Two former employees of Four-County Community Services (now operating as Southeastern Community & Family Services) have been accused of attempting to extort sex for federal subsidy housing vouchers. The housing agency has agreed to pay $2.7 million which is the largest monetary settlement in a sexual harassment case under the Fair Housing Act. The employees have been terminated and are permanently prohibited from involvement in the Section 8 program and “property management responsibilities at any residential rental property.”
The two employees, John Wesley and Eric Pender, were responsible for determining who received Section 8 vouchers and inspecting participants’ homes. The collaboration between the two resulted in unwanted sexual advances that were targeted to voucher program participants. Those participants were unfairly faced with becoming homeless or being sexually harassed. Victims were additionally exposed to retaliation by Wesley and Pender if they did not agree with their advances.
George Hausen, executive director of Legal Aid of North Carolina, said that listening to the women talk about the abuse was “heartbreaking and infuriating.” The lawsuit was brought by the Justice Department and multiple private plaintiffs who withstood the harassment. The lawsuit was brought to the Department of Justice’s attention by Legal Aid of North Carolina Inc.’s Fair Housing Project. An additional complaint was referred to the department by HUD. There are currently fifteen victims who filed a private lawsuit. Additional victims are urged to call the Justice Department at 1-800-896-7743, option 94, or email the department at email@example.com. An article written by North Carolina Lawyers Weekly also explains the case.