Judge Rules Douglas Didn't Discriminate; African-Americans Sued City, Saying Utility Charged Them More Than It Did Whites

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Dickson

A federal judge has issued a summary judgment on behalf of the city of Douglas in a $163 million lawsuit in which African-American residents said the city charged them more for electricity than it did whites.

Douglas Energy Relief Association, Toni Des'Hazor, Annie Pearl Black, Vera Freeman and Edward Freeman had sued the city and the City Council in December 2010 asserting that the city's electric utility billed them for more power than they actually used. The plaintiffs also asserted the discrepancy in billing was based on their race.

In an earlier order, Chief District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood warned that a disparity in billing between African-Americans and whites was not enough, that the plaintiffs had to show the overbilling resulted because of their race.

In her order, Wood noted that the plaintiffs filed a supplemental brief and attached nearly 2,000 pages of documents as exhibits, the vast majority of which were utility bills and plaintiffs' letters alleging racial discrimination.

Wood said she reviewed the evidence "page by page."

Using a chart, the plaintiffs compared the bills of Caucasian residents with those of African-American residents in public housing, Wood's order says.

The bills of 21 white residents ranged from $271.35 to $30.16 while those of 26 African-Americans ranged from $567.67 to $173.35. That evidence was insufficient, Wood said, because the bills of whites were due on Feb. …