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Massillon Landlords to Pay $850,000 in Discrimination Lawsuit Settlement

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The former owners of three apartment buildings in Massillon, Ohio, have agreed to pay $850,000 to settle claims that they racially discriminated against tenants. ideastream's Nick Castele reports.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 9:30 am

Stark County filed a lawsuit in federal court in 2011 against John and Mary Ruth, who owned a trio of apartment buildings.

The suit, later joined by the Justice Department, alleges the Ruths told managers at their buildings to keep down the number of African-American tenants they rented to—it also accuses the owners of trying to encourage black tenants and tenants with children to move out.

This is the second discrimination settlement in Northeast Ohio announced by the Justice Department this month. Less than two weeks ago, a landlord operating in Rocky River agreed to settle claims of discrimination against families with kids.

U.S. Attorney Stephen Dettelbach says while most landlords don't discriminate, he wants to discourage anyone from considering it.

"The few that are out there who are thinking of engaging in this kind of conduct need to understand that the $850,000 settlement that happened here today is a real message: just don't do it," Dettelbach said.

The defendants will pay most of that money to Stark County, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and former residents. Some property managers who joined the suit against their former employers will also receive damages. A smaller sum, $25,000, will go to the Justice Department.

The defendants also agreed to bring in an independent company to manage the properties for them.

The case had been scheduled to go to jury trial before the parties arrived at their agreement. In the settlement, the Ruths deny they broke the law. An attorney for the Ruths says his clients have no further comment.

Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Stark County originally brought the lawsuit. The Justice Department joined the case later.