- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

D.C. officials want a federal judge to throw out a civil rights complaint filed by the U.S. Justice Department after a jury deadlocked on whether the city discriminated against a group home for disadvantaged youth on Capitol Hill.

The complaint centered on whether D.C. officials broke federal housing laws and discriminated against the nonprofit Father Flanagan’s Girls and Boys Home, also known as Boys Town.

The Nebraska-based group sued the District in 2001, saying city officials kept Boys Town from opening a group home on Potomac Avenue Southeast by stonewalling project applications amid community opposition to the plans.

The Justice Department later joined as a plaintiff in the federal lawsuit.

“There was no direct evidence of handicap or racial discrimination against the Boys Town project,” attorneys for the District argued in recent court pleadings. Federal officials declined to say yesterday how they plan to proceed.

“We’re obviously disappointed the jury didn’t return a verdict for the United States,” said Cynthia Magnuson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department. “But we continue to think the District of Columbia violated the Fair Housing Act.”

John Melingagio, a Boys Town spokesman, said the organization will continue to review the case and that the District’s effort to have the case dismissed is “not well-founded.”

“We will vigorously resist it,” he said. “The bottom line is we’re going to continue to advocate for children in the District.”

The District sought dismissal of the complaint Dec. 22, and a response from the Justice Department is expected later this month.

A judge granted a mistrial in the case Dec. 8, saying jurors were split on a verdict.

The case began Nov. 27 after years of pretrial motions and depositions by numerous current and former city officials and neighborhood activists.

Among those who testified was Carolyn Graham, a D.C. school board member who previously served as the District’s deputy mayor.

In questioning by the government, Miss Graham had testified that she perceived racial undertones to community opposition on Capitol Hill to the Boys Town project.

Attorneys for the District disagreed, noting that the makeup of a group opposing the project, Southeast Citizens for Smart Development, was racially diverse.

D.C. officials also argued that Boys Town ultimately realized a financial gain from the failed project. According to the District, the group sold the property to a developer for a profit of about $8 million after Boys Town decided not to pursue the project.

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