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Thursday, February 22, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, February 22, 2024 | Back issues
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Uncle Sam Is Not Happy in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) - The United States sued the Kansas City, Kansas Housing Authority this week, claiming its hearing officer sexually preyed upon a woman who sought public housing, and tried to snare a second one.

The United States also sued the Housing Authority's former administrative coordinator and hearing officer Victor L. Hernandez, for discrimination and Fair Housing Act violations.

One of his alleged victims, Daneasha Davis, sued the Housing Authority, Hernandez and Wyandotte County in February. The United States sued the Housing Authority and Hernandez on Monday in her behalf. The new federal complaint also names a second woman whom Hernandez allegedly tried to victimize.

The United States says that Hernandez implicitly conditioned the outcome of both women's hearings on "enduring his sexual conduct during the meetings in his office and/or otherwise engaging in sexual conduct with him."

Davis appealed her rejection for public housing and met with Hernandez in his office in July 2013. During that meeting, Hernandez told her that her photos on Facebook were "sexy," and followed it up with "sexually explicit comments."

The United States' complaint continues: "Hernandez then unzipped his pants, exposed himself to her, and asked her inappropriate and offensive sexual questions about men's genitalia. He started to masturbate in front of Davis, made noises, and continued making unwelcome and offensive sexual statements."

Later that month, Davis received a letter overturning her denial, with a handwritten note from Hernandez attached, asking her to "Call me anytime there is something you need," according to the complaint.

Davis signed a lease for a public housing unit in August and in another meeting with Hernandez, he "again made unwelcome sexual statements about Davis arousing him, asked Davis explicit sexual questions, exposed himself, and started touching himself in front of her. He showed Davis a pornographic video on his phone and he also referenced exposing himself to Davis in their previous meeting in July. He told Davis it was okay to look and asked if she wanted to do more than look," according to the lawsuit.

Later in August, Davis received a phone call from the Kansas City Kansas Housing Authority's main number: "The caller did not speak, but breathed heavily into the phone, making the same noises Hernandez did when he masturbated in front of her," according to the complaint.

His second victim met with Hernandez in his office in August 2013 about a grievance with housing authority maintenance fees, the complaint states. Hernandez showed her pornography on his cellphone, asked if she would get involved with a married man, and "asked her additional explicit sexual questions," the government says.

It claims that Hernandez, looking at a computer, agreed to remove some maintenance charges from this woman's account, and then told her he wanted to show her something.

The woman "began to stand up, thinking he was going to show her something about her maintenance records on the computer screen, but instead saw that Hernandez had unzipped his pants and was exposing himself to her. He asked her sexually explicit questions about his genitalia and she did not answer him. Before she left, Hernandez asked if she had any sexually explicit pictures of herself on her cell phone. He also told (her) not to tell anyone what he did," according to the complaint.

Hernandez did remove $60 in charges from her account, but she complained to two higher-ups in the Housing Authority, who ignored her, the government said.

The Housing Authority fired Hernandez in January 2014, after he admitted his improper sexual conduct to Davis, according to the complaint.

"Women have a hard enough time finding a decent, affordable place to live without having access to that housing conditioned upon submitting to unwanted sexual advances," Assistant Secretary Gustavo Velasquez with HUD's Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Office said in a statement.

"HUD applauds the action the Justice Department is taking in this matter and remains committed to working together to protect the housing rights of women when those rights are violated."

A spokesperson at Kansas City Kansas Housing Authority confirmed that the agency fired Hernandez but declined to comment on the lawsuit, calling it a personnel issue.

The government seeks monetary damages to compensate victims and a court order barring discrimination and requiring additional preventive measures.

Davis's attorney in her February lawsuit in state court told Courthouse News that a default, interlocutory judgment against Hernandez in that case was entered this month, and the charges are still pending against the state defendants.

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