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Lacey's House lawsuit finally resolved

On Monday, all charges of rights violations against Lacey’s House of Dreams — a military veterans’ residence in Hillsboro — were dismissed, and a Feb. 10 court date was canceled.

“It’s been a two-year fight, but it’s finally over,” said board president Bob Rollinger, who is also serving as manager of Lacey’s House. “Attorneys for both parties have signed off on the court documents. All the charges were dismissed ‘with prejudice,’ which means plaintiffs are barred from bringing a new lawsuit against us based on the same subject again.”

In August 2012, the Oregon Law Center, a nonprofit that provides free legal service to low-income individuals, filed a lawsuit on behalf of 11 former tenants of Lacey’s House who claimed their rights — protected by the state’s landlord-tenant laws that govern the eviction process — had been violated. The plaintiffs asked for $80,000 each, plus damages and attorney’s fees, from Lacey’s House founders Mike Bryant; his wife, Lacey Palmer; and former house manager Steve Graham, none of whom are now associated with Lacey’s House.

The house is located at 530 S. First Ave.

“We knew we had a sure winner in court,” said Rollinger. “When a vet comes to stay in the house, he is screened and interviewed. He signs an agreement to pay the current rental rate of $450 a month. The agreement prohibits smoking, the use of illegal drugs, or alcohol in any room in the house. There are no locks on the doors. The agreement also gives us permission to enter their rooms if needed.

“If the vet abuses, he’s given a warning. If he abuses again, he’s asked to leave. We had witnesses that refuted all their charges.”

Carolyn Norton, the attorney with the Oregon Law Center who worked on the case, confirmed Tuesday that the charges against Lacey’s House had been dismissed. She declined comment except to say that her clients were satisfied with the resolution.

When Lacey’s House of Dreams opened in 2009, it received national recognition for its innovative programs that provided housing and assistance to veterans, most of whom were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, having trouble adjusting to society or living on the streets. Soon, a Veteran’s Resource Center was opened where vets could use computers, select from donated items or receive help applying for jobs, veteran’s benefits or services.

In order to help pay for operational expenses, fundraising raffles were held in 2010 and 2011.

In April 2012, the house and its companion resource center came under the scrutiny of the Oregon Department of Justice’s Charitable Activities section for failing to keep appropriate records. Subsequently, an agreement was signed in which Palmer and Bryant agreed to resign from their roles at Lacey’s House, disclose payments made to them by the organization and not serve on any charitable organization’s board for five years. The agreement also banned Lacey’s House from holding raffles.

As a result, Rollinger said, cash donations, donated items, and in-kind services have declined.

“We had to close the Veteran’s Resource Center, and because we were banned from holding raffles, we lost one of our main sources of income,” explained Rollinger. “But we’ve reorganized with a three-member board consisting of myself, Judith Shortt and former house manager Tim McDonald.

“There are currently 10 vets living in the house, which is close to its capacity of 15. And now that all the charges have been dismissed, we’re hopeful it will restore confidence in Lacey’s House so we can begin to rebuild our donor base.”

Rollinger expressed his gratitude for food donations that keep coming in and added that as soon as they have the financial ability, Lacey’s House officials would like to reopen a resource center.

“We were helping more than 200 vets before it closed. Some of these guys are really messed up. They really need help [locating] lost discharge papers, and especially help in getting their benefits from the Veterans Administration,” Rollinger said. “That agency is so backed up that without our help, it can take a year or more before they see their first benefit check.”



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  • 2 Sep 2014

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