Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-03-13
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

Condo manager faces judge's wrath in eviction of activist
This article is from Outlines newspaper, which purchased and merged with Windy City Times in Sept. 2000.
by Karen Hawkins, Windy City Times
2001-03-07

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


"Boy, oh boy, oh b-o-y," was all Circuit Judge Willie M. Whiting could say last week as she listened to what was happening to Gay and Lesbian Hall of Famer/state's attorney staffer Vernita Gray.

Gray was in Whiting's housing court room Feb. 27 for the second time in less than a month, fighting for the right to keep her South Shore condominium against a condo association she said is targeting her, in part, because she's gay.

And this time, the association had accomplished its goal of getting Gray out—but it had to break the law and violate a judge's order to do it.

"I don't even believe what I'm hearing," Judge Whiting said, as the attorney for The 7355 South Shore Drive Condominium Association explained that her client had "misunderstood" a Feb. 7 judge's order and had illegally allowed sheriff's deputies to evict Gray from her condo.

Condo Association President Shelley Norton tersely declined a Windy City Times request for comment, saying, "I'm not permitted to respond to you at this time. I'm sorry."

Gray returned from her job as the gay and lesbian liaison for the Cook County's State's Attorney's office late on Friday Feb. 23 to find an eviction notice on her door with a note on how to retrieve her cat from a neighbor.

The neighbor let her into her splintered front door and inside her condo, where everything but the paintings on her walls had been taken away without a trace.

All of her furniture, electronics equipment, clothing, photos, community awards and diplomas—gone.

"I don't have that much stuff, but the stuff I do have is very important to me," Gray said last week as she surveyed what was left of her home.

As she walked its rooms, she talked about what was gone, the things she could replace—two 30" television sets, a DVD player, five brand-new dining room chairs, a collection of cashmere sweaters; and the things she can never replace—her awards from Howard Brown Health Center, Horizons, and the Stonewall Foundation, a dresser she's had since she was a child, a photo taken of her with the mayor as she was inducted into the city's Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.

In addition to all of those honors, Gray is former gay and lesbian victim/ witness coordinator for the Cook County State's Attorney, under both Dick Devine and Jack O'Malley. Prior to that, she owned a popular North Side restaurant, Sol Sands, and she is one of the community's most well-known activists. She started the city's first gay helpline out of her Hyde Park home more than 30 years ago, and her apartment served as temporary shelter for many gays just coming out of the closet.

Gray's current job takes her on speaking engagements to schools and other institutions around Cook County, and ironically, on Feb. 22, the night before the illegal eviction, she was on WGN TV speaking about anti-gay hate crimes.

Gray moved into her one-bedroom condo about 12 months ago. The cozy, 47-unit building sits several blocks from the South Shore Cultural Center and just off of Lake Michigan; Gray can see it lapping against the beach from her livingroom.

Gray's friend, Pat Gilbert, was so taken with the unit that she decided to buy in the building, too.

But the condo association wasn't having it.

Gilbert and Gray said association president Norton repeatedly blocked Gilbert's purchase because Gilbert is white.

Gray, the condo association and all of the building's other residents are African-American. In a Housing and Urban Development complaint Gilbert has filed, she said the association is intent on keeping it that way.

Adding to the trouble, Gray said, was that the condo association realized that she and Gilbert are lesbians.

"This is about race and homophobia," Gray said.

After nearly six months of fighting, Gilbert gave up on buying in Gray's building, but not before she filed the discrimination complaint with HUD. She has since bought a unit in a building nearby, closing her deal in just six weeks.

Meanwhile, Gray said she was dealing with habitual harassment by the condo association.

She stopped getting her mail regularly, and she didn't receive condo association notices sent to every other resident. In one case, she was fined $50 for not being home to let workmen in, even though she'd never gotten the notice that they were coming.

Gray was also gaining a reputation as someone who would not take things quietly, and she often questioned the association's decision-making. Noting that no association meetings were ever held and that she was never given a budget of the building's finances, Gray began withholding her $183 monthly assessment.

In November, saying that she owed a total of $1109.58 in late fees, the condo association sought to have Gray evicted, appearing in court on the 2nd and the 16th of that month.

But they never notified Gray of the eviction proceedings, and on Feb. 7, 2001, Judge Whiting vacated the eviction order and gave Gray until March 9 to pay the $1100.

In a move that Gray said was retaliation for the court proceedings, Norton sent a letter to all of the building's residents accusing Gray of tampering with the gas bill.

"Our gas bill was maliciously rerouted to a previous North Side address of a current owner who resides in this building," the letter reads. "Peoples Gas investigated the issue and determined the call was received from a person identifying herself as Vernita Gray. ... This action caused us a delay in getting our billing and additionally could have caused a potential danger to the residents of the building if a shutdown had occurred."

Gray denied the allegation, and said Norton never approached her about the situation before sending out the letter.

On Feb. 23, Gray went to the condo association's lawyer to deliver the $1100 in fees. But the attorney wouldn't take her check, and wouldn't say why.

That same morning, Norton had allowed sheriff's deputies to remove Gray's belongings, never mentioning that the eviction order they were acting on had been vacated.

In court on Feb. 27, Norton and her attorney maintained that they hadn't understood that the eviction had been put on hold.

Judge Whiting just shook her head.

"You know, you did a very strange thing, lady," she said to Norton. "I'm just flabbergasted, I really am."

"I assumed a judge's order would be followed," she said. "We do not have any semblance of justice if our orders are not followed."

The judge added: "You knew what this woman's position is, what her background is."

Whiting wasn't the only one who couldn't believe what she was hearing, and the court buzzed as attorneys and onlookers whispered their disapproval.

Gray said attorneys who were in the courtroom that day have since approached her offering to handle her civil case against Norton and the condo association.

On hand to watch the proceedings was Merilyn Brown, an attorney/advisor for HUD who has been assigned to Gilbert's case.

Brown told Whiting that Gilbert and Gray's complaint against the condo association would be amended to reflect her findings.

Gray filed an emergency motion to end up in court that Tuesday, and as she told the judge, all she had were the clothes on her back.

Before court, Norton's attorney reportedly approached Gray's attorney, Yvette Stringer, and offered to return a plastic bag of Gray's medications "to settle this."

Stringer refused, and during the proceedings, Gray got back not only her medications but her condo, too, to the obvious displeasure of Norton, who said, "if the judge orders it, I will return the keys."

As for Gray's possessions, they are still missing in action.

Whiting ordered Norton to return her possessions to Gray, but by presstime Tuesday, Gray had only gotten back a cordless phone and an armoire that had been in her bedroom.

Sheriff's deputies have told her they followed standard procedure and placed everything out on the curb, but witnesses said they never saw anything outside. No TVs, no bedding, no furniture, nothing.

All Gray is left with now is a few scattered pairs of shoes, her paintings, garbage left behind by the deputies, and splinters of wood where the lock to her door used to be.

She noted the strange way the eviction was carried out: several perfume boxes were left behind with their contents removed; a binoculars case was left, but the binoculars were gone; some personal photos were gone, but others were left, untouched, on her window sill; a vase was broken and left behind, and several drinks were taken from her refrigerator.

If the condo association was hoping to bully Gray out of the building, she said last week that they've failed.

As defiant as ever, she has no intention of leaving her condo or the South Side, where she said too many people are afraid to be openly gay.

"I'm going to be gay everywhere I go," she said. "We have gay people everywhere, and this is getting to be ridiculous."

Chicago activists Mary Morten and Paul Fairchild are holding a benefit for Vernita Gray on Sunday, March 11 at Morten's Andersonville home. The event will include a registry, where participants can sign up to help Gray replace missing items. For more information, contact Morten at (312) 747-8787.

Copyright 2001 Lambda Publications Inc. All rights reserved. Lambda publishes Windy City Times, The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community, Nightlines, Out Resource Guide, Clout! Business Report, Blacklines and En La Vida. 1115 W. Belmont 2D, Chicago, IL 60657; PH (773) 871-7610; FAX (773) 871-7609. Web at outlineschicago.com E-mail feedback to outlines@suba.com!


facebook twitter google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

75th U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus to Speak atvLGBTQ Military Event 2019-03-21 - WASHINGTON — Today, the American Military Partner Association ( AMPA ) — the nation's largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Couples' eviction, Pete Buttigieg, Cory Booker, dancer sentenced 2019-03-20 - A lesbian couple filed a complaint against the transitional housing facility they once called home after they were forced out, LGBTQ Nation reported. ...


Gay News

WORLD Irish PM, landmark Canadian ruling, Brazilian murder suspects 2019-03-20 - The openly gay prime minister of Ireland had breakfast with Mike Pence—and he made some pointed comments about accepting others, LGBTQ Nation reported. ...


Gay News

Supreme Ct. rejects anti-gay B&B's appeal 2019-03-19 - On March 18, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Phyllis Young—who runs the three-room Aloha Bed & Breakfast in ...


Gay News

Bon Foster gala April 18 2019-03-17 - The Bon Foster gala—Lambda Legal's annual civil-rights celebration—will take place Thursday, April 18, 6-10 p.m., at Morgan Manufacturing, 401 N. Morgan St. There ...


Gay News

Smollett pleads not guilty 2019-03-14 - Embattled actor Jussie Smollett, who is African-American and openly gay, pled not guilty in Cook County court March 14 regarding 16 counts of ...


Gay News

Equality Act introduced in U.S. Congress 2019-03-13 - On March 13, Democrats reintroduced the pro-LGBT measure known as the Equality Act in the U.S. House, The Washington Blade reported. Rep. David ...


Gay News

BB gun shot at A'ville Starbucks 2019-03-13 - Several people were taken to the hospital after a "female offender" opened fire with a BB gun at the Starbucks at 5300 N. ...


Gay News

LGBTQ inclusive curriculum bill passes Illinois House 2019-03-13 - SPRINGFIELD — Students in Illinois public schools would learn about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in Illinois and U.S. ...


Gay News

Cardinal sentenced in child sex-abuse case 2019-03-13 - Cardinal George Pell, 77—the most senior Catholic cleric ever to be convicted of child sex abuse—was sentenced to six years in prison in ...


 



Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.