Township Violated Residents' Constitutional Rights In Fight Over
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 14, 2003
PETERS TOWNSHIP, PENNSYLVANIA--Four men with developmental disabilities will be able to continue living together in a Peters Township neighborhood, and the town will have to pay because it pushed to have them moved.
A federal judge ruled last week that Peters Township violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act when it failed to provide reasonable accommodations in their local zoning laws for the men's home.
Senior U.S. District Judge Maurice B. Cohill Jr. also found that the township had treated people with disabilities differently than other residents, in violation of their constitutional rights to equal protection.
The judge ordered the township to pay $2,400 in damages, plus attorneys fees -- which are likely to run in the tens of thousands of dollars -- to the Dr. Gertrude A. Barber Center which manages the home for the men. The Erie-based company serves people with developmental disabilities in 80 residences across the state. The home at Peters Township is the only Barber residence that has had to go to court to be established.
"What surprises me is that governmental entities still continue to pursue policies of exclusion," the Barber Center's attorney, Jon Pushinski, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The township's manager told the paper he doubts the decision would be appealed.