Housing case appeal coming

Though the amount of damages and attorney fees have dropped substantially in the case of an Ashtabula landlady accused of housing discrimination nearly five years ago, her lawyer says they will be following with an appeal.

“They forced Helen (Grybosky) to defend herself against this action for five years, and she won,” attorney Tarin Hale said Friday.

Hale has been representing Grybosky, 81, since the Painesville-based Fair Housing Resource Center sent undercover testers to her Conneaut rental property. Under the guise of needing accommodations for therapy animals and young children, the testers reported back to the FHRC statements that they determined to be discriminatory based on the Fair Housing Act.

The Tribune Chronicle reported on Grybosky’s case in April when she was facing more than $100,000 in attorney fees and court fines in a decision by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission in October 2012. This included attorney fees of $80,000 and damages of $22,000.

In late July, the commission modified Grybosky’s financial penalties, limiting them to $100 in damages, and about $9,000 in attorney fees and travel costs. Thursday the amounts were changed once again to $2,500 in damages and about $9,000 in attorney fees.

The reduction though is not enough for Hale, who believes Grybosky should not be required to pay the attorney fees of the FHRC.

Attorney Diane E. Citrino who has been representing the Fair Housing Resource Center, sees things differently.

Citrino said the case would have had to been frivolous for the attorney fees to be dismissed. In Grybosky’s case, she said while it was very unusual, it was one of probable cause.

Citrino, former regional director for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, said she has witnessed thousands of cases that were able to be negotiated.

In Grybosky’s case, Hale said the FHRC offered to let Grybosky pay $6,500, which she refused and countered with $1,000. He said there was no negotiation. Since the damages awarded Thursday were $2,500 – which was less than the original offer – he views it as a victory for his side.

While Hale has his mind made up about an appeal, Citrino said she would have to wait to determine the next step for her client.

“It’s a shame. Just the way the process normally works out when people can talk and work it out,” Citrino said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.