Judge tosses suit by man blackballed by Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority
An Aspen man who’s banned from living in government-controlled housing hoped to have his day in court Wednesday. He didn’t.
Pitkin County Small Claims Court Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely threw out plaintiff Jeremiah Casper’s lawsuit against the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority because she said she did not have jurisdiction over the dispute.
After the judge’s decision, Casper said he would contemplate his next step. He could take the case to state district court, or possibly make a Fair Housing Act claim in federal court, he said. But hiring a lawyer can be costly, he said, if he pursues those routes.
“The reason I went to your court is that I would have rather kept this in our neighborhood,” Casper told the judge, “because the (Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority) is definitely unique to this area but not other places.”
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Casper filed a one-page complaint against the housing authority and its executive director, Mike Kosdrovsky, Dec. 8.
His suit claimed the housing authority’s decision to make him permanently ineligible to rent or own government-regulated housing in Pitkin County “is making it difficult to live in Aspen, where I have resided since 1998.”
Casper is on the housing authority’s blacklist of nearly 200 people.
Repeated transgressions by Casper as a tenant at Truscott Place from August 2010 to August 2013 prompted the housing authority’s decision. Among his missteps were allowing his brother to illegally live in his unit, sending harassing texts to the complex’s property manager and maintenance staff and behaving violently toward some neighbors, according to housing records obtained in December by The Aspen Times through an open records request.
He learned last summer he was banned for life and unsuccessfully appealed the housing authority’s decision Nov. 1 before its eligibility review committee.
Meanwhile, the housing authority’s attorney, Tom Smith, told Fernandez-Ely during Wednesday’s hearing that Casper did not exhaust his administrative remedies, and by not doing so, small-claims court was not the proper venue to settle the dispute.
Casper could have taken the eligibility review committee’s decision to the housing authority’s board of directors on appeal, but he didn’t, Smith said.
Higher courts, such as state district court, could possibly handle Casper’s suit, Smith said. The judge agreed.
“I don’t have jurisdiction in this,” she said. “I agree with APCHA and I need to dismiss this case.”
“I really hate to waste your time and your (court’s time),” Casper told Fernandez-Ely. “I just felt like I had no other options.”
After the hearing, Casper said he still lives in Pitkin County but his living situation is in flux.
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Pitkin County public health authorities increased social distancing restrictions for residents Wednesday and lengthened the amount of time they will be in place until the end of April.