Retirement homes, publishing firms reach agreement on minorities in ads

January 20, 1995|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,Sun Staff Writer

Two retirement home operators and two local publishing companies have agreed to represent minorities fairly in their real estate ads in local newspapers and magazines in response to legal pressure from a fair housing advocacy group.

The most recent agreement with College Manor Inc. of Lutherville brings to a close four separate lawsuits filed in January 1994 by Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. The non-profit group said the retirement home ads it monitored in Baltimore Magazine, Mid-Atlantic Country magazine, and the Towson Times in 1992 and 1993 did not feature enough minority models and, therefore, discouraged blacks and other minorities from considering those homes.

The ads were run by College Manor and Peninsula United Methodist Homes Inc. in newspapers and magazines published by ESS Ventures, Inc., and Patuxent Publishing Co., the four companies sued under the Fair Housing Act.

"Our view of exclusively white models is that it sends a message to the black community that they are not welcome," said Martin A. Dyer, associate director of Baltimore Neighborhoods. "We believe that it's a deliberate choice that's made" by advertisers.

Under terms of the four agreements, one fourth of all models in real estate ads appearing in the Baltimore area must be black to reflect the percentage of blacks in the metropolitan area.

But both retirement homes say their ads were already fair to minorities.

"The settlement basically has changed nothing," said Sandra K. Battaglia, vice president and general counsel for Peninsula United Methodist Homes.

The company has always included black models in advertising and recruited black residents for its retirement homes in Chestertown and Seaford, Del., Ms. Battaglia said.

College Manor decided to settle to avoid higher legal fees, not because it admitted to unfair advertising, said lawyer C. Carey Deeley Jr.

In addition, the four companies will pay a total of $87,000 in damages to Baltimore Neighborhoods; Peninsula United Methodist Homes will spend $20,000 to recruit minority residents; and the Delaware-based company also will waive $78,000 in entry fees to its communities for new black residents.

The settlements also will bring greater publicity to the nonprofit organization. Baltimore Magazine and Mid-Atlantic Country will give the group $25,000 worth of half-page ads, and Baltimore Magazine will publish an article about the organization.

"I'm going to make sure that even if we feel forced to do so, we'll make a great story out of it," said Baltimore Magazine editor Ramsey W. Flynn.

The settlement with Patuxent Publishing, which publishes the Towson Times and other newspapers, also bans classified ads that discriminate against families with children.

"The advertisements will not indicate any preference based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, handicap, or family status," said Andrew D. Freeman, a lawyer for Baltimore Neighborhoods.

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