An Ohio Civil Rights Commission administrative judge heard arguments at a hearing in Cincinnati Friday and is considering appropriate penalties against a landlord who posted a "White only" sign on the gate to a swimming pool at a duplex in Cincinnati.
The Associated Press reports that Michael Gunn was upset when he saw the sign because he believed it was aimed at his black daughter. Gunn, who testified Friday at the Ohio Civil Rights Commission in Cincinnati, said he was too upset to continue living at the duplex. He said the sign caused his family emotional stress as well as the extra financial costs of moving. But Gunn stressed he was primarily concerned about his daughter: "She shouldn't have to think about the color of her skin in relation to what people think about her."
According to Cincinnati.com, Hein posted the sign on the pool gate of her Westwood duplex last May. In September, Gunn filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission which found that Hein violated the Ohio Civil Rights Act by posting the sign.
The commission heard that the landlady Jamie Hein, complained that Gunn's 10-year-old daughter's hair products clouded the pool after she swam in it. The landlord then tried to exclude the girl from the facility. She posted a sign "Public Swimming Pool. White only" at the entrance to the apartment pool.
The Associated Press reports the commission ruled that the sign violated the Ohio Civil Rights Act.
Hein did not attend Friday's hearing. The commission said she had effectively given up her right to challenge the ruling against her by failing to respond to case filings.
Gunn's daughter, who lives with her mother, often visits her father. She went swimming in the pool on Memorial Day weekend in 2011. According to Gunn, Hein sent him a text message complaining that his daughter clouded the pool. The landlord said Gunn's daughter would have to shower before entering the pool and that she would have to wear a swimming cap. But when Gunn went to the pool a few days later, he saw the offensive sign.
Gunn is white. He said when he saw the sign he was so upset that his hands trembled. He said: "It's something you're supposed to see in history books. It's not something you're supposed to see posted at the building where you live."
Gun told the administrative law judge that he decided to move to protect his daughter and prevent her from seeing the sign or allowing Hein upset her. He said: "I did not want her to think that there were people like this or have her think that just because she wasn't white, people would think less of her."
According to Cincinnati.com, Gunn's girlfriend Elizabeth Gerrard, also provided evidence of verbal harassment from Hein. Gerrard said Hein called her “dumb" and " fat ****”" in a text message. Gerrard said she recieved several similar messages.
According to Cincinnati.com, when the landlord saw Gerrard and Gunn in public, she would spit and make obscene gestures and yell expletives at them.
Cincinnati.com reports that after enduring the alleged discrimination for months, Gunn filed a discrimination complaint. An official of the Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Teresita Lewis, said she had never seen a case like that in her years with the organization. She testified: “It’s one of the most hurtful cases I’ve ever encountered. We never had a case so obvious as this."
Another official of Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Elizabeth Brown, said: "I've never seen a more blatant, obvious, in-your-face example."
According to Brown, executive director of Housing Opportunities Made Equal, "It's not just a personal issue. Cincinnati has had problems in the past and has worked hard to change its image into a welcoming and inclusive city. An outrageous action like this is another hit on the city's reputation."
An official of the Civil Rights Section with the Ohio Attorney General's Office said damages are being sought "to send a clear message that racial discrimination in housing will not be tolerated."