CLARKSBURG – The federal government is suing a convicted landlord after it claims he discriminated against tenants based on their sex.
Brian Carl Walden, as conservator for Gary Walden, a protected person, and as administrator CTA of the estate of Tina Walden; Walden Homes LLC, which is doing business as Walden Rentals; and 973 Chestnut Ridge Road Inc. were also named as defendants in the suit.
Gary Walden is currently incarcerated in the Huttonsville Correctional Center he and his deceased wife were owners and/or managers of rental properties in the Morgantown area, including at least 12 dwellings in Westover, according to a complaint filed March 16 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.
Since 2006 through July, when he became incarcerated, Gary Walden subjected female tenants to discrimination on the basis of sex, including severe, pervasive and unwelcome sexual harassment, according to the suit.
The federal government claims the discriminatory incidents occurred while Gary Walden was exercising his authority as rental manager at the properties and he initiated eviction proceedings against many of the female tenants in retaliation for reporting his discriminatory conduct.
In May, Gary Walden was convicted of two counts of first degree sexual abuse, two counts of conspiracy and burglary in Monongalia Circuit Court and he is currently serving a sentence of two to ten years at Huttonsville, to be followed by a period of home confinement and probation.
“No woman should have to suffer sexual harassment in her home or live in fear of retaliation when she reports such heinous acts of discrimination,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a press release. “Sexual abuse has no place in a civilized society, and the Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce the Fair Housing Act by safeguarding the rights of tenants and holding perpetrators accountable.”
The federal government claims the defendants’ actions violate the Fair Housing Act and constitute discrimination.
“We always aggressively advocate for fair housing for everyone, but the allegations in this matter are especially disturbing,” said U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II of the Northern District of West Virginia in a press release. “Making housing contingent upon performing sexual acts will not be tolerated and the landlords in this case will now have to answer for their abhorrent conduct. We'll stand with the female victims in this case and make sure that their rights are fully protected.”
Female tenants and persons associated with them have been injured by the discriminatory conduct of Gary Walden, Tina Walden, Walden Homes and 973, according to the suit.
“When a woman is subjected to unwanted sexual advances in her home, it makes her a victim in the place where she should feel the safest and most secure,” said Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Gustavo Velasquez of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in a press release. “HUD will continue to stand with the Justice Department to protect the housing rights of women whenever those rights are violated.”
The federal government is seeking an order enjoining the defendants from discriminating on accounts of sex; discriminating on the basis of sex; stating any preference, limitation or discrimination on the basis of sex; and coercing, intimidating, threatening or interfering with any person in the exercise or enjoyment of rights. It is also seeing monetary damages to victims of the discriminatory practices.
The government is represented by U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Assistant U.S. Attorney Helen Altmeyer, Vanita Gupta, Sameena S. Majeed, Catherine A. Bendor, Charles D. Jackson and Megan K. Whyte De Vasquez.
The case is assigned to District Judge Irene M. Keeley.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia case number: 1:16-cv-00042