Miles v. Hous. Auth. of Cook Cnty., No. 1–14–1292.

CourtUnited States Appellate Court of Illinois
Writing for the CourtJustice ELLIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.
Citation39 N.E.3d 156
PartiesTonetta MILES, Petitioner–Appellee, v. HOUSING AUTHORITY OF COOK COUNTY, Respondent–Appellant.
Decision Date13 August 2015
Docket NumberNo. 1–14–1292.

39 N.E.3d 156

Tonetta MILES, Petitioner–Appellee

No. 1–14–1292.

Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, Fourth Division.

Aug. 13, 2015.

39 N.E.3d 158

Michael E. Kujawa and Deborah A. Ostvig, both of Judge James & Kujawa LLC, Park Ridge, for appellant.

Matthew Hulstein, of Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, Chicago, for appellee.


Justice ELLIS delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

¶ 1 Respondent, the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC), appeals from the trial court's decision to reverse HACC's termination of petitioner Tonetta Miles's housing voucher, which provided her with rent assistance. At an informal hearing, HACC determined that Tonetta violated the rules of the voucher program because a member of her household, her son Lanord Miles, had committed “violent criminal activity.”

¶ 2 The trial court reversed that decision, among other reasons, because HACC presented only hearsay statements that contained insufficient facts regarding Lanord's alleged crimes. On appeal, HACC contends that the trial court erred in concluding that HACC's decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

¶ 3 We agree with the trial court. We find the record insufficient to sustain HACC's decision because of significant shortcomings in the record and because, even if we accepted the hearsay evidence, that evidence did not support a finding that a member of Tonetta's household engaged in violent criminal activity. HACC's decision to terminate her voucher was against the manifest weight of the evidence. We affirm the trial court's judgment reversing HACC's decision to terminate Tonetta's voucher.1


¶ 5 The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) runs the housing choice voucher (HCV) program, wherein HUD provides funds for rent assistance for low-income individuals. 24 C.F.R. § 982.1(a) (2013). Local public housing authorities, like HACC, administer the program pursuant to HUD regulations. See 24 C.F.R. §§ 982.51 –982.54 (2013). One of those regulations required that HACC establish and abide by an Administrative Plan to regulate its operation of the program. 24 C.F.R. § 982.54 (2013). Under HACC's Administrative Plan in effect at the time of this case, HACC stated that it “will terminate a family's assistance” if a

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household member engaged in “drug-related or violent criminal activity during participation in the HCV program.” Housing Authority of the County of Cook, Housing Choice Voucher Program Administrative Plan, § 12–I.E., at 218, (2012)–content/uploads/2012/09/2012–Housing–Choice–Voucher–Administrative–Plan.pdf (hereinafter, HACC Administrative Plan). The Administrative Plan defined “violent criminal activity” as “any criminal activity that has as one of its elements the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force substantial enough to cause, or be reasonably likely to cause, serious bodily injury or property damage.” Id.; see also 24 C.F.R. 5.100 (2012) (defining “violent criminal activity” in the same way).

¶ 6 On August 24, 2012, Tonetta was authorized to participate in the HCV program by HACC. She signed a document acknowledging her obligations under the HCV program. Tonetta received a voucher from HACC for her residence at 1315 McDaniel Avenue in Evanston, Illinois.

¶ 7 On February 22, 2013, HACC sent Tonetta a letter indicating that it planned to terminate her benefits. The letter indicated that HACC had “received information from the Evanston Police Department that [Tonetta's] family members and [her] unit ha[d] been involved in violent criminal activity.” Specifically, HACC stated that “Lanord Miles was arrested for possession of cannabis four (4) times between 2009–2012, for battery in 2010 and for aggr[a]vated battery and aggr[a]vated discharged of a firearm in 2013.” In response to the letter, Tonetta requested an informal hearing regarding the termination of her voucher. See 24 C.F.R. § 982.555(a)(1)(v) (2013) (requiring local housing authorities to provide informal hearings on termination of vouchers when requested by program participant).

¶ 8 On May 2, 2013, the hearing was held before an HACC hearing officer. The record on appeal contains no transcript or bystander's report regarding the evidence produced at that hearing. The only description of the evidence heard on May 2 comes from the hearing officer's written decision, which was issued May 21, 2013.

¶ 9 According to the hearing officer's decision, HACC presented only written evidence at the hearing, most of which is included in the record. HACC presented a document that purported to be an arrest report completed by an Officer Hart of the Evanston police department. The report, which was dated January 14, 2013, indicated that Lanord had been arrested for “Aggravated Discharge of Firearm/Agg [sic ] Battery” on January 12, 2013. The description of the offense stated, in its entirety:

“On 01/12/13 at approx [sic ] 1900hrs [sic ], Lanord D. Miles was taken into custody in the 1300 block of Fowler for aggravated battery, and aggravated discharge of weapon. See field supplemental reports for further information.”

The report listed Lanord's address as “1315 McDaniel # B.”

¶ 10 The referenced “field supplemental reports” are not included in the record. No further documentation from the police department was offered, adding any detail whatsoever regarding this arrest.

¶ 11 HACC also presented a document that purported to be an email chain between Evanston police officer Reggie Napier and Anne Richmond, a “Management Analyst” for HACC. In the first email, dated January 16, 2013, Napier asked Richmond to “check for voucher holders at 1315 Fowler in Evanston.” According to Napier, there was “a shooting incident” at that address the previous weekend. In a

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subsequent email, Napier asked for the names of “voucher holders” at “1315 McDanial [sic ] in Evanston (one block over).” Napier claimed that “[a]pparently the shots that were fired also involved” that address. Napier wrote, “According to information, drugs and guns are being stored at 1315 McDanial [sic ].” Napier's final email indicated that “1315 Fowler and 1315 McDaniel (one block apart) have completely destabilized the entire area.” Napier said that, “although an arrest was made on LANORD D MILES of 1315 McDaniel for the felony offense of Aggravated Discharge of a Firearm and Aggravated Battery on a public way, it appears that the violence between the two addresses will continue.” Napier also indicated that his department's “drug unit” informed him “that active drug sales are occurring at both residences, although the shooting incident didn't appear to be drug related.”

¶ 12 HACC also introduced a document purporting to be a background check performed by a company called Aurico Investigations, LLC. The report showed that Lanord had been charged with aggravated discharge of a firearm and aggravated battery on January 14, 2013, and that the case was pending. The report also indicated that Lanord had been charged with misdemeanor possession of cannabis three times in 2012 and once in 2009, as well as misdemeanor theft and battery in 2010. The disposition of each of the charges from 2009 to 2012 was listed as, “STRICKEN OFF LEAVE.”

¶ 13 We are told by the hearing officer's written decision that Tonetta testified on her own behalf at the hearing. We have no transcript of her testimony or, for that matter, of any other part of the proceeding. The following is the entire summary the hearing officer gave of Tonetta's testimony:

“Ms. Miles stated her entire family should not be responsible for the actions of [Lanord] Miles. Ms. Miles stated that she cannot follow her children ‘every step they take.’ Ms. Miles stated [Lanord] Miles is not in school but that he was a volunteer at the Peace Center in the Englewood community in Chicago. Ms. Miles stated her son, Mario, is also not in school or working but he recently became a father. Ms. Mile [sic ] stated her daughter, Monisha, will be enrolling in Cortiva, a trade school, soon.”

¶ 14 The hearing officer's written decision also tells us that Tonetta introduced several letters from teachers at her children's schools. These letters stated that Tonetta was reliable and “extremely supportive” of her children's education. They noted that Tonetta's daughter Makyla had formed “lasting relationships” with her teachers and fellow students. However, Makyla had experienced difficulty at school as a result of her being removed from her home. Another praised Tonetta's son Lamarion for being prepared and punctual.

¶ 15 The record also contains an affidavit from an individual named Reggie Jackson which said that, since January 12, 2013, Lanord lived with Jackson at “1811 Wesley Evanston IL 60202.” However, the hearing officer did not list this affidavit among the evidence he considered at the hearing.

¶ 16 The hearing officer's findings of fact indicated that “household member, Lanord Miles has engaged in violent and criminal activity, in strict violation of the rules governing the HCV program.” The...

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