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Curry v. Vancouver Housing Authority

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

May 7, 2018




         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Vancouver Housing Authority's Motion for Summary Judgment and Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. #23]. The underlying lawsuit stems from Plaintiff Kenneth Curry's brief participation in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program administered by Defendants. Curry, proceeding pro se, alleges Defendants denied him due process after terminating his participation in the Section 8 housing program and in denying his request for a reasonable accommodation. Dkt. 4 at 2-3. Defendants contend they terminated Curry's participation in the Section 8 housing program only after he threatened VHA employees and that Curry was afforded due process via an informal administrative hearing. Defendants assert that Curry's lawsuit should be dismissed because he has failed to articulate a cognizable claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and because there is no genuine issue of material fact and that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on the merits. The Court would not be aided by oral argument and decides the motion on the parties' written submissions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Vancouver Housing Authority (VHA) is a local public housing agency providing subsidized housing in Vancouver, WA through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers program. Defendant Roy Johnson is the Executive Director of VHA.

         Plaintiff Kenneth Curry became eligible for Section 8 housing assistance in August 2014. Curry initially received a voucher from VHA for a one-bedroom housing unit but desired a two-bedroom voucher, asserting that he is disabled and requires an additional bedroom to accommodate a live-in aide or extended visitor to help care for him. Dkt. 23 at 4. Curry made a “reasonable accommodation” request based on financial need, ostensibly for a two-bedroom voucher. Dkt. 24 at 12. The VHA preliminarily denied Curry's reasonable accommodation request but indicated in a letter to Curry that it would reconsider his request if he submitted additional documentation substantiating his claimed disability and need for live-in assistance. Id. at 13. The letter also indicated that Curry could appeal the denial of his reasonable accommodation request. Id.; Dkt. 27 at 2.

         A. Curry's threatening interactions at the VHA office lead to his proposed disqualification from the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program.

         Three weeks after the VHA denied his reasonable accommodation request, Curry showed up at the VHA office for an appointment on September 17, 2014. Curry was supposed to meet with VHA employee Inessa Raybukin, but Raybukin was unavailable due to a scheduling error. Curry instead met with VHA employee Misty Collard to discuss his reasonable accommodation request and participation in the Section 8 program. Curry became agitated during the encounter and other VHA employees intervened when Curry would not let Collard conclude the meeting. Dkt. 29 at 5.

         Curry returned to the VHA office the following afternoon without an appointment and met with Raybukin. Raybukin attempted to answer Curry's questions but Curry again became agitated when Raybukin attempted to conclude the meeting as the VHA office was preparing to close for the day. Curry returned to the VHA office on September 19, 2014 and called Raybukin from the building's lobby phone. Curry requested to speak with VHA Federal Program Policy Manager David Overbay. When Raybukin informed Curry that Overbay was unavailable, Curry reportedly responded, “no problem, that's okay I know where David lives. As a matter of fact the reason I wanted to meet with you face-to-face yesterday was because I didn't know who you were. I know where you live, I know what your children look like, and I can get your ass sued at anytime and you will lose everything.” Dkt. 25 at 2; Dkt. 29 at 5. Raybukin notified her supervisor, prompting VHA staff to ask Curry to leave the building. VHA staff called the police when Curry refused but canceled the call when Curry was eventually persuaded to leave the premises. Curry remained in a parking lot across the street and stared down VHA employees as they left the building. Dkt. 29 at 5-6.

         Curry returned to the VHA office on September 24, 2014 and spoke with VHA's Director of Voucher Programs, Sasha Nichelson, for approximately forty minutes. Id. at 6. VHA Executive Director Roy Johnson approached Curry and informed him that he was aware that Curry had threatened VHA employees the prior week, and that Curry needed to leave the building. Id. The police were again summoned, but not before Curry returned and submitted additional documents including a new reasonable accommodation request with a name and contact phone number for Curry's medical provider. Dkt. 24 at 15.

         On September 25, 2014, Johnson sent Curry a letter proposing to deny his continued participation in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.[1] Dkt. 24 at 18. The letter summarized Curry's threatening behavior and explained that Curry's conduct violated the VHA's Administrative Plan policy. Johnson's letter notified Curry that he had ten days to submit a written request for an informal hearing to review the decision to terminate his participation in the Section 8 housing program.

         B. Curry's termination from the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program is upheld by the hearing officer after the informal hearing.

         Curry made a timely request and was granted an informal review hearing. Dkt. 24 at 19- 20. Sasha Nichelson sent Curry two letters prior to the hearing explaining the hearing process, identifying witnesses, and attaching the documents VHA would rely on as evidence during the hearing. Id. at 21-22. The letters explained that Curry “may, at your own expense, be represented by a lawyer or other advocate in the hearing. You will be given the opportunity to present evidence and to question any witnesses.” Id.

         On December 4, 2014, Josh Townsley, the Executive Director of Evergreen Habitat for Humanity, presided over the informal hearing to review VHA's proposed termination of Curry's participation in the Section 8 housing assistance program. See Dkt. 30. During the hearing, Curry repeatedly interrupted Raybukin's testimony and was warned by the hearing officer that further interruptions would result in the early conclusion of the hearing. Curry become increasingly angry during the hearing and threatened VHA staff present in the room. The hearing officer reported that Curry stated that he knew where Raybukin and Overbay lived, and that he would “break” Raybukin. Id. at 5. After this outburst the hearing officer immediately concluded the hearing. Curry was asked to leave the premises and the incident was reported to the local police department. Id.

         In a written decision, the hearing officer determined based on a preponderance of the evidence, testimony, and Curry's own conduct during the hearing that Curry had violated VHA's policy by threatening and violent behavior towards VHA personnel. The hearing officer upheld the VHA's intended action to deny Curry's participation in the Section 8 housing program. This conclusion was memorialized on ...

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