The landlord of the Yale Park Apartments has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Omaha, several city officials and a refugee advocacy group, alleging that all conspired to shut down the apartment complex to put him out of business.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court, the latest development in the six-month fight over the conditions found in the north Omaha apartment complex where 500 refugees from Myanmar lived until they were evacuated by the city on Sept. 20.
The suit is filed on behalf of Yale Park landlord Kay Anderson, his wife, Janae, and AB Realty, which owns the property. It names the city, Mayor Jean Stothert, City Council President Ben Gray, several city housing and planning employees, and refugee organization Restoring Dignity as defendants.
“The defendants have not ceased in their active and continuous smear campaign to intimidate and destroy the reputations of plaintiffs and fulfill their ultimate goal of bulldozing and taking over the Yale Park Apartments regardless of their actual condition,” the lawsuit says.
City officials said at the time that the mass inspection and evacuation of the 100-unit complex near 34th Avenue and Lake Street was a humanitarian effort required to rescue tenants living with gas leaks, electrical problems, mold and bug infestations.
Stothert said Monday that she hadn’t seen the lawsuit yet, but she defended the city’s actions.
“The city’s effort was necessary for the health and safety of many,” she said. “We will vigorously defend.”
Gray said he hadn’t reviewed the suit and couldn’t comment. Hannah Wyble, the leader of Restoring Dignity, said the same.
The lawsuit contends that Restoring Dignity, which works with local refugees, pressured tenants into signing housing complaints that were filed with the city, not turned in to Anderson so he could address them or make repairs.
Based on those complaints, the city launched the inspections, “a public spectacle designed to intimidate, threaten, bully, harass, embarrass, and coerce plaintiffs and create, inflate, and exaggerate issues with the Yale Park Apartments to justify their actions,” the suit says.
The lawsuit says the defendants violated Nebraska’s Landlord-Tenant Act, the city’s 2015 settlement with the Metropolitan Omaha Property Owners Association and Anderson’s civil and property rights. It alleges that Anderson has been targeted because he rented to minority tenants. It seeks unspecified damages and asks that the Yale Park Apartments be reopened.