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(a) Any person subjected to an unlawful housing practice may file within 180 days of the alleged violation with the Fair Housing Board a complaint in writing, sworn to or affirmed, which shall state the name and address of the person alleged to have committed the violation complained of and the particulars thereof, and such other information as may be required by the Board. The Board may also corroborate or initiate complaints on the basis of testing carried out by its staff or volunteers authorized by the Board.
(b) Upon the filing of a complaint the executive secretary and/or the Board shall make such investigation as they deem appropriate to ascertain facts and issues. If the executive secretary and/or the Board shall determine that there are reasonable grounds to believe a violation has occurred, they shall attempt to conciliate the matter by methods of initial conference and persuasion with all interested parties and such representatives as the parties may choose to assist them. Conciliation conferences shall be informal and nothing said or done during such initial conferences shall be made public by the Board or any member of the Board or its staff unless the parties agree thereto in writing.
(c) The terms of conciliation agreed to by the parties shall be reduced to writing and incorporated into a consent agreement to be signed by the parties, which agreement is for conciliation purpose only and does not constitute an admission by any party that the law has been violated. Consent agreements shall be signed on behalf of the Board by its chairman.
(d) The Board is authorized to seek the cooperation and aid of the Ohio Real Estate Board or Ohio Civil Rights Commission in any investigation under this chapter.
(e) If the executive secretary determines that the complaint lacks reasonable grounds upon which to base a violation of this chapter, he shall so inform the Board and the Board may in its discretion dismiss such complaint or order such further investigation as may be necessary; provided, that the Board shall not dismiss such complaint without first affording the complainant an opportunity to appear before the Board.
(f) If the executive secretary, with respect to a matter which involves a violation of this chapter, fails to conciliate a complaint after the parties have in good faith attempted such conciliation, fails to effect an informal conciliation agreement or determines that a complaint is not susceptible of conciliation, he shall notify the Board immediately and the Board shall thereafter schedule a public hearing to determine whether a violation of this ordinance has been committed. The Board shall serve upon the respondent a statement of charges and a summons and shall serve upon all interested parties a notice of the time and place of hearing. The respondent or his authorized counsel may file such statements with the Board prior to the hearing date as it deems necessary in support of its position. The hearing shall be opened to the public, except that the respondent may request in writing a private hearing; the determination of such request shall be discretionary with the Board. The hearing shall be held not less than fifteen days after service of the statement of charges and summons. The summons so issued shall be signed by two members of the Board and the issuance of such summons shall require the attendance of named persons and the production of relevant documents and records. The failure to comply with a summons shall constitute a violation of this chapter. The interested parties may, at their option, appear before the Board in person or by duly authorized representative and may have the assistance of an attorney.
The parties may present testimony and evidence, and the right to cross examine witnesses shall be preserved. All testimony and evidence shall be given under oath or by affirmation. The executive secretary shall keep a full record of the hearing, which record shall be public and open to inspection by any person, and upon request by any principal party to the proceeding, the Board shall furnish such party a copy of the hearing record, if any, at such cost as the Board deems appropriate.
(g) If at the conclusion of the hearing the Board shall determine upon the preponderance of the evidence that the person complained against has violated this chapter, the Board shall, after consultation with the City Solicitor in executive session, state its findings to and cause the City Solicitor to prepare and issue an order under Board directive requiring the person complained against to cease and desist from such unlawful conduct and to take such affirmative action as shall effectuate the purposes of this chapter, with notice that if the Board determines that the person complained against has not after fifteen calendar days following service of the Board's order complied with the order, the Board shall recertify the matter to the City Solicitor for enforcement.
(h) Upon recertification to the City Solicitor for enforcement, he shall seek compliance by appropriate civil action brought in the name of the Fair Housing Board of the City of Ashtabula before a court of competent jurisdiction. In any such proceeding, where the court determines that there has been a violation of this chapter, the court shall award compensatory damages and, where appropriate, punitive damages, along with attorney fees. The Court may also order such other relief as it deems necessary or appropriate.
(i) If at the conclusion of the hearing the Board shall determine upon the preponderance of the evidence of the record that the person complained against has not violated this chapter, the Board shall state and publish its findings and issue its order dismissing the complaint.
(Ord. 1990-110. Passed 4-30-90.)