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Putting New Ordinance to Legal Test

A Houston homeowner is being sued for discrimination for not selling his home to a neighbor. The suit filed by the city marks the first test of Houston’s fair housing ordinance. Pat Hernandez has the story.



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Anthony Petrello is suing Matthew Prucka because he didn’t sell his 8-million dollar home to him. Prucka faces a criminal misdemeanor charge under a city ordinance that prohibits discrimination by race, sex, color, religion, national origin, family status or disability in the sale or rental of property. Petrello wanted the house for his 11-year old daughter. She has cerebral palsy, so the house, built in the 1920s,  would have to be retro-fitted for her medical team and eventually for her.

Attorney Murray Fogler represents Prucka. He says Petrello originally filed a contract claim against his client.

“His allegation was that he had an oral agreement with his neighbor that he would get the opportunity to buy the house and when he realized that that claim really wasn’t very strong, he came up with this other one.”

Fogler says his client found someone who wanted to buy the house as is.

“The buyer loved the house the way it was and wanted to preserve it. And that meant something to Mr. Prucka and his wife, because they had spent so much time restoring the house to its original condition.”

Houston immigration attorney Gordon Quan chaired the Fair Housing committee and helped push through the law as a city councilmember.

“Certainly it’s an unusual case, but it shows the diligence of the city attorney in seeking to apply the law fairly in all cases. The courts may dismiss it, but I think it does serve notice that we’re serious about enforcing our fair housing laws.”

Homeowner Prucka faces up to a 500-dollar fine if he’s found guilty.

PH, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.