Hammond will pay ousted Housing Authority chief $200,000
Post-Tribune staff report January 30, 2014 4:46PM
Updated: March 3, 2014 5:04PM
The city of Hammond and the Hammond Housing Authority have agreed to pay former HHA executive director Maria Becerra a $200,000 settlement after the city and HHA fired her in 2011.
Becerra was fired after she administered a HUD-funded rental assistance program that helped minority families move into predominantly white neighborhoods.
In addition, HHA agreed to reopen its Housing Choice Voucher program waiting list and inform the public about the reopening of the list.
Becerra, who’s now East Chicago’s redevelopment director, filed a complaint with HUD in March 2012, alleging she was wrongfully terminated in December 2011 because she assisted people using the housing vouchers in finding housing in the Hammond neighborhood of their choice.
Becerra said Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. made public statements supporting her ouster, claiming that the Housing Choice Vouchers program had grown “out of control” and “exploded” during her tenure.
The federal Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to retaliate against a person for supporting the housing rights of others. In addition, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.
Under the terms of the settlement, the mayor of Hammond will issue a public statement in support of the Housing Choice Voucher program; city and HHA staff and board members will receive fair housing training; the city and HHA will sponsor a public outreach forum to encourage landlord participation in the HCV program; and HHA will spend at least 97 percent of its annual HCV budget each year.