Two weeks later, SHA sent a letter to Everett saying the agency was revoking the subsidy based on a report from the U.S. Postal Service that her adult son, Khaalid Muhammad, was living with her. Simultaneously, SHA issued a notice to Everett's adult daughter, saying her subsidy was also ending for the same reason.
Everett said in the complaint that for months prior and at that time, Muhammad was renting from the same landlord, Junior Fairweather, but at a different Shamokin apartment.
Everett had a grievance meeting with Miller on Oct. 9, 2012, and SHA sent a letter confirming that the information provided by the post office on Khaalid Muhammad's residence was erroneous, but the subsidy was not reinstated, according to court documents.
In a memorandum explaining the decision, Blewitt said the court found that Everett failed to show any irreparable harm since she has been in Shamokin, she was able to pay her landlord unsubsidized rent for her residence for over a year.
Blewitt also wrote that Everett failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of her claims, and that the court has adequate remedies at law if she succeeds in her case, receiving money damages for her unsubsidized rental payments she has been making since she moved to Shamokin in October 2012.
Miller was removed from the case because he was sued only in his official capacity, not as an individual. Blewitt said that the claims against Miller and SHA are redundant, and thus removed Miller from the suit.
The term "with prejudice" means that the plaintiff cannot refile the claim against the party. It's a term that the authority was familiar with in its long battle with Red Gold Enterprises over the former Center City Apartments.
Red Gold claimed that since a mortgage lawsuit filed by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency was dismissed in 2004 with prejudice, the mortgage that was transferred to the SHA was invalid. Several courts disagreed and the property was eventually turned over to the authority, which has since renamed them Madison Court Apartments.