Lancaster mayor calls Palmdale's bias lawsuit settlement 'capitulation'
Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris on Friday called neighboring Palmdale’s decision to settle a civil rights lawsuit accusing both cities of discrimination against nonwhite recipients of federal housing subsidies a "capitulation," and charged that the move “gives comfort to criminals perpetrating housing fraud in the Antelope Valley.”
The comment came a day after Palmdale said it would surrender all Section 8 compliance and policing responsibilities to the Los Angeles County Housing Authority, and agreed not to seek information on the identity of participants in the Section 8 housing program.
In return, the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People dropped a federal lawsuit filed against the city last June in which it claimed that Palmdale and Lancaster used housing investigators and L.A. County sheriff's deputies in a campaign to drive residents, most of them black, from government-subsidized housing.
But Parris said Lancaster has no intention of settling.
“Palmdale has thrown under the bus the Deputy Sheriffs and Section 8 investigators who have successfully fought fraud throughout the Antelope Valley,” the mayor said in a statement. “The unintended consequence of the City’s actions and statements is that they have become a mouthpiece for the plaintiffs, falsely giving credence to offensive claims that the Sheriff’s Department and citizens of Palmdale and Lancaster are racist. “
Both cities had argued that their crackdown on Section 8 tenants was intended to root out fraud and ensure compliance with the program.
Palmdale City Hall is closed on Fridays, and officials could not immediately be reached for comment. But Mayor Jim Ledford lamented that his city had been included in the lawsuit “because of the unfortunate misperception outside of the Antelope Valley that the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster are one and the same.”
Ledford charged that “inflammatory rhetoric” by the plaintiffs and leaders in Lancaster had served to divide Palmdale and undermine 20 years of efforts “to promote and advance an inclusive community.”
Last week, county supervisors voted to stop funding additional housing investigators for Palmdale and Lancaster and instituted other measures, including barring the Sheriff's Department from sending deputies on housing compliance checks without good cause and agreeing to preserve the confidentiality of participants in the Section 8 program. The county would instead rely on the three housing investigators it has countywide to enforce compliance, the supervisors said.
But Parris rejected the notion that so few investigators could effectively enforce "the requirements of 22,000 Section 8 vouchers countywide.” Anyone who believes that “is sadly mistaken,” he said.
-- Ann M. Simmons