City of Omaha set to pay $232,000 to woman who says house was wrongly demolished

Omaha, Nebraska(Omaha World Herald, Mar 13,2018):: The City of Omaha is set to pay $232,000 to a woman who says her west Omaha house was wrongly demolished and whose brother was arrested when he pleaded with crews to stop.
The City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote on the settlement at its Tuesday meeting.
The city denies allegations outlined in a federal lawsuit filed by Loan Nguyen and her brother William. Among other things, the two Vietnamese-Americans say in the suit that they were discriminated against and treated differently because of their race.
The city in a federal court filing maintained that it was “acting in good faith and without malice” and that the Nguyens failed to pursue remedies available under state law and city code, such as filing a request to temporarily halt the demolition.
Still, the city’s Law Department has recommended that the council approve the settlement, which will end the lawsuit.
Jason Bruno, an attorney for the Nguyens, commended the city for its quick action in resolving the matter.
“I don’t have any ill words to say other than they made a mistake and they’re accounting for it the best I think they can,” Bruno said.
According to the lawsuit:
A demolition order was issued to Loan Nguyen’s house at 2522 N. 142nd St. on June 9.
Nguyen’s brother William Nguyen works at a meatpacking plant and had been storing meat in a freezer in the garage.
After power at the property went out, the city started to get complaints from neighbors about a stench. Neither Nguyen lived at the house at the time. (The demolition order indicated that the power was shut off by OPPD.)
When the Nguyens found out about the lost power, they had a crew remove the meat and scrubbed and disinfected the garage floor within a few days of the demolition order being issued.
The Nguyens’ then-attorney, John Chatelain, said he told Assistant City Planning Director Jay Davis that the smell had been addressed and that the old meat was in a dumpster in the driveway.
According to the lawsuit, Davis said he’d tell the City Attorney’s Office to lift the demolition order when the dumpster was hauled away.
A few days later, the dumpster was removed and Chatelain called, stopped by and emailed the City Attorney’s Office to confirm that the demolition was canceled.
Assistant City Attorney Will Acosta-Trejo emailed Chatelain that he would talk to Davis “since he is the only one who can stop a demo. I will let you know what I hear.” Davis didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Loan Nguyen’s house at 2522 N. 142nd St. Demolition of the house was ordered after the electricity was shut off, and meat stored in a freezer in the garage created a stench that drew neighbors’ complaints. Nguyen and her brother had the spoiled meat removed. Their lawyer said the cit was notified that the odor had been addressed.

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