First hearing in Meeker Housing Authority lawsuit set for Sept. 29

MEEKER I A federal judge has granted a hearing for an emergency temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on behalf of Meeker residents Lonnie and A.J. White, to prevent their eviction from Section 8 subsidized housing in Meeker. The Whites (father and son) and Megan McFadden have filed a federal civil suit against the Meeker Housing Authority and its board members, citing violations of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which provides civil rights protections for people with disabilities. A.J. White and McFadden are disabled and use companion animals (two cats and a dog) to manage their disabilities. According to documents filed by the plaintiff’s attorney in district court, the Meeker Housing Authority’s pet policy in February 2014 read as follows: “Absolutely no pets are allowed at Karen Court with the one exception to the rule being: where such animal assists a tenant or family member, and documentation for such assistance has been obtained by third party verification from a reputable source, by the director.” According to the plaintiffs, they provided letters from their mental health professionals explaining the need to keep their companion animals for emotional support according to the policy requirements, and “lived…without complaint or issue for nearly two and half years.” In June 2016 and again in July 2016 the MHA revised its pet policy to state that companion animals had to meet a new requirement that tenants provide a letter from a medical doctor, explicitly stating that letters from psychologists, psychotherapists or therapists would not be accepted. In addition, the revision to the no-pet policy required tenants to pay a non-refundable pet fee of $300 per pet. The plaintiffs allege that these measures are violations of their civil rights and have demanded a trial by jury. Meeker Housing Authority Director Stacie Kincher stated via email that she is unable to comment on the case at this time. The Meeker Housing Authority is a separate entity from the Town of Meeker, which is regulated by the state. The Town of Meeker, by state statute, is obligated to appoint members to the housing authority board, but “has no other obligation,” according to Town Clerk Lisa Cook. The motion for the temporary restraining order will be heard before Federal Judge Martinez in Denver on Sept. 29.