Renter sues landlord, claims sexual harassment

By John O'Brien | Apr 13, 2006

MORGANTOWN - A Westover woman is suing her landlord, claiming he repeatedly fondled her breasts and unfairly raised her rent.

Stacie Summers filed the lawsuit April 10 in Monongalia Circuit Court through the West Virginia Human Rights Commission and the office of Attorney General Darrell McGraw, Jr. Deputy Attorney General Paul Sheridan of the Civil Rights Division is heading the case.

Gary and Tina Walden are the listed defendants.

"The Defendants have repeatedly subjected the Complainant to unlawful sexual harassment and have created a sexually hostile environment…," the complaint says. "The Defendants have engaged in unlawful discriminatory housing practice prohibited by West Virginia Code… by sexually harassing the Complainant."

Summers says she sought to rent Apartment B in one of the Walden's apartment buildings in Westover on Jan. 20, 2005. When she met Gary Walden at the apartment, she says he fondled her breasts. But because she was desperate to find an apartment she could afford for her children, she signed a one-year lease for the monthly rental rate of $625.

Shortly after she moved in, Summers says, Gary Walden gave her a second lease that upped the rent to $700 as a fraudulent way of increasing the amount of housing assistance that Summers was receiving.

Summers says that Walden presented the lease, he again attempted to fondle her breasts. Summers says this prevented her from reading the full lease.

Walden again tried to fondle her breasts, she says, when he drove her to an ATM machine to collect rent money.

On another occasion, he tried to get one of his employees to touch Summers' breasts, she says.

In March 2005, Summers says she did not have rent money when Walden confronted her about it, and he told her "Well, you are going to have to give me some head."

She reported his actions to the Morgantown Housing Authority on April 20, 2005, and moved out a month later.

Summers is seeking compensation for actual damages, punitive damages, civil penalties, injunctive relief and court costs.

The case has not yet been assigned to a judge.

Monongalia Circuit Court case number 06-C-230

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