On Your Side: Landlord recorded using racial slurs

Several recorded phone messages have proven to be key evidence in finding probable cause for discrimination in two cases before the Ohio Civil Rights Commission.

ABC 6 On Your Side gathered and reviewed public records in a case of employee discrimination and another case of housing discrimination against Abbeyhill Realty and Management and owner Aram Gosdanian.

A former employee filed complaints alleging he was instructed to engage in discriminatory actions, including refusing to lease to African-Americans or hire them. Claims also accuse the owner of also forcing him to evict some.

Gosdanian denies allegations of discrimination at his properties along Huron Avenue in west Columbus.

“I need white tenants. That is my absolute stipulation,” Gosdanian said in an alleged recorded phone call with the employee. “I’ve got to turn that property back to white. No black tenants or we’re going to lose control out there. Obviously, we’re already losing control.”

Abbeyhill Realty and Management has a D+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

In a filed response, Gosdanian and his attorney explained that words, if taken out of context, may indicate discrimination but the facts outweigh recordings and establish Gosdanian did not engage in discriminatory actions.

“If we put more black families out there, it’s going to become the east side overnight,” Gosdanian said in one of the recordings.

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission has reviewed the case and upheld its original determination of probable cause for discrimination.

“It’s what we call in your face,” executive director G. Michael Payton said. “Those are very, very piercing words.”

Payton said the language is damaging to people. The case will undergo further review and potentially court proceedings. Gosdanian could face fines or other sanctions.

“That type of thing is not going to be tolerated,” Payton said.

Despite repeat attempts by ABC 6 On Your Side to speak with Gosdanian directly, Investigator Brooks Jarosz was referred by email to his lawyer.

The attorney told ABC 6 that there’s no evidence discriminatory practices occurred at Abbeyhill Realty and Management properties.

Documents reveal the same lawyer told the commission “words are words” and his “actions as a whole do not show discrimination.”

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office is also looking at the case and plans to file a lawsuit against Gosdanian and his company. The discrimination case will then move into common pleas court.

If you have a tip for 6 On Your Side Investigates team, send them an email.

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