Attorney General Opinions

Attorney General opinions.

Sign up for Consumer Alerts

Stay informed on the latest consumer scams.

Attorney General Newsletter

Get updates on the Nebraska Attorney General's Office.

AGO Opinion 98038

Does a conflict of interest exist when the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission investigates complaints that are filed by the Fair Housing Center of Nebraska or in which the Fair Housing Center of Nebraska acts as an advocate for the complainant?
Opinion 98038


DATE: August 3, 1998

SUBJECT: Does a conflict of interest exist when the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission investigates complaints that are filed by the Fair Housing Center of Nebraska or in which the Fair Housing Center of Nebraska acts as an advocate for the complainant?




REQUESTED BY: Mr. Alfonza Whitaker, Executive Director Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission




WRITTEN BY: Don Stenberg, Attorney General

Suzanna Glover-Ettrich, Assistant Attorney General




You have requested an Attorney General's Opinion regarding

whether a conflict of interest exists when the Nebraska Equal

Opportunity Commission investigates complaints filed by the Fair

Housing Center of Nebraska or in which the Fair Housing Center acts

as an advocate for the complainant. We conclude that no conflict

exists.




The Fair Housing Center of Nebraska is a program of Family

Housing Advisory Services, which is a Nebraska not-for-profit

corporation. The Fair Housing Center of Nebraska conducts

inquiries into violations of the Nebraska Fair Housing Act, Neb.

Rev. Stat. § 20-301, et. seq. The Fair Housing Center is a

recipient of a Private Enforcement Initiative grant from the U.S.

Department of Housing and Urban Development, for the purpose of

investigating housing discrimination under the federal Fair Housing

Act.




Under the Nebraska Fair Housing Act, whenever a complaint

alleges a discriminatory housing practice that falls within the

jurisdiction of a local agency which has been certified by the

commission, the commission is required to refer the complaint to

that agency before taking any action. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 20-

332(1)(a) & (b).




The Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission may certify a local

agency only if the commission determines that the following are

substantially equivalent to those created by and under the Nebraska

Fair Housing Act:




(1) The substantive rights protected by the agency in the

jurisdiction with respect to which certification is to be made;




(2) The procedures followed by the agency;




(3) The remedies available to the agency; and




(4) The availability of judicial review of the agency's

action.




Neb. Rev. Stat. § 20-332 (3)(a)(i-iv).




Before certifying a local agency, the commission is required

to take into account the current practices and past performance of

the agency. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 20-332(3)(b).




If the Fair Housing Center of Nebraska was a local agency

certified by the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission, the

commission would be required to refer complaints which fell under

the jurisdiction of the Fair Housing Center to that agency before

taking any action on the complaint. Further, if the Fair Housing

Center was an agency certified by the commission, one might argue

that it would be a conflict of interest for the NEOC to take action

on a case which was brought by the Fair Housing Center.




The issue of a conflict of interest should not arise because

the Fair Housing Center of Nebraska is not a local agency which has

been certified by the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission.

Although the NEOC and the Fair Housing Center of Nebraska share a

common goal of eliminating housing discrimination, they are

separate entities. Further, they have been encouraged to work

together by HUD.




Because the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission operates as

a neutral, factfinding body, and because the Fair Housing Center is

not a local agency certified by the NEOC, there is no reason to

believe that a conflict exists when the NEOC investigates

complaints that are filed by the Fair Housing Center of Nebraska or

in which the Fair Housing Center of Nebraska acts as an advocate

for the complainant.




Sincerely,




DON STENBERG

Attorney General










Suzanna Glover-Ettrich

Assistant Attorney General