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Crawford v. New Castle County Housing Authority

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 19, 2019

ROBERTA CRAWFORD, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW CASTLE COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY, SECTION 8, et al., Defendants.

          Roberta Crawford, Wilmington, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.

          Colleen K. Norris, Esquire, and Mary A. Jacobson, Esquire, New Castle County Law Department, New Castle, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants New Castle County Housing Authority Section 8, Robert Rizzo, Patricia Dennis, and Terry Stuiber.

          Barry M. Willoughby, Esquire, and Laure Elizabeth Moak Russell, Esquire, Young, Conaway, Stargatt & Taylor LLP, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Kathryn McGinnes.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ANDREWS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Roberta Crawford filed this action on February 14, 2018, alleging violations of her civil rights. (D.I. 2). Plaintiff appears pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (D.I. 4). Before the Court are Defendants' motions to dismiss. (D.I. 23, 24). Plaintiff opposes. Briefing is complete.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was a housing voucher recipient through the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development's Section 8 Tenant-Based Assistance Housing Choice Voucher Program administered by New Castle County Housing Authority. Plaintiffs "voucher was terminated due to missed inspection and annual recertification." (D.I. 2 at 4). Plaintiff alleges that she requested rescheduling via email and the voucher "was still terminated." (D.I. 2 at 4; D.I. 5 at Ex.).

         Plaintiff received a letter, described as a notice to her landlord to terminate, dated October 18, 2017, from Defendant housing assistant Patricia Dennis advising Plaintiffs landlord and Plaintiff that her Section 8 Voucher was subject to termination from the New Castle County Housing Authority effective December 31, 2017. (D.I. 5 at 1). In the letter, Plaintiff was advised that she could request an informal hearing. (Id.). A notice, also dated October 18, 2017, was sent directly to Plaintiff regarding her termination from the voucher program. Both letters were sent to the same address, but Plaintiff alleges that she did not receive the letter addressed solely to her through the mail. She alleges that it was given to her at the informal hearing. (Id.).

         Plaintiff requested a hearing, and, on November 8, 2017, Plaintiff attended the informal hearing, and was represented by counsel. (D.I. 2 at 5; D.I. 2-1 at 1). Hearing officer Kathryn McGinnes conducted the hearing. (Id.). Also present were Dennis and Defendant supervisor Terry Stuiber. (Id.). Plaintiffs attorney argued "improper notice, improper wording, and the fact that [Plaintiff] had not received notice of the hearing." (D.I. 2 at 5). Plaintiff was given time to provide proof of verification of appointments but was still denied. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that she attempted to explain that her children had been assaulted and this took up her time and impacted her mental state. (Id.). She later contacted Defendant Robert Rizzo "who did nothing." (Id.).

         Plaintiff was notified of the decision by letter dated December 6, 2017 signed by McGinnes. (D.I. 2-1 at 1). The letter states that the New Castle County Department of Community Services had notified Plaintiff that it was going to terminate Plaintiffs housing assistance for violation of the "Family Obligations" due to Plaintiffs failure to attend two rescheduled recertification appointments and two annual inspection appointments. (Id.). The December 6, 2017 letter referenced Plaintiffs testimony at the hearing that she had some understanding of the reason for the proposed termination of her housing assistance. (Id.). Plaintiff testified that she could not attend the recertification appointments because she had important appointments for her daughter and a court date and, as to the annual inspections, on one date, she "had to leave," and on the other date, she did not get proper notice. (Id.)

         At the informal hearing, Plaintiff argued that the termination notice was deficient. Plaintiff was therefore given an additional ten days for the submission of documentation as to why she was unable to attend the scheduled appointment and inspections. (Id. at 2). Plaintiff submitted documentation that was considered by McGinnes whose opinion was that there was "sufficient documentation and evidence to support and/or indicate beyond a reasonable doubt that [Plaintiff] failed to attend [two] recertification appointments and failed to permit access for [two] annual inspections." (Id.). McGinnes opined that based upon the documentation, testimony and evidence presented at the hearing/review, the New Castle Department of Community Services was within its rights to terminate Plaintiff's participation in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. (Id. at 3). McGinnes advised Plaintiff that the Housing Authority was not bound by her decision and that further questions should be directed to New Castle Department of Community Services. (Id.).

         Plaintiff alleges that Stuiber, Dennis, and McGinnes violated her rights and refused accommodation in terminating the voucher. (D.I. 2 at 6). She seeks reinstatement of the housing voucher and reasonable accommodation due to a mental disability as well as compensatory damages. (Id. at 7).

         Defendants move for dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff opposes on the grounds that she did not receive a fair hearing prior to termination of her housing voucher.

         LEGAL ...


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