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Federal lawsuit filed by Hunter Properties against City of DeKalb is dismissed

DeKALB – A federal lawsuit filed against the city of DeKalb by the city’s largest landlord alleging targeted discrimination has been dismissed, City Manager Bill Nicklas said Wednesday.

“We’re pleased with the work of our city attorneys and pleased with the result of the proceeding,” Nicklas said.

On Aug. 15, Evanston-based Hunter Properties LLC filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Western Division seeking $10 million for what it claims are violations of its constitutional rights and a strategically planned “assault” against Hunter and its affiliates. The lawsuit called out “unequal, unfair and discriminatory treatment” by city staff to Hunter Properties.

The lawsuit said such actions are “part of the city’s strategy to lien the respective property of Hunter, causing the diminution of its value and diminishment of its profitability.”

Clay Campbell, an attorney for Hunter Properties, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday, nor did DeKalb city attorney Matt Rose.

Nicklas said Rose alerted him in an email that the city had prevailed and the suit was dismissed.

The city and Hunter Properties have had a tumultuous 2019, and have for some time now been embroiled in other legal matters.

Hunter Properties is DeKalb’s largest landlord. Through subsidiaries, it owns about 1,000 rental units in DeKalb, city officials have said, which is more than any other company. Those include two buildings – 808 Ridge Drive and 930 Greenbrier Road where tenants were forced from their homes after July fires police believe were intentionally set that displaced about 200 people.

After the fiery July, the news conference and media coverage that followed, the federal lawsuit was filed claiming city staff was singling out Hunter in its call for better rental conditions for city tenants.

DeKalb County court records show city inspectors have cited Hunter Properties about 500 times for code violations since 2017. 

By mid-March, more than 530 violation cases had been filed in county court against Hunter, and $105,300 in judgments were reached on 116 of those cases. After further appeals by Hunter, the city was awarded judgments of $93,300, according to city documents.

The city was trying to have ownership of some properties handed over in lieu of payment for unpaid fines, Rose has said.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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