For Immediate Release - October 26, 2009

Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office Reaches $25,000 Settlement with Dorchester Property Owner for Allegedly Making Racially Discriminatory Statements

BOSTON- Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office reached a settlement with a Dorchester property owner resolving allegations that he made racially discriminatory statements to an African American woman seeking to rent an apartment he had advertised to the public. The Assurance of Discontinuance, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, against Robert Gallo, Sr., resolves allegations that the defendant violated state and federal anti-discrimination laws and requires him to pay $25,000 to the victim.

"Equal and fair access to housing is critical and a right of all residents of the Commonwealth, particularly now when the strain on housing is so great. No tenant in Massachusetts should be treated differently because of his or her race or be subjected to racist statements," said Attorney General Coakley. "Massachusetts landlords, real estate companies and others involved in the rental property business must abide by Massachusetts law prohibiting discrimination and will be held accountable."

According to the prospective tenant's complaint, which was filed with the Boston Fair Housing Commission and referred to the Attorney General's Office, Gallo allegedly told the woman when she attempted to rent his apartment that he was told by neighbors to make sure he rented to the right people and that it was an influential area where only certain people lived. The complaint further alleged that Gallo told the woman that she would have no friends in the area and that he was just looking out for her safety. Testers from the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston subsequently tested the property and were allegedly subjected to discriminatory statements, including the defendant telling the white tester:

  • "the people around here are all white"
  • "they don't want someone who is yellow or dark-skinned"
  • "I could not in good conscience have someone in here who was not white"
  • "Just don't get too much of a could get too dark and that would not work"
  • "I like you and your manners and your shade, so you are my first choice"

In addition to requiring Gallo to pay the prospective tenant $25,000, the settlement further requires the defendant to advertise any future rental property as "Equal Housing Opportunity" properties, to maintain a record of rental applicants submitted by prospective tenants, and to report all discrimination complaints to the Attorney General's Office.

The Massachusetts Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits real estate companies, agents, landlords and others involved in property rentals, from discriminating against people on the basis of race.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Adam Hollingsworth of Attorney General Coakley's Civil Rights Division.