A Florida sex offender has sued Brevard Bounty for refusing to weatherize his home. The suit alleges the County has enacted a prerequisite that excludes persons with criminal convictions from receiving federal funds to perform energy savings and installation of energy saving measure on low-income homes. That prerequisite is illegal because it is more restrictive than federal law, the suit contends.
Raymond Houston, 45, was convicted in 1994 of lewd and lascivious acts on a child younger than 16. He was sentenced to 4½ years probation, which he successfully completed. There was a house party. She was underage, and I was stupid, said Houston.
Under the federal Energy Conservation and Production Act (Act), Houston sought to have his doors weather stripped and a hot water heater replaced. Brevard County, who has a contract with Floridas Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to distribute money under the Act, rejected Houston's application because he was an ineligible applicant under criteria set by the Brevard county Commissions Weatherization Policy.
That policy prohibits grant funds to any person convicted of a felony in any state or federal court or if listed as a sexual predator or sexual offender. It also excludes a household if any person living there is a convicted felon.
We only have so much money to go around, maybe $10,000 or $20,000, said Brevard County Commission Chairman, Ron Pritchard. The list of applicants far exceeds the amount of money, and I'm not about to use scarce resources on somebody who was convicted of such a heinous crime.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who filed the suit on Houstons behalf, say the only criteria under U.S. Department of Energy regulations is based solely upon income. See: 10 C.F.R. § 440.22. Even the DCM advised Brevard County they were violating federal law.
Brevard County officials are not concerned with federal law because there are so many other deserving people. Pritchard said, I guess well just have to iron this out in court.
The suit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, requesting the requested repairs be made. It also seeks unspecified damages.
This is just more posturing by Florida politicians to look tough on crime and on people with past felony convictions, said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. What does denying funds to low-income people to save on energy costs have to do with fighting crime? See: Houston v. Williams, USDC, Middle District Florida, Case No. 6:06-CV-110-ORL-28KRS.
Additional source: Orlando Sentinel.
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Related legal case
Houston v. Williams
|USDC, Middle District Florida, Case No. 6:06-CV-11