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June 12, 2013

Indiana Civil Rights Commission issues probable cause finding

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Civil Rights Commission has found probable cause to believe that Michael T. and Angela M. Lazo of Hobart violated the Indiana Civil Rights Law (Ind. Code § 22-9, et. seq.) when they issued a special assessment against the complainant.

“The issue is whether the Lazos retaliated against the charging party because the charging party previously filed a civil rights complaint with the commission,” said Indiana Civil Rights Commission’s Deputy Director Akia Haynes. “We have to determine whether there is a nexus between the protected activity (filing the previous civil rights complaint) and the action taken by the Lazos (assessing the fee).”

This case, filed on Jan. 24, involves a complex consisting of four condominiums. The Lazos own three of the condos while the charging party owns and currently lives in the fourth. Mr. Lazo serves as the condominium association president while Mrs. Lazo serves as the association’s secretary.

The act in question involves the Lazos issuing a special assessment in the amount of $600 per condo for alleged maintenance repairs to the complex. The charging party alleges that the Lazos issued the fee in retaliation for filing the previous complaint with the commission and has refused to pay the fee, stating that they were not consulted prior to the fee being assessed. Further, the charging party has received notices charging them an additional $25 per month until the $600 assessment is paid in full and letters advising that an attorney would be hired to collect the assessment.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the charging party and taking into account the Lazos’ failure to respond to the commission’s repeated requests for information in an appropriate manner, the commission has found that probable cause exists to believe that a connection exists between the charging party’s act of filing a complaint and the Lazos’ adverse act against the charging party.

A finding of probable cause does not resolve a civil rights complaint. Rather, it means the state has concluded its preliminary investigation and determined there is sufficient evidence to support reasonable suspicion that the Indiana Civil Rights Law has been violated.

The Indiana Civil Rights Law provides remedies, including compensatory damages and injunctive relief.

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