No racial bias in utility bills, judge rules

South Georgia case claimed discrimination in power bills

Thursday, Aug 1, 2013 7:44 AM
Last updated 7:51 PM
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BRUNSWICK, Ga. -- A federal judge has issued a summary judgment on behalf of the south Georgia city of Douglas in a $163 million lawsuit in which black residents said the city charged them more for electricity than it did whites.



Douglas Energy Relief Association, Toni Des’Hazor, Annie Pearl Black, Vera Freeman and Edward Freeman had sued the city and the City Council in December 2010 asserting that the city’s electric utility billed them for more power than they actually used. The plaintiffs also asserted the discrepancy in billing was based on their race.

In an earlier order, Chief District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood warned that a disparity in billing between blacks and whites was not enough, that the plaintiffs had to show the overbilling resulted because of their race.

In her order, Woods noted that the plaintiffs filed a supplemental brief and attached nearly 2,000 pages of documents as exhibits, the vast majority of which were utility bills and plaintiffs’ letters alleging racial discrimination.

Woods said she reviewed the evidence “page by page.”

Using a chart, the plaintiffs compared the bills of white residents with those of black residents in public housing, Woods order says.

The bills of 21 white residents ranged from $271.35 to $30.16 while those of 26 black residents ranged from $567.67 to $173.35. That evidence was insufficient, Woods said, because the bills of whites were due on Feb. 16, 2005, while those of the blacks were from numerous billing periods although mostly from 2004.

Also, the plaintiffs did not cite “a shred of evidence” indicating that the white customers’ usage was similar to that of blacks nor was there evidence that the only difference between the customers was race, Wood wrote.

There was also no evidence on the size of the customers’ public housing residences, climate conditions, energy efficiency and other factors that could affect power usage.

The court had given the plaintiffs “more than ample time and opportunity’’ to prove their claims, Wood said.

“The poorly organized, incomplete, misidentified and largely inadmissible stack of articles, bills and allegations falls woefully shy,’’ Woods wrote in granting a motion for summary judgment for the city.

City Attorney Jerome Adams said he is hopeful the Douglas Energy Relief Association, or DERA, will accept the ruling.

“Hopefully, this matter can be put behind us and the members of DERA will seek to work with the other citizens of Douglas to find concrete and workable solutions for the problems that face this community,’’ Adams said.

In addition to Woods ruling, a four-year HUD investigation found no basis for the claims.

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Watermedic
281
Points
Watermedic 08/01/13 - 08:58 am
7
0

Really!!

They should be required to pay back the defense's legal fees also.

What a bunch of morons!!

Already in public housing and now they want someone to pay the electric bill too!!

Good Grief!

Pops
4539
Points
Pops 08/01/13 - 09:32 am
5
0

Beyond pathetic

$163 million dollar suit?

LLArms
432
Points
LLArms 08/01/13 - 09:39 am
4
0

" That evidence was

" That evidence was insufficient, Woods said, because the bills of whites were due on Feb. 16, 2005, while those of the blacks were from numerous billing periods although mostly from 2004."

aka blacks were not paying their bill in full every month?

CricketSeranade
593
Points
CricketSeranade 08/01/13 - 10:25 am
5
0

How in the world

would the utility company even know who was white and who was black? How did they know what the whites were being charged? I know I don't go around discussing my debts. If they thought they were being charged for too much usage, why wouldn't you simply request that your meter be re-read. You are perfectly within your rights to do so.

I do agree that the bills for the black people mentioned in the article were high, I suspect that those bills were selected because they were high. I suspect the same is true for the bills from the white customers, they deliberately selected bills that were lower so that it would seem there was a great disparity in charges. The judge saw right through this ploy, as would anyone with an open mind and half a brain.

Next time, I suggest that they not hire Barney Fife's second cousin to handle their case.

ImJustSaying2
14
Points
ImJustSaying2 08/01/13 - 12:58 pm
5
0

Ridiculous!!

As soon as I read this article I felt it was a bunch of bs to even 'think' you would win such a case. Due to the military, I have lived in three different locations in Georgia and when we lived off post, we had a light bill of course, but never, ever did anyone ask 'race'. If we used more, we paid more...simple as that! I am a woman of color and I could not imagine having a group of friends or whatever thinking this is an OK argument. I find this absolutely ridiculous! I'm hoping the moran of an attorney who took this case was paid up front. It would have be their only smart decision, knowing they were going to get paid for something because they knew they were going to lose anyway.

Little Lamb
40303
Points
Little Lamb 08/01/13 - 01:34 pm
3
0

Cherry Pick

If you cherry pick the documents you give the judge, you can tell any kind of story you want.

BamaMan
1817
Points
BamaMan 08/01/13 - 02:15 pm
4
0

What???

Are you for real? It just doesn't stop does it.

dichotomy
26850
Points
dichotomy 08/01/13 - 03:46 pm
4
0

I guess nobody bothered to

I guess nobody bothered to check if the kilowatt hours used matched the amount charged on the bills and if the meters were accurate.

Warnin
15
Points
Warnin 08/01/13 - 04:59 pm
0
0

The Race Card

Unpublished

Wouldn't it be nice for these groups to cite something other than race every time they try to make a stink! I hope the days of the race card are coming to an end. I hope some day the "Poverty Pimps" will be seen for what they are and there shame will remove them from the debate. It's obvious here that the people involved jumped on "DISCRIMINATION" without examining any of the facts. And when presented with the opportunity to amend their case were too ignorant to gather and present the facts OR couldn't really find any facts to support their case. You people are really sad. How much money did you steal from people by promising them you were going to get their
electricity bills lowered? Maybe someone should look into this group and see if they should be charged with fraud or defamation.

itsanotherday1
34929
Points
itsanotherday1 08/01/13 - 05:32 pm
5
0

" If they thought they were

" If they thought they were being charged for too much usage, why wouldn't you simply request that your meter be re-read. "

Nah, you know they installed racist meters just on the black folks units.....

Augustaisdying
530
Points
Augustaisdying 08/01/13 - 10:31 pm
0
0

I have a complaint

Unpublished

I dropped my Obamaphone on my foot at the club. I'm going to need $20 million, and your stapler.

itsanotherday1
34929
Points
itsanotherday1 08/01/13 - 11:44 pm
4
0

Palmetto

While I am empathetic with the idea that history affects the mindset of folks, and encourages suspicion; at some point you have to say WHOA!, this is just beyond any stretch of common sense.

Darby
19378
Points
Darby 08/02/13 - 01:07 am
3
0

"It seems ridiculous...but I'm wondering if

all the racial discrimination in post-WWII housing seemed ridiculous as well."

.
Hey, I've got a really weird idea. Why don't we all try living in the here and now.

No going back to what happened 20 years or 200 years ago. Judge each and every case on it's merits today.

I know it's crazy, but that's just the way I am.

myfather15
42226
Points
myfather15 08/02/13 - 05:18 am
2
0

Darby

"Hey, I've got a really weird idea. Why don't we all try living in the here and now."

That would simply make too much sense; AND it wouldn't help their agenda!! If they don't have the racial inequality issue and slavery issue to fall back on, they lose a VERY powerful weapon to use against people. They will NOT give up those weapons, so get ready to keep hearing the racist drumbeat pounded daily!!

jmo
12276
Points
jmo 08/02/13 - 07:24 am
2
0

According to the Association...

How were interracial couples billed? Just wondering.

raul
3384
Points
raul 08/02/13 - 07:55 am
2
0

If the DERA was represented

If the DERA was represented by an attorney, that attorney should be sanctioned for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

seenitB4
73219
Points
seenitB4 08/02/13 - 08:25 am
2
0

Live in the here & now

Yep..that would be nice.

If you are at home MORE during the day you will use more power...poor insulation is another problem also old equipment could be using more power...sooo many things to check instead of court....I turn my air so it won't run all day while I'm gone..also same thing with heat.....a few minor changes can lower the bill.

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