Housing complaint filed against city dismissed
The Arkansas Fair Housing Commission has dismissed a 2016 complaint made against the city of Benton.
Robert Cannon filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Arkansas Fair Housing Commission on Dec. 17, 2015, after three group homes he was operating through Broken Chain Ministries were shut down by city officials.
Cannon claimed that city employees injured him by making housing unavailable through zoning and interference in connection with properties located at 1617 Deerfield Rd., 1005 Brookview Dr. and 1912 Alcoa Rd., according to the commission.
The group homes were shut down by city officials after they began receiving complaints from individuals living near the property on Deerfield Road.
After investigating the homes, city officials learned the spaces were being renting on a weekly basis. At the time, there were six to seven people living at the Deerfield home which is approximately 3,400 square feet with two bathrooms.
”The detective was also told there were plans to add additional bunk beds to allow approximately 17 people to live at that location,” according to the city’s response to the complaint.
City officials said the homes were being operated without a city privilege license and under the city’s zoning regulation, group homes are not allowed in singlefamily residences, according to the city’s response to the complaint.
The Brookview home had been in use for four years while the home on Alcoa Road had been in operation for only a few months. The home on Deerfield Road had been opened only a month before the closure.
In the complaint, Cannon stated that the group homes were created to help assist men with disabilities, but later during interviews with the commission Cannon was “inconsistent as to whether ‘Fresh Start’ was a program that housed parolees or a program for disabled individuals,” according to the commission.
To respond to the complaint, the commissioner’s investigator reviewed a video of a special Benton City Council meeting. During this meeting, Cannon is quoted as saying “I work to help people that are incarcerated” and “I work with a lot of prison, jail. This is what I do,” according to the investigator.
Cannon also did not provide documentation to the council “that the tenants at the subject properties were persons with disabilities as defined under the Fair Housing
Act,” according to the commission.
Based on this investigation, the commission dismissed the complaint.
”Based on the evidence set forth above, there is insufficient evidence to prove discrimination based on disability. Accordingly, no reasonable cause exists to believe that (the city of Benton) discriminated against (Cannon) or that the act was violated. The complaint is hereby dismissed,” according to the commission.
City Attorney Brent Houston said he is happy with the commission’s decision.
”The city is pleased the Fair Housing Commission has determined its actions pertaining to the Broken Chain Ministries group homes were lawful under the Fair Housing Act. When a complaint such as this is made, the city administration will review its actions along with the policies and procedures in place to determine if they were lawful. When the complaint occurred in 2016 the city administration believed it was on firm ground with respect to its actions and position concerning the three facilities. This belief was affirmed by the commission today,” Houston said.
Along with the city, Cannon also named
Houston, Benton General Manager David Vondran, who was serving as city engineer at the time of the complaint, as well as former police Chief Kirk Lane and former Mayor David Mattingly.