Polk County mobile home park accused of racial discrimination

- A federal lawsuit filed Friday accuses the owner and managers at the May Grove Village mobile home park in Lakeland of targeting and excluding African Americans in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

The lawsuit is based on undercover tests done between July and November 2015 by the Justice Deparment. It accuses owner James Goss and his managers Cathy Plante and Joey Gwozdz of using discriminatory tactics to keep black families out of the community.

According to the complaint, the community falsely told African Americans that "no mobile homes" were available while "informing white persons of the availability of mobile homes." The suit also alleges higher prices were quoted to black people and in some cases financing was refused, when it was made available to white families.

The Justice Department demands the mobile home community stop discriminating and if found liable, the owners and managers could face fines. Monetary damages could also be awarded to anyone discriminated against.

A neighbor, who didn't want to be identified, told FOX 13 she wasn't surprised by the allegations and highlighted the lack of diversity in the community.

"My best friend her sister is with a black guy and she's came out here before, both of them and [the manager] said nothing's available when obviously they see that there's three or four places open," she said.

FOX 13 tried multiple times to reach management from the community, but they have not responded to the allegations.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida released a statement, saying in part, “While we’ve come a long way in dismantling some of the most overt forms of housing discrimination, we still have a long way to go. The sad reality is that for many Americans, the barriers to equal opportunity have morphed from outright segregation to policies that subtly shut out minority applicants."

Anyone who believes they were discriminated against at May Grove Village should contact the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743.

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