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Monday, May 27, 2024 | Back issues
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Young Mom Distressed by City Inspector

CHICAGO (CN) - A young mother claims in court that she lost her Section 8 housing assistance because she refused the advances of a Cook County housing inspector, who "grabbed (her) buttocks and licked (her) chest."

Colleen Askins sued the Housing Authority of Cook County and the inspector, John Espinosa in Cook County Court.

After the "inspection" during which he made other unwanted advances, Askins says, "Espinosa sat in his vehicle parked in plaintiff's driveway for over one hour after leaving the plaintiff's home. During that time, Espinosa used the private cell phone number that plaintiff had provided to HACC to send plaintiff an unsolicited, unwanted text message that read in part: 'This is my cell. Send me a sexy picture.'"

Askins, a single mother of children ages 5 and 14, says that she and her family "are dependent on Section 8 housing ... for having a place to live."

"In order for Ms. Askins and her children to receive Section 8 housing, HACC required that HACC send an employee to Ms. Askins' home to inspect the home. Without receiving a passing inspection from HACC, Ms. Askins and her children would likely be homeless," the complaint states.

In a letter, "the HACC told Ms. Askins that if she did not cooperate with the employee they would be sending to her home she and her children would lose their Section 8 assistance. Neither Ms. Askins nor her children wished to be homeless and intended to cooperate with the HACC inspection in any way possible," Askins says. The agency sent Espinosa to inspect her home on May 23, 2011, Askins says.

"(D) uring the HACC Section 8 home inspection, John Espinosa both grabbed Ms. Askins' buttocks and licked Ms. Askins' chest," the complaint states. "Each of these acts constituted physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with Ms. Askins. During the inspection, Mr. Espinoa called Ms. Askins' bedroom 'the queen's room' and told her on her patio 'this is a real nice patio. You know, on a nice summer night, I'm sure we can sit out here, have a drink - I can bring a drink over and we can sit out here.'

"John Espinosa's actions were under coercive conditions in each of the following ways:

"a) John Espinosa told Ms. Askins that she should submit to his unwanted sexual advances or the HACC would fail plaintiff's home in her Section 8 inspection. John Espinosa told Ms. Askins 'what goes on here in this Section 8 is between us - stays between us. Now don't forget, you can lose your Section 8 now for the third failure.'

"b) John Espinosa told Ms. Askins that if Ms. Askins complained to the police about his unwanted sexual advances that the HACC would fail plaintiff's home in her Section 8 inspection.

"c) Immediately before Mr. Espinosa initiated physical contact of an insulting and provoking nature on plaintiff's chest, Mr. Espinosa made the direct threat that a crack in the wall constituted plaintiff's third failure under Section 8 and caused plaintiff to reasonably believe that, unless she complied with insulting physical contact, she and her children would be homeless."

He did this despite telling her before he even entered that her home had passed the inspection, and having her sign paperwork stating so, Askins says.

Then he sat in her driveway for an hour, demanded the "sexy picture," and 12 days later she "received a letter from HACC indicating that plaintiff had failed the Section 8 home inspection," the complaint states.

"In retaliation for plaintiff rebuffing Espinosa's unwanted sexual advances and in retaliation for plaintiff contacting the Lynnwood Police Department, HACC failed plaintiff's home in her Section 8 home inspection," Askins says.

She seeks damages for violation of the Illinois Gender Violence Act, negligent hiring, assault, battery, infliction of emotional distress, and civil rights violations.

She is represented by Kent Sinson.

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