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Crain v. City of Selma

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

January 23, 2018

ALTON CRAIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SELMA, Et. Al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          XAVIER RODRIGUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Alton Crain, proceeding pro se, essentially[1] brings a claim under the Fair Housing Act alleging that the City of Selma and various city officials discriminated against him because of his race (Black) when they allegedly sold a property to another bidder who was Hispanic. Crain alleges that the Hispanic bidder, Jose Bustos, was given either confidential bidding information or allowed to submit a late bid, which resulted in the City accepting Mr. Bustos's bid for the parcel of land (known as Parcel No. 5).

         In addition, Crain brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the City and its officials discriminated against him by refusing to place him on the May 2017 ballot as a candidate for City Council, Place 4.

         Motion to Compel

         Pending is Crain's motion to compel. Crain alleges that there exists video surveillance from December 19, 2014, that depicts City Administrator Johnny Casias speaking with Jose Bustos at 4:34 p.m. for about one minute. The City responds that it has produced this video to Plaintiff. Crain responds that he believes it has been altered because the video produced to him does not show Mr. Casias. The City states that there has been no alteration because the video equipment only captured activity when it detected motion.

         Crain also appears to complain that video of a January 8, 2015 meeting was destroyed, altered or not produced. Crain alleges that Marc Schnall merely gave City Council members a spreadsheet, rather than the original bids, that failing to open the original bids at a public meeting violated Tex. Local Gov't Code 271.026, and the video would have captured this violation. The City contends that no video recordings were taken of the Executive Session held on January 8, and accordingly there is no video to produce.

         Further, Plaintiff argues in his January 17, 2018 filing that the Defendants are failing to produce “text messages” regarding the 2014 bid process and the 2017 City Council elections.

         Finally, Plaintiff claims that the Defendants have refused to respond to Requests for Admissions that he has propounded.

         Analysis

         The City deposed Robert Klaerner, the Information Technologist/Network Administrator for the City of Selma. He testified that he preserved the December 19, 2014 video, he did not alter the video, he made an exact copy of the video, the video shows Mr. and Mrs. Bustos, but does not show Mr. Casias, that a view of Mr. Casias may have been blocked by a Christmas tree in the area, that he does not have the ability turn on and off the recording system, and that “jumps” in time in the recording result when motion is not detected and then motion is again detected. Otherwise, the City and Mr. Casias admit that Mr. Casias spoke with Mr. and Mrs. Bustos that afternoon and answered questions they asked. The video taken on December 19 would not have captured any verbal conversation that took place. Plaintiff only presents his subjective belief that the December 19 video has been altered. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion to compel and for sanctions is denied.

         With regard to the January 8 video, Plaintiff likewise fails to present any evidence that such a video exists. Further, the relevance of the video is questionable. Texas Local Gov't Code § 271.026 states: “Bids may be opened only by the governing body of the governmental entity at a public meeting or by an officer or employee of the governmental entity at or in an office of the governmental entity.” (Emphasis added). Accordingly, this statute would not have prevented the opening of the bids at the City offices and compiling the results into a spreadsheet for presentation to the City Council. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion to compel and for sanctions is denied.

         Defendants' motion for summary judgment

         Defendants argue that Crain's bid of $17, 622 for the parcel of property was not the highest bid, that the award was given to Jose Bustos because he submitted a bid of $24, 000, Bustos's bid was not submitted late (despite an incorrect date/time stamp), and Crain was not discriminated against because of his race. Alternatively, the City argues that Crain's bid would have been rejected in any event because the bid was below the appraised value set by Stouffer & Associates.

         Under 3604(b) of the Fair Housing Act, it is illegal “to discriminate against any person in the terms, conditions and privileges of sale . . . of a dwelling, or in the provision of services or facilities in connection therewith, because of race . . .” Dwelling is defined by 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b) to include “any vacant land which is offered for sale for the construction or location thereon as a residence.” Plaintiff claims that he bid on the ...


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