Utility bills prejudiced, Ga. suit says

  • Follow Crime & courts

A grassroots citizens group is suing the city of Douglas, Ga., for $163 million claiming it discriminates against black residents by systematically inflating their electricity usage to charge them more than whites for the utility service.

Douglas Energy Relief Association through its president Vera Freeman, founder Edward Freeman and two members assert the south Georgia city has violated the civil rights of African-Americans living in public housing complexes and other low-income housing since 2004, the lawsuit filed in federal court Aug. 18 shows.

The city, which provides electrical service in those neighborhoods, targeted blacks for exploitation by the driver's licenses or other photo identification that residents are required to supply when applying for the utility, the lawsuit states.

The city's computerized billing system was programmed to increase the amount of electricity measured by the utility meters at the homes of black residents, Vera Freeman told the Georgia Times-Union newspaper on Wednesday.

"It's red-lining. ... They used the picture ID to program the computer to inflate the kilowatt usage of the black residents," she said. "Black people living in public housing and mobile home trailers could have a utility bill of $400 or $500 a month while a white person next door would have one a whole lot less," Freeman said.

She said the association, established in 2004, has at least 900 members. Its website states the group operates with two or three faithful volunteers and no funding.

The group sued after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials on March 25, 2009, affirmed the agency's dismissal of a similar fair housing discrimination complaint the association filed against the city in 2004.

HUD dismissed the complaint after its investigation determined "no reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory housing practice occurred."

The group cites HUD's ruling in the suit. The association welcomed the dismissal of the complaint and rejection of its appeal because that cleared the way to sue the city in federal court, Freeman said.

They are suing the city and 10 of its past and present mayors and City Commission members from 2004 until now. The mayors and commissioners are sued individually and in their official capacity.

"These allegations are completely ridiculous. ...The plaintiff is well aware there is no basis in fact, and no evidence to support this lawsuit. It is absolutely without merit," City Attorney Jerome Adams told the Times-Union.

Adams said HUD "completely cleared the city" after thoroughly investigating the association's claims through last year.

In addition, the city is incapable technologically of targeting people in the manner the association describes, he said.

"There is not a meter made that can detect the race, age or sex of the person living in the house. There is no software in existence that can do that, and we certainly do not have technology in our system," Adams said.

The sole purpose of the lawsuit, Adams said, is "to harass the city of Douglas."

Freeman acknowledged publicity was part of their goal.

"This town needs to be made an example of," she said.

The group is asking for $40.8 million in compensatory damages and $122.4 million in punitive damages, the lawsuit states.

Freeman said they also want to force the city out of the utility business.

No hearing dates have been set for the case, records showed.

teresa.stepzinski@jacksonville.com, (912) 264-0405

Comments (39) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
wribbs
435
Points
wribbs 12/30/10 - 07:52 am
0
0
This is so stupid I don't

This is so stupid I don't even know what to say.

CABoatright
188
Points
CABoatright 12/30/10 - 08:22 am
0
0
OK, I'll try to be
Unpublished

OK, I'll try to be politically correct here....Do you think the residents are a bit confused? The charge for electricity fluctuates: Hottest months of summer--higher charge per kw hour...coldest months of winter--higher charge per kw hour. I too pay extreme prices in extreme weather...I'm white & don't live in public housing. Go figure.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 12/30/10 - 08:30 am
0
0
This is absultely absurd

This is absultely absurd along with the group making the presentation.

The solution however is very simple...do away with ALL government housing and other enabling programs for all whites, blacks and anyone of any race. Here's and idea...make people EARN what they get, period.

CABoatright
188
Points
CABoatright 12/30/10 - 08:37 am
0
0
Asitis-excellent idea! Cut
Unpublished

Asitis-excellent idea! Cut 'em off---I've never been thanked for all the "donations" I make via taxes.

Tisk tisk what is this world coming to
0
Points
0
0
CABoatright, does a thief

CABoatright, does a thief thank you after they rob you at gun point?

CABoatright
188
Points
CABoatright 12/30/10 - 08:49 am
0
0
Good Morning Tisk-my point
Unpublished

Good Morning Tisk-my point exactly!

topjim31504
0
Points
topjim31504 12/30/10 - 08:58 am
0
0
Let's stop all welfare and

Let's stop all welfare and government assistance. Revamp the system and have those that "think" they are eligible reapply for their "gift". Screen these individuals with a microscope. So many are "living off the system". I know of many people that receive disability benefits and are not disabled; I know of many people receiving unemployment benefits who have had job offers but "not the job" they wanted. Beggers can't be choosers.

Nativeson1
2
Points
Nativeson1 12/30/10 - 09:22 am
0
0
It's lawsuits like this one

It's lawsuits like this one that makes it hard for people who have legitimate complaints. My opinion is if you are living in public housing and at home all day with everything on your electric bill obviously will be higher than the people who live around you who go to work! Geesh!

ReformedRepub
0
Points
ReformedRepub 12/30/10 - 09:24 am
0
0
As a heating and air

As a heating and air technician, I have, often, had to explain to residents of color that the reason their power bills were so high was the temperature that they set their thermostat to. For whatever reason, many seem to desire very cold temps in summer, and very high temps in winter. Many of those that I would try to explain the cause of their high bills would refuse to believe. I even had one call 911 and try to get the police to come out and MAKE me "fix their M F heater". I could hear the dispatcher laughing over the phone....

Watermedic
292
Points
Watermedic 12/30/10 - 09:27 am
0
0
Governments are so scared of

Governments are so scared of the "grassroots citizens groups" that they fold instead of fight. It is time for this type of foolish mess to stop.

CoastalDawg
125
Points
CoastalDawg 12/30/10 - 09:46 am
0
0
They want to force the city

They want to force the city of Douglas out of the utility business? They'd better be careful what they're asking for because if that happens chances are that they will get Georgia Power who is breaking the backs of citizens with increased rates on an annual or more frequent basis. The wrongly named PUBLIC service commission doesn't know how to say no to Georgia Power. A few years ago when gasoline reached the level where it is now the public service commission allowed a rate hike based on that - it was never rescinded when the gasoline prices were lower and watch out because they will probably demand and get another such increase. Those residents need to collect information if that is possible of the claimed differences in billing between caucasian and negro prices; in fact, they probably can force the city to reveal the billing of them and their neighbors without revealing the personal information. Unless that information proves the suit, it's moot.

fd1962
26
Points
fd1962 12/30/10 - 10:22 am
0
0
Sounds like two or three
Unpublished

Sounds like two or three volunteers have a lot of time on their hands waiting for the next round of checks to arrive. If that time doesn't run out soon, they're going to form a posse of 900 and run it out.

noone
4
Points
noone 12/30/10 - 10:24 am
0
0
sounds like some uneducated

sounds like some uneducated people dont understand math or electronics. before the economy collapsed i had 2 secretaries who would turn the AC all the way down in the summer and turn the heat all the way up in the winter. the system had to be serviced on a regular basis. at my home i set the thermostat at 78 in the summer and 69 in the winter. my system has never had to be repaired

noone
4
Points
noone 12/30/10 - 10:30 am
0
0
they dont understand that the

they dont understand that the more you use the more you pay.
But it seems that these people think they are entitled to free electricity.

i remember girls in school who would say and i quote " i cant wait till i have a baby so i can get on wic" and this was in the eighth grade. Parents are teaching their children to be worthless burdens on society.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 12/30/10 - 10:49 am
0
0
lol...that explains those

lol...that explains those high electric bills I had this summer.

scorehouse
196
Points
scorehouse 12/30/10 - 11:07 am
0
0
how do mexicans, asians and
Unpublished

how do mexicans, asians and orientals get charged? are you sure eric holder is not in charge of this?

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 12/30/10 - 11:12 am
0
0
These "public housing"

These "public housing" residents need to get over themselves. The taxpayers are already paying for their food, their living expenses, their healthcare AND their housing!!!! What more do these moochers want?! Spending money for their fake nails & cell phones? Oh, never mind, we already give them that too.

SRVaughn5490
0
Points
SRVaughn5490 12/30/10 - 11:19 am
0
0
Singing: Justa looking for a

Singing: Justa looking for a hand out .... yea something free .... from Uncle Sam & me ....
It will NEVER will be enough, they will ALWAYS whine & complain!

Rather
56
Points
Rather 12/30/10 - 11:30 am
0
0
One in 7 in the US on food

One in 7 in the US on food stamps (14.2%), 10% on unemployment in GA, free Govt. housing, and then after that, you expect these people to pay their electrical bills at the same rate as others? Whatever you do, give them free electricity ... and water too. Why not cigarettes, cigars, and liquor too? You un-color cheapskates, whats the matter with you?

grinder48
1957
Points
grinder48 12/30/10 - 11:46 am
0
0
This is absurd. Once it's
Unpublished

This is absurd. Once it's shown to be untrue (and that will be easily proven), the group and individuals involved in bringing this ridiculous lawsuit need to be punished.

kmb413
533
Points
kmb413 12/30/10 - 11:50 am
0
0
Could it be possible that the

Could it be possible that the rates are determined by credit score? I have kept my utilities in my mother's name because her credit is better than mine, therefore I have the lower rate. I pay them on time so she doesn't have to worry.

dichotomy
33017
Points
dichotomy 12/30/10 - 11:58 am
0
0
Running all of those grow

Running all of those grow lights and meth cookers takes a lot of juice. They might try turning off all of those 55" flat screens.

Don't even say it. My claims are no more ridiculous than their's. What a crock. Another lawsuit dreamt up by people with too much time on their hands because they don't go to work everyday.

RAWR
0
Points
RAWR 12/30/10 - 11:51 pm
0
0
double post

double post

RAWR
0
Points
RAWR 12/30/10 - 01:49 pm
0
0
exmedic
2
Points
exmedic 12/30/10 - 01:52 pm
0
0
This is REAL good, I needed a

This is REAL good, I needed a laugh today. "The city's computerized billing system was programmed to increase the amount of electricity measured by the utility meters at the homes of black residents"
Can you imagine the technology that would be required to pull this off?
Some very good comments and observations , Home all day, temp set too high in winter/too cold in summer, ......ECT

whoknewiknew
0
Points
whoknewiknew 12/30/10 - 02:30 pm
0
0
I guess I need to make an

I guess I need to make an appearance at Georgia Power and let them know I am white and getting the black person rates!

realitycheck09
307
Points
realitycheck09 12/30/10 - 02:55 pm
0
0
Usually when I comment on

Usually when I comment on articles on this site, I try to play devil's advocate and calm down the torch and pitchfork masses.

Uh, but even I don't care to defend this one. This is a ridiculous lawsuit. In this particular case, losers should have to pay the winner's fees.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 12/30/10 - 03:44 pm
0
0
Well I wasn't even home all

Well I wasn't even home all day and my bill was high. I demand a refund.

rmwhitley
5547
Points
rmwhitley 12/30/10 - 03:50 pm
0
0
Don't ya just hate it? How
Unpublished

Don't ya just hate it? How about a volunteer panel to investigate the assassinations of 2 white police officers in Ga. within the past 8 days?

fatboyhog
1948
Points
fatboyhog 12/30/10 - 05:51 pm
0
0
This isn't Douglas County's

This isn't Douglas County's doing! It's the CIA; the same ones that planted crack in the projects! If you are going to place the blame, make sure you place it correctly..sheesh!

Back to Top

Top headlines

Vogtle workers see both reactor projects

Some veterans of the nuclear industry were at the site south of Augusta to see the complex network of rebar and concrete rising out of the ground in the 1970s and ’80s. Now, they are back.
Search Augusta jobs