SIOUX CITY | A city panel that investigates allegations of discrimination on Thursday fined a landlord for sexually harassing a woman who lived in one of his apartments. He denies the claims.
The Human Rights Commission unanimously voted to uphold a judge’s decision to fine Pavel Benedic $10,000 for violating the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
Bridget McClure, of Sioux City, in March filed the complaint with the Human Rights Commission and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She lived in a unit in the 1500 block of Villa Avenue that Benedic owns.
McClure said Benedic sexually harassed her by talking about her appearance, asking her out for drinks and requesting she "give him massages in lieu of paying rent,” according to court documents. McClure said he evicted her when she didn’t respond to the advances.
State law requires allegations of discrimination be investigated by local human rights commissions.
The 10-member Sioux City commission ruled Benedic violated the Civil Rights Act, which bans housing discrimination.
Benedic appealed the decision to state administrative law Judge Jeffrey Farrell, who rejected the petition and ordered him to pay McLure $10,000 for emotional distress and $1,090 for moving expenses.
The decision was sent back to the Human Rights Commission for approval. On Thursday, it approved the $10,000 fine, but asked that Farrell review the fines for moving expenses and emotional distress. Commissioners said it didn’t appear McClure provided receipts for money she spent to move.
The commission also ordered Benedic take landlord training and pay city legal fees.
Christopher Barondeau, an attorney for Benedic, said the claims are without merit and asked the commission to reject the judge’s decision.
"My client has been a landlord for 19 years and never has had a complaint filed against him," Benedic said. "My client is a man of limited means. His income is from his rental properties. His ability to pay $21,090 is not there."
He called the judge's award "grossly and excessively extreme."
Benedic can appeal the decision to the Woodbury County District Court.