Havre Daily News
The Montana Human Rights Commission heard a case involving a claim of discrimination filed by a Native American resident against the city of Havre and sided with the city.
The commission agreed with its investigator's report, which said that no evidence of discrimination was found.
Bruce Grant said he will continue to press his case in state District Court. He said he was discriminated against when the city denied him an application for water service at his apartment in March 2004. Grant said he had already been living in the 14th Avenue apartment for two months when he tried to have the water service switched to his name.
Charlie Grant, a friend who helped Bruce Grant with his case, said the city policy of only selling water to property owners discriminates against Native Americans.
"Eighty percent of the Indians that come to Havre are nonproperty owners," Charlie Grant said. "It discriminates against them. They are using this to prevent Native Americans from moving to Havre."
The Human Rights Commission, which met on March 14 in Helena, disagreed. The members upheld an investigator's report, which stated the evidence "did not support Grant's assertion that ... the City of Havre implemented a city code that unlawfully discriminates based on race."
Charlie Grant is also involved in the lawsuit the Havre chapter of the Montana Landlords Association filed against the city in August, which claims the city's practice of only selling water to landowners is unfair because landlords are often left to foot the bill if a tenant doesn't pay. Grant is not a member of the association but is a party in the suit.
He said the two cases are similar.
"In Bruce's case, my concern is that it discriminates against Native Americans," Charlie Grant said.
He also claimed the city doubles up on water bills. "The city double bills. If you get a landlord who pays the bill after one tenant moves out, the city will send a bill to the tenant who moves in, even though it's already been paid."
He said the practice discourages people from moving to Havre and therefore hurts businesses.
Havre City Clerk Lowell Swenson said the city only reads the meters and sends out bills once a month for water.
"That couldn't happen," Swenson said about double billing. "We only read once a month. If one tenant moves out and another moves in, there's no extra bill created. You could have five tenants move in and out during a month and there would only be one bill."
Bruce Grant said that being able to be a water customer is a matter of cultural pride.
"By them not giving me an application, it made me feel like a second-class citizen," Bruce Grant said.
He has contacted two lawyers regarding his case, he said.
Mary VanBuskirk, who represented the city in the case, did not return a call seeking comment.