Sign was posted after tenant's 10-year-old biracial daughter swam in pool
"As white people, it's kind of embarrassing," her father says
The commission initially found the sign reinforced "discrimination actions"
The defendant has asked the commission to reconsider its earlier ruling
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission in Columbus will revisit next month a case it has already determined probably represents unlawful interference with housing rights on the basis of race.
The case was brought by Michael Gunn, a white man who had unrestricted access to the pool area for himself and his guests during the nearly two years he lived in a duplex in Cincinnati, he told CNN in a telephone interview.
Gunn said he and his girlfriend, who is also white, lived upstairs; their 31-year-old landlord lived downstairs. “It’s a very nice neighborhood, racially mixed,” said Gunn, a software engineer.
But it turned not-so-nice last Memorial Day, when he invited his 10-year-old biracial daughter to visit and swim in the pool, he said.
“Complainant states that the owner, Jamie Hein, accused his daughter of making the pool ‘cloudy’ because she used chemicals in her hair,” the commission said in its summary. “Days later, the owner posted a sign on the gate to the pool which read, ‘Public Swimming Pool, White Only.’”
Hein, who did not respond to a call from CNN, told the commission that she had received the sign from a friend and posted it in early May, the summary says. Several people interviewed by the commission staff confirmed that they had seen the sign, it added.
Gunn said he was “outraged” and made arrangements to find another place to live as soon as he could.
“We were extremely upset and moved out on June 21, 2011, in order to not expose my daughter to the sign and the humiliation of the message,” Gunn wrote in his complaint.
He said he never confronted Hein about the matter, but has no doubt that the sign was intended for his daughter. “She’s the only black person that I’ve ever known to swim in the pool,” he said.
Gunn said he sought to keep his daughter from finding out about it. “As white people, it’s kind of embarrassing,” he said.
But his ex-wife told their daughter, who became “quite upset,” said Gunn, who added that they live in a “nicer, more diverse” neighborhood now. “She can use the pool any time she wants, and there’s plenty of black kids that swim in the pool with her, too, and they’re not clouding it up.”
The commission’s initial investigation concluded that the posting of the sign “restricts the social contact between Caucasians and African Americans as well as reinforcing discrimination actions that are aimed at oppressing all ‘people of color.’”
But Hein has asked the commissioners to reconsider their original finding. The case, which was to have been heard Friday, was rescheduled for January 12 after Hein’s lawyer failed to show up, Gunn said.
“The one thing I hope to get out of this is that it wakes people up to realize that there are still people out there that feel this way,” Gunn said.