United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
MARYAM E. MUHAMMAD, Plaintiff,
BEVERLY LOUIS et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
WILLIAM M. CONLEY DISTRICT JUDGE
12, 2016, this court granted pro se plaintiff Maryam
E. Muhammad leave to proceed on claims that several employees
of the City of Madison Community Development Authority
(“CDA”) terminated her housing benefits in
violation of her due process rights under the U.S.
Constitution and federal law. Specifically, Muhammad claims
that CDA employees Beverly Louis and Tom Conrad failed to
provide her adequate notice of her rights and scheduled her
informal termination hearing on a date she could not attend.
Before the court is plaintiff's motion to amend (dkt.
#49) and defendants' motion for summary judgment (dkt.
#42). For the reasons that follow, the court will deny
plaintiff's request to amend and grant defendants'
motion for summary judgment, closing this case.
contracts with the United States Department of Housing and
Urban Development (“HUD”) to operate a rent
assistance program in the City of Madison pursuant to Section
8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C. §
1437 et seq. (“Section 8 housing”).
Applicants apply for Section 8 housing assistance, and if
accepted, they receive housing vouchers that permit the
holder to search for a privately owned unit within the City
with the rent negotiated by the CDA.
the relevant time period, plaintiff Maryam Muhammad was
receiving Section 8 housing assistance. Defendant Tom Conrad
is the Interim Director and Housing Assistance Supervisor of
the CDA. From 2007 to June of 2016, he was the CDA's
Section 8 supervisor to whom defendant Beverly Louis reported
as a housing specialist. While Louis acted at Conrad's
direction, he was the final decision-maker with respect to
Muhammad's housing assistance voucher.
August 30, 2013, the CDA served Muhammad with written notice
terminating her Section 8 housing assistance voucher,
effective February 28, 2014. That notice explained Muhammad
violated CDA program rules by failing to report income from
Unemployment Compensation. As provided by the CDA rules,
Muhammad responded by requesting an informal hearing.
then sent Muhammad a follow-up letter, dated September 19,
2013, scheduling her hearing for October 28, 2013, at 10:30
a.m. Although Conrad met with Muhammad at that date and time,
the two agreed the hearing itself would be rescheduled to
November 20, 2013, at 1:30 p.m., because (1) Muhammad
objected to the informal hearing officer and (2) Conrad
wanted to assure the CDA had a city attorney present at the
hearing. Even then, the hearing did not go forward as
on December 4, 2013, Conrad approved a Repayment Agreement
(“Agreement”) in which Muhammad acknowledged
owing the CDA a total of $5, 184.00 for the unreported
compensation benefits and agreed to make monthly repayments
in the amount of $432.00. Despite this agreement, Muhammad
failed to make payments timely and informed Conrad that she
would not be doing so going forward either. Construing this
as a breach of their Agreement, Conrad again initiated the
process to terminate Muhammad's housing assistance
end, the CDA sent Muhammad written notice on January 21,
2014, terminating her housing assistance voucher effective
February 28, 2014 (“Notice”). While Louis drafted
the Notice at Conrad's direction, he made the final
decision to terminate the voucher and issued Muhammad the
Notice. This three-page Notice provided Muhammad with several
pieces of information. First, the Notice explained that
Muhammad had violated three CDA policies: (1)
failure to report Unemployment Compensation in violation of
24 C.F.R. § 982.551(b)(1), (2), Voucher 4.B.1; (2)
failure to supply true and complete information in violation
of 24 C.F.R. § 982.551(b)(4), Voucher 4.C; and (3)
breach of the Agreement in violation of 24 C.F.R. §
982.552(c)(vii). Second, the Notice outlined the events
comprising the violations, focusing on her failure to make
the monthly payments under the Agreement. Third, under the
heading “Appeal/Request for Informal Hearing, ”
the Notice stated that if Muhammad wanted to appeal the
decision, she “must submit a written request for an
Informal Hearing to CDA at the address above -- no later than
4:30 p.m. on February 4, 2014.” (Ex. E (dkt. #45-5) at
2.) Fourth, the Notice explained that once the informal
hearing is scheduled, it “will not be rescheduled
unless you can show good cause as described in Section 8
Administrative Plan, Chapter 16, Part III, or unless you
require rescheduling as a reasonable accommodation for a
addition, the Notice listed Muhammad's rights generally,
which included the rights to: (1) an informal private hearing
not open to the public; (2) an explanation of the basis for
the CDA's decision to terminate assistance; (3) be
represented by an attorney at her expense or by another
person of her choice; (4) examine, at her expense, all CDA
documents that are the basis of the CDA's action; (5) a
copy of any criminal record that is the basis for
termination; and (6) a copy of the CDA's procedures.
Finally, the Notice listed Muhammad's rights at the
informal hearing, which included the rights to present
information and witnesses, present written or oral objections
to the CDA's evidence, hear evidence against her and
cross-examine CDA witnesses, request CDA staff to be
available to answer questions, receive a transcript of the
Informal Hearing at her expense, and a written decision.
email dated January 22, 2014, Muhammad again requested an
informal hearing. She also dropped off a hard copy of her
request at the CDA. On January 31, 2014, Conrad sent Muhammad
a written notice by both regular mail and email, scheduling
the informal hearing for February 12, 2014. The notice also
stated that Muhammad's failure to appear within fifteen
minutes of the scheduled time could result in her forfeiting
the right to an informal hearing. The same day Muhammad
received Conrad's email, January 31, she responded that
the February 12 date would not work for the informal hearing,
nor would any other date the entire month of February, and
that she would not be available until mid-March. (Ex. H (dkt.
February 2, 2014, Muhammad also emailed Conrad that she
needed additional time, both to get an attorney and because
she had a disability. (Id.) Muhammad then followed
up on February 5, 2014, by providing the CDA with a letter
from her physician, Dr. Weathers, who similarly asked for a
postponement of the February 12 informal hearing because
Muhammad “has many chronic medical diseases and spends
much time on her medical care.” (Ex. J (dkt. #45-10).)
Muhammad had also written on the bottom of the February 5th
letter that she was requesting a 90-day postponement of the
then sent Muhammad an email on February 5, 2014, which
acknowledged Muhammad's request for a postponement
because of her disability, as well as her submission of Dr.
Weathers' letter that included her handwritten, 90-day
postponement request. Conrad also wrote that he had contacted
Dr. Weathers to ask for clarification about Muhammad's
disability and need for accommodation, but that Dr. Weathers
had not yet responded to his request for information.
Accordingly, as of February 5, Conrad wrote that the hearing
date remained February 12, although the CDA would attempt to
follow up on her requested accommodation and would notify her
in writing whether her request was approved or denied.
However, on February 11, Conrad sent Muhammad a letter
informing her that he would be postponing the hearing for
approximately one month because the CDA had been unable to
finish evaluating her accommodation request. In particular,
Conrad explained he had not been able to discuss with Dr.
Weathers the specifics of the accommodation Muhammad needed.
followed up via mail and email on February 24, 2014, with
written notice that the informal hearing was reset for March
19 at 9:30 a.m. Muhammad immediately called Conrad on the
afternoon of February 24th, explaining to him that she had a
doctor's appointment on March 19 and could not attend.
However, she refused to provide Conrad with documentation
confirming her appointment; rather, she told Conrad that he
should communicate directly with her attorney, Mr. Jae Lee,
in the future. Later that same afternoon, Muhammad also ...