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Attorney General Wins Fair Housing Act Case Against Putman County Landlord and Rental Agent

PRESS ADVISORY

Attorney General Wins Fair Housing Act Case Against Putman County Landlord and Rental Agent

December 1, 2011

A Putnam County Superior Court judge has ruled that Roy Embry and Rhonda Tuttle, both of Eatonton, Georgia, violated Georgia’s Fair Housing Act (GFHA) by refusing to rent to an interracial couple.

“Not only is racial discrimination immoral, it is against the law,” said Attorney General Sam Olens. “My office is fully committed to enforcing Georgia’s Fair Housing Act to protect Georgia citizens from discriminatory housing practices.”

Director and Administrator of the Georgia Commission on Equal Opportunity (GCEO) Melvin Everson said, “I am pleased to have worked with the Attorney General’s Office to resolve the complaint filed by Deanna Joseph. The State of Georgia will not tolerate discrimination, and the GCEO stands ready to work collaboratively with the Attorney General’s Office under the law to root out housing discrimination in Georgia."

In August of 2009, the couple, Michael and Deanna Joseph, attempted to rent a house located in Eatonton, Georgia, and owned by Roy Embry. Initially, Embry’s rental agent, Rhonda Tuttle, met only with Mrs. Joseph and agreed to rent the property to her and her husband. However, once it was discovered that Mr. Joseph is black, Tuttle informed Mrs. Joseph that Embry would not rent to an interracial couple and refused to rent the house to the Josephs. 

Mrs. Joseph filed a complaint with the GCEO, alleging that Embry and Tuttle violated a provision of GFHA that made it unlawful to refuse to rent a dwelling to a person because of race. After the GCEO found reasonable cause to believe that a discriminatory housing practice had occurred, the Attorney General’s Office filed a civil action against Embry and Tuttle to enforce the provisions of the GFHA. 

A bench trial was held in Putnam County Superior Court on November 17, 2011, and on November 23, 2011, Judge Hugh V. Wingfield, III, found that Tuttle had violated the GFHA and that Embry was vicariously liable for her actions. Judge Wingfield awarded Mrs. Joseph $5,000.00 in damages and imposed a $3,000.00 civil penalty to be paid to the State of Georgia.

Assistant Attorney General Jeff Stump tried the case on behalf of the State of Georgia.