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No bias found in Mason housing project

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than four years after starting an investigation, the federal government has dismissed a discrimination complaint filed by a Charleston developer against the Mason County Commission.

Doug Pauley's complaint alleged that commissioners discriminated against handicapped and elderly because they refused to approve a housing project -- called Milton Place Apartments - built on property that Pauley purchased from state Treasurer John Perdue.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently notified the commission the case had been "closed administratively with no finding being made on the allegations."

"Basically, it was dismissed because there was no evidence of discrimination," Mason County Commission President Rick Handley said Tuesday. "Mr. Pauley's statements about us were untrue."

Pauley filed the discrimination complaint in September 2009. At the time, Mason County's commissioners included Miles Epling, a Marine Corps veteran of the Vietnam War who lost both his legs in battle, and 76-year-old former commissioner Bob Baird.

A year after filing the complaint, Pauley told commissioners he would drop the complaint if they paid him $30,000. The commission refused Pauley's offer.

In 2011, Pauley signed an agreement to cooperate with a federal grand jury investigation of Perdue, who was never charged with a crime.

The West Virginia Housing Development Fund awarded Pauley a $3.67 million grant to build Milton Place near Point Pleasant. Perdue served on the Housing Development Fund's board at the time, but Perdue said he recused himself from thew project.

In December, Pauley agreed to pay $110,000 and make repairs at 30 apartment complexes, including Milton Place, he owns across West Virginia as part of a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department.

The feds alleged that Pauley violated the Fair Housing Act by failing to make his apartment complexes accessible to people with disabilities.

Under the settlement, Pauley was required to replace cabinets in kitchens and bathrooms, fix sidewalk and change out doors.

Pauley's agreement with the Justice Department also established a settlement fund to reimburse disabled tenants who believe they were discriminated against.

Last week, the Justice Department took out an ad in the Sunday Gazette-Mail, notifying former and current tenants of Pauley's apartment complexes to call the department's civil rights division at 1-800-896-7743 ext. 2.

Pauley could not be reached for comment Tuesday.  

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.

 


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