Couple seeks $20 million in racial discrimination suit

By Kelly Holleran | Nov 24, 2008

MARTINSBURG –- A Martinsburg man and woman are hoping to receive more than $20 million after filing a racial discrimination lawsuit.

Larry Andre McKinney-Bey and Dorice Sisco claim their landlord, rental agent and Potomac Housing Realtors refused to pay them their security deposit after the couple moved out of the home they were renting due to racial discrimination.

They originally filed suit in Berkeley Circuit Court on Oct. 3 after they say agent Michelle Sandri and homeowner Suzanne Potter "conspired unlawfully to withhold monies paid to them as deposit ($1,075) dollars."

They say Sandri and Potter began to treat McKinney-Bey and Sisco differently after they discovered the couple was Asiatic-black.

"Immediately the Rental Office and the Owner, immediately started refused to comply with any request that the petitioner presented and/or any repairs except what was absolutely necessary," the suit states.

Because Sandri and Potter wanted McKinney-Bey and Sisco out of the house, they began to charge them more than their monthly rent, even doubling and tripling their overdue fees, according to the complaint.

"They only want 'certain' people in/or a way of getting rid of someone that's not in their 'racial' 'click' and this is their way of discriminating unlawfully, and Controlling the flow, and 'racial domination' of people through oppression of nonwhite into 'their' 'white' community and/or property as a whole," the suit states.

Even though they could never pay rent on time because they did not receive a check until after rent was due, McKinney-Bey and Sisco claim the overdue fees were a form of discrimination.

"This (the late payment) is something that was explained to the Renters, however in their no forgiving position they refused to accept this explanation, with the excuse that their computer automatically computed the additional fees," the suit states.

Therefore, they were constantly charged $1,100 for the home located on West John Street in Martinsburg instead of the agreed-upon rate of $1,075, according to the complaint.

McKinney-Bey and Sisco decided to move out July 9 after less than one year in the house because of Sandri's and Potter's "discriminatory action and racial attitude," the suit states.

In addition to the overdue fees, Sandri and Potter did not replace the filters or paint the walls in the house, all "because of the color of his (McKinney's) skin," the suit states.

Plus, Potter would occasionally stop at the house, an unlawful occurrence according to McKinney and Sisco, but the rental office would do nothing about it.

She showed up at the house on July 12, three days after McKinney-Bey and Sisco had moved out, "making changes and cleaning before the final clean-up was complete that day, and afterwards she personally stayed there while the final clean-up was made," the suit states.

Potter's final arrival was another unlawful occurrence, according to the complaint.

"What was really surprising to the petitioner was the overall subracial behavior attitude that was displayed through reverse negative behavior displayed through pencil-pimping," the suit states.

Evidence of additional discrimination occurred after McKinney-Bey and Sisco moved out, they argue.

Sandri and Potter conspired to find multiple damages throughout the house, including damages to the carpet in the master bedroom, damages to a shelf under a bathroom sink, walls with no paint and damages to the garage floor, McKinney-Bey and Sisco allege.

The couple claims the damage to the sink's shelf was done after a repairman came to fix a leak, that the walls were not painted when they moved in and that previous renters had damaged the garage floor.

Photos were brought to court show the state of the house, but McKinney-Bey and Sisco allege there is no proof they did the damage.

"And for the first time presented, however, with (no date, no times), no detail support to prove in fact that these photos were not manufactured or fraudulently represented, etc.," the suit states.

After McKinney-Bey and Sisco moved out, they were charged for a gas bill, water bill and electric bill, all of which were supposed to be cut off the day of their move out, according to the complaint.

They also were charged extra rent because the key was not handed into the rental office until July 14, the suit states.

"It's the overall attitude and behavior of the defendants which the courts allow as a method of treatment of people of color, and a way of pacifying the rich by allowing them to do whatever they want, but where do it in," the suit states. "When do the unnecessary suffering and mistreatment of the same people who clean white people's houses and raise their children and work the fields that provide food that they eat, to sustains and live, when do it end, what do it take."

In addition to the $20 million, McKinney-Bey, who is representing himself, and Sisco are seeking civil damages, court costs and anything else the court deems proper.

Because McKinney-Bey and Sisco mention at multiple times throughout their complaint violations of the federal Fair Housing Act, federal laws prohibiting discrimination in rental housing on the basis of race and federal laws prohibiting discrimination in business transactions on the basis of race, Sandri and Potter requested the case be moved to federal court on Nov. 5.

Also on Nov. 5, Sandri and Potter filed two motions to dismiss. One was a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and the other was a motion to dismiss for insufficient process and insufficient service of process.

Eric J. Hulett of Steptoe and Johnson in Martinsburg will be representing Sandri and Potter.

U.S. District Court case number: 3:08-cv-166

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