'INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis Public Housing complex for seniors is once again facing legal trouble.
Residents at Lugar Tower filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the Indianapolis Housing Agency and the property management group.
The lawsuit claims there was a breach of a settlement agreement, which was just reached three weeks ago.
The suit alleges security is supposed to be provided, during the daytime, but it's no longer happening.
"Back to where we started," said Sandra Barnes.
Having security walking the grounds of Lugar Tower is something Sandra Barnes, and other residents, fought for in the lawsuit.
Barnes says troublemakers and people who don't live there were getting into the building through the side doors and unmonitored front doors.
"[The] security team came in and was doing a good job but taking out first shift is like wrecking havoc all over again," said Barnes.
Lugar Tower is owned by the Indianapolis Housing Agency and managed by the Bradley Company.
Indiana Legal Services says 24/7 security crews were hired in April, but the property management said due to financial costs, it let go of the security workers Monday through Friday during business hours. The desk and door is supposed to be monitored by staff.
The property group says security will still be in place weeknights and all day and night on the weekends.
"It's so important because we have to live here and we don't know who is coming in and out," said Barnes.
City-County councilor-elect Jesse Brown says it's unacceptable for the residents.
"I was shocked and infuriated to see that one of the biggest conditions on settling that previous lawsuit is these issues with dignity, security and respect. As soon as the ink was dry on the settlement, there was a renege," said Brown.
The company was also forced to clean-up previously reported unsanitary conditions, which included feces, blood and urine in the stairwells and hallways.
"It's been tough because nobody knows what we've been through here at Lugar Tower. It's upsetting," said Barnes.
Attorneys representing Barnes and other residents filed suit saying the agencies are breaking its promise for a safe property and are asking the companies to immediately bring back security through the weekdays.
"My main message is that security is critical. Our client and the tenants have faced years of unauthorized persons entering the building, violence and many many security issues," said Senior Staff Attorney at Indiana Legal Services Jodi Velasco.
According to data from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, there have been more than 500 calls so far this year, including burglaries and dead bodies.
Main points in the lawsuit include:
- The residents of Lugar Tower in downtown Indianapolis are virtually all seniors and/or persons living with disabilities. For years, they have been victimized by their landlords’ neglect, especially the neglect of the Indianapolis Housing Agency, that has forced them to live in filthy conditions—including months of unremedied human feces and urine in the stairwells.
- The neglect of Lugar Tower’s landlords also forced the residents to try to survive in a perpetually violent environment that included multiple shootings and stabbings and a refusal by their landlords to make their apartment doors safe from repeated break-ins. According to publicly-available data provided by the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, there were 525 dispatches of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to the 900 block of Fort Wayne Avenue, the location of Lugar Tower, during the first nine (9) months of 2023. Those dispatches include multiple reports of assaults, burglaries-in-progress, and dead bodies being found.
- On April 26, 2023, multiple residents of Lugar Tower, including Plaintiff Sandra Barnes, filed a lawsuit in Marion Superior Court against their landlords over these conditions, Williams et al. vs. Lugar LP et al., Cause Number 49D11-2304-PL-016917.
- After the lawsuit was filed, Lugar Tower conditions improved, including the addition of 24-hour security on the premises.
- Due to the improvement in the conditions, and the promises their landlords made in an enforceable Settlement Agreement to keep in compliance with the law and the terms of the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance the Attorney General reached with the Indianapolis Housing Agency under Cause Number 49D12-2308-MI-031784, promises which included commitments to ensure safe conditions and a reasonable security presence, the Lugar Tower residents agreed to settle their claims under Williams et al. vs. Lugar LP et al., Cause Number 49D11-2304-PL-016917.
- On November 2, 2023, Marion Superior Judge John F. Hanley granted the parties’ mutual request to dismiss the claims under Williams et al. vs. Lugar LP et al., Cause Number 49D11-2304-PL-016917.
- On November 3, 2023, the very day after Judge Hanley signed the dismissal order, Lugar Tower residents including Ms. Barnes learned that the Defendants intended to pull out weekday daytime security from Lugar Tower. Since the following Monday, November 6, daytime security has not been in place at Lugar Tower.
- Ms. Barnes by counsel notified that same day of November 6th counsel for Defendants and the Office of the Attorney General that the residents were being put in danger by the Defendants’ breach of their Agreement, the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, and violating applicable law. IHA has stated they have no intention of restoring the daytime security presence.
Bradley Company, the property manager of Lugar Tower, provided the following statement:
“Our team has made significant strides to improve Lugar Towers, and we are committed to providing high quality affordable housing for our residents. We look forward to resolving these concerns in court.”
The Concerned Clergy response:
On behalf of Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis and the Baptist Minister’s Alliance, organizations who have advocated for civil rights in the community for more than 60 years are deeply concerned about the deplorable conditions for the residents of Lugar Tower.
Michael J. Fox said on one occasion: “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything!” For our organizations, it is viewed as egregious for the Indianapolis Housing Agency (IHA) to have not addressed the conditions of the facility and chosen to withdraw security from the building. To leave residents who are seniors or living with disabilities in danger is deeply disturbing that the leadership of IHA will not continue to provide the minimal step of full-time security for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.
It is also very disappointing that Attorney General Todd Rokita, who made well-publicized promises to protect the Lugar Tower residents this past August, is nowhere to be found when the most vulnerable members of our community need him the most. Where is his protection for these seniors and those suffering with disabilities?
The Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis and the Baptist Minister’s Alliance say to the leadership of the Indianapolis Housing Agency what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said on one occasion: “The time is always right to do what is right.” Now is the time!!!