Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Small California Daily Fined for Ads That Violate Fair Housing Act

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Small California Daily Fined for Ads That Violate Fair Housing Act

Article excerpt

Publisher says this case should be a warning to other newspapers

A tiny Southern California daily paid a $20,000 fine for ads that violated the federal Fair Housing Act, although the publisher said he was never notified of the violations.

Scripps League Newspapers, Inc., owner of the Banning Record-Gazette (circulation 3,500), settled for the amount after the Fair Housing Council of Riverside County sued the newspaper, citing numerous ads for adults-only housing.

The suit alleged that Register-Gazette classifieds contained such expressions as "adult development," "prefer no children/animals," "adult community," and "adult park."

In addition to the fine, the newspaper's advertising staffers had to attend three "Technical Assistance Training" sessions, taught by the council at a cost to the Record-Gazette of $1,000 per session.

Editor and publisher Charles Freeman and the Fair Housing Council's executive director Rose Mayes, agree that the council had mailed a letter dated Aug. 12, warning of the violations to managing editor Steve Tuckey.

But Freeman, who is bitter over the council's action, claims that the letter wrongly addressed Tuckey as editor, that Tuckey said he never received it, and that Freeman never saw it or heard about it until the council's lawyer produced a copy in court.

Moreover, Freeman said, such a communication should properly have been addressed to him as publisher via a certified letter, "not with a 29-cent stamp." Tuckey's responsibilities do not extend to classified ads, he added.

"There's no question we were in violation, but if I had been informed of the problem I would have taken immediate steps to correct it," Freeman told E&P. "I've been with this newspaper for 24 years and we always have followed the letter of the law. Some banned ads probably slipped through because of oversight. But it's ludicrous of her [Mayes] to say we were contacted and never acknowledged the fact."

Freeman noted that Banning has a number of neighborhoods and housing developments catering to adults without children. A copy of the letter obtained by E&P was signed by Anona Stuart, Fair Housing Counselor.

It said that the council's monitoring of Register-Gazette's real estate ads in recent months had found "words or expressions" prohibited by the 1968 Civil Rights Act.

Stuart said the act forbids such terms as "adult building," "Hispanic area," "Catholic church nearby," "near synagogue," "no children," and "singles only. …

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