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Carroll v. Chicago Housing Auth.

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Second Division

March 24, 2015

DEBRA CARROLL, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CHICAGO HOUSING AUTHORITY, a Municipal Corporation, Defendant-Appellee

Page 327

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 13 CH 12031. Honorable David B. Atkins, Judge Presiding.

FOR PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT: Law Offices of Michael L. Shacter, Chicago, Illinois, Of Michael Shacter, Esq.

FOR DEFENDANT-APPELLEE: Chicago Housing Authority, Chicago, Illinois, Of Scott W. Ammarell, Chief Legal Officer, Clay S. Rehrig, Assistant General Counsel.

JUSTICE PIERCE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Simon and Justice Neville concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

PIERCE, JUSTICE.

Page 328

[¶1] Plaintiff Debra Carroll was a participant in the defendant Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) administrative Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV Program). Four years after she pled guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) in violation of section 11-501(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a) (West 2008)), after notice and an informal hearing, the CHA terminated her eligibility for continued participation in the voucher program for engaging in criminal conduct. She appeals from an order of the circuit court of Cook County affirming the decision to terminate her from the HCV Program. On appeal, plaintiff contends that the order terminating her benefits was clearly erroneous. We reverse.

[¶2] The HCV program provides subsidized housing to low income people in the private market. The program is funded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and administered by the CHA. Plaintiff became a participant in this program in October 2002 and received a voucher from the CHA, which subsidized her rent at 2936 North Parkside Avenue, Chicago, and later at 5146 West Dakin Street, Chicago.

[¶3] In June 2008, plaintiff signed a family obligations form required by the HCV program. The form provided that she would not engage in " violent criminal conduct" or in the abuse of alcohol that threatens the health, safety, or right of peaceful enjoyment of the residents and persons in the immediate vicinity of the premises. This form also provided that plaintiff understood that a violation of her family obligations may result in her family's termination from the program.

[¶4] On August 22, 2012, the CHA sent plaintiff a letter of intent to terminate her participation in the HCV program. The CHA alleged that she had engaged in the abuse of alcohol that threatened the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of the other residents and persons residing in the immediate vicinity of the premises: " [Specifically,] [plaintiff] has recently been arrested and convicted of Felony Aggravated Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol." The allegation was based on a traffic arrest that occurred on May 11, 2009, resulting in a subsequent plea of guilty to driving under the influence of alcohol.

[¶5] An informal administrative hearing took place on March 18, 2013. Plaintiff appeared pro se. At the hearing, a CHA representative explained that the CHA relies on rules, policies, procedures and regulations found in the Code of Federal

Page 329

Regulations (Code) and in its own administrative plan. The representative noted that when a family is accepted into the HCV program, it must abide by certain family obligations in order to remain in the program, and that assistance may be terminated if the CHA determines, by a preponderance of the evidence, that a household member engaged in criminal activity, regardless of whether that member was arrested or convicted of such activity.

[¶6] Deidre Birts, a housing specialist who assists in the management of the HCV program, testified that her responsibilities included investigating any program abuse by participants. Birts testified that the family obligations form, which was signed by plaintiff, provides guidelines and regulations for the families to live by. The form is given to the families, and they are briefed on its contents several times throughout their participation in the program.

[¶7] The CHA introduced into evidence a certified statement of conviction/disposition from the Cook County circuit court clerk certifying that the electronic records showed that on May 11, 2009, plaintiff was charged with violating section 11-501(a) of the Illinois Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-501(a) (West 2008)) while driving without a valid license, a Class 4 felony. Plaintiff pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 60 days' imprisonment, with credit for time served, placed on 2 years' probation, ...


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