The ACLU of Colorado announced a second settlement this morning on behalf of four individuals who were subjected to an illegal search of their residences at the Suites, a public housing complex in Longmont. The searches were conducted in May 2017 by Longmont police officers and a K-9, at the request of and in conjunction with the Longmont Housing Authority. They were conducted without a warrant or any arguable exception to the warrant requirement. None of the ACLU’s clients consented to the search or were given an opportunity to refuse the search. ACLU clients Alice Boatner, Billy Sparling, Michael Kealy, and Christine Herrera resolved their claims against the City of Longmont in November 2017, when the City paid a total settlement of $210,000, along with additional non-monetary relief. The additional settlement announced today is with the Longmont Housing Authority (LHA) and resolves all remaining legal claims related to the illegal searches.
Key aspects of the settlement:
- Housing Authority pays $170,000 for damages and attorneys’ fees;
- Public statement by the LHA acknowledging the constitutional privacy rights of public housing occupants and that – contrary to past misstatements by the housing authority – the ACLU clients did not consent to the searches;
- Commitment by LHA to refrain from making further statements that justify or mitigate the seriousness of the searches, the harm that was caused, the constitutional violations at issue, or LHA’s role in the searches;
- Commitment by LHA to issue a letter of apology to the ACLU Clients.
- Opportunity for ACLU input on LHA policies related to searches.
Statement of ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Rebecca T. Wallace:
With this settlement, our clients can finally close this difficult chapter of their lives and feel that justice has been served. The combined payments and non-monetary commitments by the Longmont Housing Authority and the City of Longmont appropriately reflect the seriousness of the constitutional violations in this case. Through this process, all parties have come to agree that the constitutional right to privacy extends equally to people who live in public housing. We hope and believe that because of the resolution in this case, Colorado law enforcement and public housing authorities will never again join forces to perform warrantless, illegal searches of public housing units.
Statement of Michael Kealey, ACLU client:
“I’m so glad for this case to finally end with a fair settlement and new rules that will make sure what happened to me doesn’t happen to others. It’s nice to have vindication and not just be another statistic.”
*In addition to Wallace, the ACLU team includes cooperating counsel John Culver.