Morgantown landlord claims sexual harassment victims were willing

By Kyla Asbury | May 4, 2016

CLARKSBURG – A former Morgantown-area landlord has filed an answer to a federal complaint contending his alleged sexual harassment victims were willing participants.

Some or all of the acts the plaintiff alleges in the complaint were not unwelcome to the aggrieved persons and, therefore, the plaintiff is barred from any recovery in the lawsuit on their behalf as a matter of law, according to the April 29 answer by the defendants.

In their answer, the defendants ask for someone to be appointed to oversee Gary Walden’s interest in the case as he is incarcerated and disabled.

“Defendants assert that the damages sought on behalf of the aggrieved persons, if any, were caused by their own sanctions, or failure to act, and that defendants’ actions were not the proximate cause of any damages the plaintiff may be seeking on their behalf,” the answer states.

The defendants also claim that the defendant exercised reasonable care and maintained corporate policies that would inform the aggrieved persons how to prevent and promptly correct any harassing behavior and the aggrieved persons unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventative or corrective opportunities provided by the defendants or to otherwise avoid harm.

The defendants claim the suit is unlawful, as the aggrieved persons were willing participants.

The lawsuit was filed in March in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia against Gary Walden; 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.

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.

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 2015, 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 10 years at Huttonsville, to be followed by a period of home confinement and probation.

The federal government claims the defendants’ actions violate the Fair Housing Act and constitute discrimination.

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.

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 defendants are represented by George B. Armistead of Baker & Armistead PLLC.

Gary Walden is currently serving 10 years in prison.

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

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