Discriminatory Actions by Town Officials Will Cost Cromwell $5 Million
On Friday, October 15, 2021, a federal jury found the town of Cromwell liable for the discriminatory behavior that forced the closure of a home for adults with disabilities in 2015. The jury awarded the group home provider, Gilead Community Services, $5 million in punitive damages and $181,000 in compensatory damages, sending a clear message to town officials that their actions violated federal civil rights laws.
In 2015, Gilead Community Services purchased a single-family home on Reiman Drive in Cromwell to serve as a community-based residence for six men with mental health disabilities. In response to the purchase, city officials in Cromwell staged a battle against Gilead and their clients through a series of overtly discriminatory actions making it clear that individuals with disabilities were not welcome.
Cromwell officials began their public attack during a forum about Gilead’s planned operations for 5 Reiman Drive, which gave town residents the opportunity to spew hatred and discrimination. The next day, Cromwell issued a press release asking Gilead to relocate the home. Then Cromwell petitioned the Department of Public Health to deny Gilead the ability to operate. When these strategies were unsuccessful, Cromwell wrongly issued a cease-and-desist order and refused to grant Gilead tax-exempt status as it had in the past. The actions of the Town of Cromwell caused Gilead to close the home.
“By making such a large punitive damages award, the jury recognized and rejected the intentional, illegal acts of town officials. I hope this serves as a message to other municipalities that they cannot refuse to allow people with disabilities to move into their communities,” said Erin Kemple, Executive Director of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, one of the co-plaintiffs in the case. “However, the true victims, the six men who only wanted housing free from discrimination, will likely never return to Cromwell, and now live with the understanding that because of their disabilities they are not welcome in all communities.”
In 2017, the Connecticut Fair Housing Center and Gilead Community Services, represented by Washington, D.C. firm Relman Colfax, filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Town of Cromwell. The case claimed that the intentional discriminatory actions of town officials in Cromwell violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The work that provided the basis for this publication was supported by funding under a grant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The substance and findings of the work are dedicated to the public. The author and publisher are solely responsible for the accuracy of the statements and interpretations contained in this publication. Such interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views of the Federal Government.