This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Dakota County Development Agency,
Filed November 20, 2007
Dakota County Community Development Agency
Lisa Hollingsworth, Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services, Inc., 712 Canterbury Road, Shakopee, MN 55379 (for relator)
Mary G. Dobbins, Mary G. Dobbins & Associates, 7400 Metro Boulevard, Suite 100, Edina, MN 55439 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and Harten, Judge.*
Relator Richard Colliers appeals from the termination of his Section 8 housing benefits, arguing that the record does not support the termination of benefits, the hearing officer’s decision was arbitrary and capricious, and he was not given a reasonable accommodation. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
Relator Richard Colliers argues that the hearing officer’s decision to terminate his Section 8 housing assistance was unsupported by substantial evidence. The Dakota County Community Development Agency must follow federal regulations governing the Section 8 program, but has discretionary authority to terminate assistance to a program participant if a program obligation is violated. 24 C.F.R. § 982.552 (2006). A participant’s obligations include providing an accurate and complete report of income and employment, and giving notice prior to moving from an assigned residence. 24 C.F.R. § 982.551(b)(2), (4), (f) (2006).
When a public housing authority terminates an individual’s Section 8 housing assistance after an informal hearing, it acts in a quasi-judicial capacity. Carter v. Olmsted County Hous. & Redevelopment Auth., 574 N.W.2d 725, 729 (Minn. App. 1998). This court upholds an agency’s quasi-judicial determinations unless they are “unconstitutional, outside the agency’s jurisdiction, procedurally defective, based on an erroneous legal theory, unsupported by substantial evidence, or arbitrary and capricious.” Id. Substantial evidence is: “(1) such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion; (2) more than a scintilla of evidence; (3) more than some evidence; (4) more than any evidence; and (5) evidence considered in its entirety.” CUP Foods, Inc., v. City of Minneapolis, 633 N.W.2d 557, 563 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. Nov. 13, 2001).
Here, it is relator’s burden to prove that the CDA’s decision must be reversed because it is unsupported by substantial evidence. Id. Relator argues that no evidence shows that he intentionally or fraudulently failed to report income and an apartment move, and that the hearing officer failed to make that finding. But the Section 8 housing choice voucher program does not mandate that the agency prove fraudulent or intentional misrepresentation before terminating a participant’s housing assistance; the termination decision is within the agency’s discretion. 24 C.F.R. § 982.552(c). Nor does the program require a finding of intentional or fraudulent misrepresentation to uphold the agency’s termination decision. Id. Moreover, the record indicates that the hearing officer implicitly determined that relator’s failure was intentional, finding that “while Mr. Colliers may have memory difficulties it appears unlikely that this many failures to report information to the CDA could have occurred given his otherwise generally good compliance with the CDA and employment requirements.” This inference that relator’s failure to report was intentional is further buttressed by the evidence offered in support of the agency’s termination decision.
Relator completed five recertification applications from 2002 to 2006. His application in 2002 demonstrates his understanding that he was required to provide information about his employment, because he did so then. In years 2003 to 2006, relator claimed he had no employment, but four companies verified that relator was employed with them during that time period. On each recertification form, relator indicated that he understood his housing assistance could be terminated for misrepresenting his income. The hearing officer specifically cited relator’s failure to report multiple employers over multiple years in her decision to uphold the termination of benefits. She rejected relator’s claim that his memory problems impaired his ability to report income and employment, noting that relator attended mandatory CDA appointments and retained employment with numerous employers despite his memory difficulties. Thus, the evidence supports the conclusion that relator understood he was required to report income and employment, but chose to not do so.
Relator argues that the hearing officer’s decision to terminate his housing assistance was arbitrary and capricious. A decision is arbitrary and capricious if the decision-making body: “(1) relied on factors not intended by the [relevant legal authority]; (2) entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the issue; (3) offered an explanation that conflicts with the evidence”; or (4) made a decision “so implausible that it could not be explained as a difference in view or the result of the [relevant legal authority’s] expertise.” Rostamkhani v. City of St. Paul, 645 N.W.2d 479, 484 (Minn. App. 2002). A hearing officer’s “conclusions are not arbitrary and capricious so long as a rational connection between the facts found and the choice made has been articulated.” In re Excess Surplus Status of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Minn., 624 N.W.2d 264, 277 (Minn. 2001).
Relator asserts that the hearing officer’s decision was arbitrary and capricious because the officer failed to adequately consider evidence that relator’s disability directly impaired his reporting. We disagree. The hearing officer described all of the evidence presented at the hearing, including evidence of relator’s disability and evidence of the memory difficulties relator suffered because of his disability. The hearing officer concluded that the evidence did not show that relator’s memory problems caused his failure to report his income, employment, or a move to a new apartment. Thus, the record indicates that the hearing officer considered whether relator’s head injury caused his failure to report and concluded that it did not. Accordingly, we conclude that the hearing officer’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious.
Relator argues that the hearing officer failed to consider his request for a reasonable accommodation. “[T]o prevail on a reasonable accommodations claim, the plaintiff must make a prima facie showing that the accommodation she seeks is reasonable on its face.” Hinneberg v. Big Stone County Hous. & Redevelopment Auth., 706 N.W.2d 220, 226 (Minn. 2005). In Hinneberg, the plaintiff sought an exception to the residency requirement for the public housing voucher program. Id. at 223. The Minnesota Supreme Court held that Hinneberg had to show three elements: “necessity, equal opportunity, and reasonableness.” Id. at 226. The court found Hinneberg met the necessity requirement by introducing doctors’ opinions supporting her requested accommodation. Id. at 226-27. The court also found that Hinneberg met the second element; that her proposed accommodation was necessary to afford her equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling. Id. at 227-28.
Here, the hearing officer properly found that relator never made a request for a reasonable accommodation. But relator argues on appeal that a social worker or case manager should have been required to help him complete the annual certification forms. We disagree. Even if the doctor’s letter that relator submitted at the hearing was a request for accommodation, relator failed to show his proposed accommodation was necessary because he testified that he had assistance filling out the applications. And relator also failed to show that he did not have equal opportunity to continue receiving Section 8 benefits without such assistance. Because relator does not satisfy all necessary elements to show he was entitled to a reasonable accommodation, we conclude the district court’s failure to provide reasonable accommodations did not constitute error.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.