Two public-housing tenants who got into an argument over mold with Metropolitan Housing Alliance Executive Director Rodney Forte at an August housing board meeting filed suit against him and the agency in federal court Tuesday.
Jesse Powell Towers resident Bonita Iverson and her daughter, former Powell Towers tenant April E̶a̶n̶e̶s̶* Eans, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Little Rock.
The complaint, filed on their behalf by attorney Matthew Campbell with Pinnacle Law Firm in Little Rock, alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Fair Housing Amendments Act, federal Department of Housing and Urban Development standards, the Arkansas Civil Rights Act and city building codes.
The main allegation is that mold can be found in several units at Powell Towers, including Iverson's apartment.
When Iverson complained of suspected mold at the August meeting of the housing agency's board of commissioners, Forte became contentious -- standing up and raising his voice -- and told her there was no mold at Powell Towers.
At the next meeting in September, Forte said the agency had found mold in the apartment complex but had it remediated. The contractor for the mold work gave a presentation to the board at that meeting, saying he didn't finish the cleanup in some apartments because a roof leak that caused the mold had yet to be fixed.
Forte didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.
"Recent inspections of multiple units and floors of the apartments show the presence of mold as of the date of filing of this complaint," the lawsuit states.
Iverson moved to Powell Towers in June of last year. E̶a̶n̶e̶s̶ Eans moved there in September of last year and recently moved out. Both suffer from asthma.
The lawsuit states that the strands of mold found at the Little Rock apartment complex are known to cause and worsen asthma.
"Beginning almost immediately upon moving into the apartments, plaintiffs began experiencing respiratory problems associated with exacerbation of asthma symptoms. Plaintiff Iverson's doctor placed her on a prescription inhaler to combat the respiratory problems, while plaintiff E̶a̶n̶e̶s̶ Eans was hospitalized three separate times with severe respiratory problems," the lawsuit said, adding that E̶a̶n̶e̶s̶ Eans physician told her the reoccurring symptoms likely were caused by mold.
Iverson and E̶a̶n̶e̶s̶ Eans have constantly complained to Forte and other housing agency staff members about concerns of mold, the lawsuit states.
"Defendant Forte explicitly told plaintiffs in August that there was no mold problem in the apartments, despite his actual knowledge to the contrary," the complaint said.
The lawsuit mentions a Nov. 28, 2014, email from Forte to Mayor Mark Stodola stating that there had been no requests from tenants regarding mold. That statement was false, the lawsuit contends.
The complaint asks for a jury trial in federal court. The case has been assigned to Judge Kristine Baker.
The Metropolitan Housing Alliance, formerly known as the Little Rock Public Housing Authority, manages 902 units and administers more than 2,000 Section 8 choice vouchers. The agency uses federal funding to operate Housing and Urban Development programs for low-income residents of Little Rock.
Metro on 11/11/2015
*CORRECTION: April Eans is a former tenant of Jesse Powell Towers in Little Rock who is suing the city’s Metropolitan Housing Alliance on allegations that mold in the building caused her health problems. Eans’ name was misspelled in this article.
Print Headline: 2 sue housing agency over mold