Gabay Menahem, a former businessman and property owner in Postville, has received $450,000 to settle discrimination and business interference lawsuits filed in state and federal court against the City of Postville, the city clerk and two members of the city council.
What the press release does not say is that Sholom Rubashkin's real estate business was in competition with GAL for the limited number of extant properties in Postville, and much of the discrimination GAL suffered was done to help Rubashkin – whose real estate business did NOT suffer discrimination of this kind at all.
GAL's properties were often poorly kept. You can find pictures on this site of very substandard GAL properties if you search a little.
Further, the non-Jewish property owner the city clerk refers a caller to was also managing Rubashkin's properties.
Gabay Menahem is a Chabadnik. You can find many posts here about him and GAL Investments.
From a press release:
DISCRIMINATION AND BUSINESS INTERFERENCE LAWSUIT SETTLED
City of Postville Pays $450,000 to Jewish Businessman
POSTVILLE, Iowa (August 30, 2011) — Gabay Menahem, a former businessman and property owner here, has received $450,000 to settle discrimination and business interference lawsuits filed in state and federal court against the City of Postville, the city clerk and two members of the city council.
Menahem, a Hasidic Jew, alleged that Darcy Radloff, the city clerk; Virginia Medberry and Jeff Reinhardt, both members of the Postville City Council; had discriminated against him and his business, GAL Investments Ltd., on the basis of his Jewish faith. In so doing, they violated the Iowa constitution, the Iowa Civil Rights Act, the federal Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The allegations in the 22-count lawsuits filed in September 2010 were based primarily on hostile and injurious comments as well as published statements. The alleged bigoted behavior culminated with a string of discriminatory actions taken by the three defendants in their roles as agents of the City of Postville.
The lawsuits specifically alleged that Radloff in her role as city clerk circumvented and manipulated the rules governing the provision of municipal water in order to allow huge bills to amass at Menahem-owned properties. As a result Menahem suffered financially, allegedly losing many of his lenders as the artificial debts imposed by the City were turned into liens on his rental properties. GAL eventually collapsed.
Menahem notified city officials of the clerk’s alleged discrimination and abuse of authority, and he asked for help numerous times. Despite his pleas, the City of Postville allegedly failed to halt the abuse or to remedy her discriminatory practices.
The settlement terms also call for the City of Postville to host a community workshop on diversity issues, aimed at promoting tolerance and respect for different faiths and cultures. The workshop will be sponsored by Iowa State University.
Menahem was represented by civil rights attorneys David Goldman of Babich Goldman P.C. and Thomas Newkirk of the Newkirk Law Firm, both of Des Moines, Iowa. The attorneys reached an out-of-court settlement with the City of Postville.
“Mr. Menahem is pleased to have this matter resolved,” Goldman said. “We very much appreciate that the good people of Postville elected to resolve this case. One hopes that the community workshop can help with the city’s continued healing, while underscoring the need for the diverse cultures within Postville to unite rather than divide.”
While the City of Postville admitted no wrongdoing, Mr. Menahem says he “is satisfied that the settlement’s terms send a clear message that elected officials will be held accountable for their actions, and any practices that violate civil and constitutional rights will not be tolerated.”
• Upon moving to Postville nearly six years ago, Menahem started GAL Investments, which provided rental housing principally to the employees of Agriprocessors, a kosher processing company operated by the Rubashkin family, and the largest employer in the region. Menahem had accumulated about 130 homes and multi-unit dwellings by the time of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid of the plant in May 2008.
In the aftermath of the ICE raid, Agriprocessors collapsed, devastating the town’s economy. Businesses closed, homes were foreclosed and residents left the town. The government’s allegations of misconduct by Jewish owners of the plant inflamed public opinion against the Jewish residents.
The lawsuit explains that what seemed like a change in perception of the Jewish community may have sprung from an underlying bigotry.
“Bias or bigotry against a minority that may be dormant during economic prosperity, or when the minority enjoys political power, tends to surface during a period of economic decline, when the minority's power appears to wane.”
The lawsuits filed Allamakee County District Court and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa Eastern Division were based on the following facts and allegations:
The city’s discrimination against GAL and Menahem dates back to 2006 when the Postville City Clerk (Radloff) began to enforce water disconnection procedures against Menahem in a highly discriminatory manner. The disconnection procedure laid out in the city’s Ordinance 92.06, calls for water to be shut off when the bill is two months delinquent. The customer is notified via a door hanger and has 24 hours to pay the bill before disconnection.
Ignoring Ordinance 92.06, Radloff failed to shut off water to GAL properties when tenants stopped paying their bills. GAL was then forced to pay mounting water bills. Initially, Menahem gave the benefit of the doubt, viewing the selective treatment as unintentional.
The water bill situation escalated in May 2008 when the ICE raid caused economic upheaval in the town. GAL lost more than 75 percent of its tenants. Tenants left without disconnecting water and other utilities. Water bills mounted, but the clerk, despite requests from Menahem, still failed to disconnect service to vacant GAL properties.
As the city filed liens against GAL properties, the banks holding the mortgages urged Menahem to remedy the water bill issues, as such liens take first position over a mortgage. Liens were filed twice on some properties.
Menahem’s belief in the decency and integrity of the City Clerk prompted him to test that faith by explaining to the city clerk the risk the liens posed to his business. Far from securing her cooperation and understanding, this move backfired. The city clerk responded by filing even more liens. Astoundingly, even as City Clerk Radloff filed additional liens, she refused to disconnect water service at the vacant properties, generating ever higher bills and fines.
GAL payments on water bills were not always credited. Large payments mysteriously disappeared from the record, allowing the bills and fines to further accrue.
In the latter part of 2008, the city officials began actively interfering in Menahem’s business. They steered tenants away from him, directing them to non-Jewish property owners. In January 2009, the defendants thwarted Menahem’s business relationship with the trustee for AgriProcessors. Citing fear of trouble with the city if he did business with Menahem, the trustee broke off negotiations with Menahem regarding housing for new workers.
Defendants singled out GAL for inspection on curb stop repairs. While the city doesn’t regularly inspect curb stops, this resulted in financial exposure for GAL ranging from $60,000 to $220,000.
Defendants discriminatorily fined GAL properties for snow removal—at inflated prices—in violation of the 48-hour time frame granted property owners to remove the snow by their own methods.
Here's the enire lawsuit as a large PDF file: