collide in foster care case
|By CARY DAVIS
Article Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times
Published October 24, 2002
The Florida Attorney General's Office is investigating an attempt by the Forest Lake Estates Civic Association to expel five foster children and is "shocked" by the association's "lack of cooperation."
The civil rights division of the Attorney General's Office sent a letter to the Port Richey neighborhood association Oct. 9, asking for any documents related to the case of foster parents Steven and Corinna Gourlay. The letter demanded that the association produce the records within 10 days.
Association attorney Donald Peyton responded with a letter dated Oct. 14 in which he questioned the "legal authority" of the Attorney General's Office to demand the records.
"I'm shocked at the way they responded to us," Allison Bethel, director of the civil rights division of the Attorney General's Office, said Wednesday. "Usually you don't respond to the attorney general in the manner in which this attorney did."
Peyton, who lives in Forest Lake Estates, did not return a reporter's call to his New Port Richey office.
Said Bethel: "We're not going to be stopped by their lack of cooperation. . . . We're going to proceed with our investigation."
That investigation centers on the civic association's claim that the Gourlays have violated the deed restrictions of Forest Lake Estates by caring for five foster children.
The association sent the Gourlays a letter last month demanding that the family either comply with the deed restrictions or face legal action. Two weeks ago, the association filed suit in state court, asking a judge to rule on whether foster care meets the definition of a single-family, residential purpose.
"We believe the Association's actions interfere with (the Gourlays') rights under the Fair Housing Act and other related laws," the Attorney General's Office said in the Oct. 9 letter to the association.
The Gourlays have legal custody of the five foster children, and that gives them "familial status" under the Fair Housing Act and shields them from discrimination, the Attorney General's Office said.
The Attorney General's Office has requested copies of the association's bylaws, all documents related to the Gourlays, and any complaints against other homeowners and their children since 1999.
The investigation by the Attorney General's Office coincides with a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the Gourlays.
That lawsuit, against the civic association
and its vice president, Walter Lucas, also alleges violations of the Fair