Jim Boyle Aug. 15, 2014, 9:48am


Two African-American women say that a permit request submitted to Radnor Township in Delaware County has been denied because of their race and the race of their contractor, according to a civil rights suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Jazmine Smith and Vera Williams are joined as plaintiffs with Community Builders, Inc., accusing the township, Director of Community Development Kevin Kochanski, Township Health Officer and Codes Official Larry Taltoan and Codes Official Ray Daly of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 by allegedly ignoring the permit request until they hire a Caucasian contractor to perform the work.

According to the complaint, Smith and Williams' home in Bala Cynwyd was severely damaged by a fire on May 17, 2013.  They hired the minority-owned Community Builders to repair and rebuild the damaged property, who then retained an architect and began submitting the necessary paperwork for township building permits in September 2013.

The claim says that despite multiple meetings with Kochanski, Taltoan and Daly, a permit has not been issued to the plaintiffs. According to the complaint, when Smith visited the Radnor township office to ask why a permit had not been given, someone told her, "Why didn't you have Jay Hemminger do the work; the job would have been done by now."

The complaint says that Community Builders' staff is mostly of African-American descent, and Hemminger is white. Smith and Williams say that the township's refusal to issue the permit for racial reasons has denied them the ability to enjoy their home and have it repaired.

As a result of the refusal, the complaint says, Williams has been forced to reside at Aristcare in Norristown, an extended care facility that can tend to her physical disability. Community Builders also claims that the township's roadblock has denied the company the opportunity to complete the job.

The plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages for the alleged violations of their civil rights, and the township's interference with a contractual relationship.

They are represented by Philadelphia attorney Jonathan Wheeler.

The federal case ID number is 2:14-cv-04773-GAM.

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