Panel rejects complaint by woman of race bias

October 28, 1994|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writer

The Howard County Human Rights Commission has dismissed a local black woman's race discrimination complaint against a Columbia real estate company.

The commission's decision came a month after five nights of lengthy hearings during which Linda Thomas-McIntosh, 32, of Columbia, charged that an agent for Century 21 H. T. Brown Real Estate Inc. steered her away from a home in April 1992 because of her race.

In a 21-page decision signed Oct. 20 and received by attorneys this week, the commission rejected all of her allegations and granted the real estate company's motion to dismiss the case.

"The only element the complainant proved is that she is a member of a racial minority," said the decision.

"This is a tremendous relief. The agent and company feel vindicated," said William E. Erskine, the company's attorney. "But that vindication cannot undo the two and a half years of anguish that the agent and company have endured."

The complaint is far from over, said Rawle Andrews Jr., Ms. Thomas-McIntosh's attorney. He said he might appeal the commission's decision to Circuit Court, and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has not completed its investigation into potential violations of the Fair Housing Act.

"I was disappointed but not surprised by the decision," Mr. Andrews said. "It looked like the commission was bending over backwards to deny justifiable relief."

Ms. Thomas-McIntosh had alleged that although she had made an appointment to see a home on Ducketts Lane in Elkridge, the real estate agent showed her a home on Procopio Circle in Guilford.

She charged that the agent's request that she fill out a financial prequalification form and failure to show her the Ducketts Lane house were racially motivated.

The county's Office of Human Rights investigated the case initially and found probable cause that discrimination had occurred, prompting the hearing before the three-commissioner panel.

The commission found that "the complainant offered no evidence that the respondent discriminated against African-Americans."

The case was the only complaint of racial discrimination against a real estate company to reach the public hearing stage in Howard County in recent memory, said Jim Henson, administrator of the Office of Human Rights.

Other complaints have been dismissed by the office without a finding of probable cause or settled before the hearing began, he said. Nine complaints of discrimination involving the sale or rental of housing were filed with the Office of Human Rights in 1993.

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