The Maine Human Rights Commission ruled Monday that the Auburn Housing Authority and one of its maintenance workers discriminated against a Black tenant last year.

The decision backed claims by Dominique Deschaine, a tenant, that during a heated dispute over her water-damaged, mold-filled apartment last summer, a worker for the authority told her to “shut the f*** up, you black bitch.”

“If that’s not racism, I don’t know what is,” Deschaine, who grew up in Alabama, told the panel during a Monday hearing.

An attorney for the housing agency, Jonathan Brogan, sought without success to argue that while “an unfortunate disagreement” occurred that included “a lot of difficult words,” it didn’t rise to the level of racial discrimination.

But the commission, taking the advice of one of its investigators, thought otherwise.

“It’s a reprehensible comment,” Commissioner Mark Walker said.


The authority’s failure to take any action to discipline its worker, Daniel Jordan, convinced commissioners that both he and his employer deserved to be cited for discrimination against Deschaine. The commissioners said Jordan’s slur amounted to discrimination because of its severity.

Because the commission found reasonable grounds to believe that unlawful discrimination occurred, the case will apparently move next to an informal conciliation process. It could ultimately lead to a civil court case.

Deschaine, Jordan and the housing agency could not be reached after the online hearing.

During the course of the commission’s hearing, information also came out that the housing agency last summer moved six tenants out of a building infested with black mold because of water damage.

Deschaine said she’s been staying at an Auburn hotel ever since. It is unclear whether the other five tenants are also lodged in a hotel or what’s being done to renovate the authority’s building.

In Deschaine’s telling, tiles in her apartment began peeling off last spring. She tried 22 times to phone the authority to get them fixed, but nobody would do anything.


Ultimately, though, workers came and recognized a water leak had caused damage, Brogan said. They came back the next day, he said, and turned off the water in order fix it.

But Deschaine, the attorney said, did not want the water turned off and a dispute occurred that included “a lot of difficult words” between Jordan and Deschaine, though he denied the worker made the comment the tenant alleged.

Deschaine said she was unhappy because they turned off the water without any notification, leaving her son standing in the shower covered with soap.

A couple of weeks later, after the extent of the problem was clear to the authority, six tenants were moved entirely out of the building because it had so much black mold, both Deschaine and Brogan said.

“It sounds to me that Auburn Housing has to get their act together,” Commissioner Julie Ann O’Brien said. “They really are a mess.”

Comments are not available on this story.