CAMDEN, Maine — An investigator for the state’s human rights panel has found reasonable grounds to believe a Camden rental company refused to rent to a Bangor family because some members of the household are black.
But the rental company co-owner is adamant he did nothing wrong.
“This is tearing me up. I’m heartbroken. I am not a racist,” Jeffrey Weymouth of Megunticook Realty Corp. said Monday afternoon in response to the investigator’s report.
The recommendation goes to the Maine Human Rights Commission, which will hear the case at its March 23 meeting. If the panel agrees with the investigator, mediation would be attempted before approval would be given for a lawsuit to be filed.
Investigator Victoria Ternig found that Megunticook Management and Jeffrey Weymouth, who is a co-owner of the company with his wife, discriminated against Shirley Kelderhouse and Shaun Patton of Bangor for refusing to rent to them after seeing that their children were part African-American.
Weymouth denied that he refused to rent to them because of their race. He said the woman had an expedited need to move in because her residence was being demolished, and he did not have time to get the paperwork done to meet that time frame.
The report filed by Ternig found that Kelderhouse contacted Megunticook Realty last September after seeing an ad for a three-bedroom residence. Kelderhouse told the company that she had a subsidized housing voucher to cover a three-bedroom unit, according to the report. She also told the company representative that the unit had to be handicapped accessible because she had a child who was in a wheelchair, according to the report.
Weymouth returned her call the following day and said he could have a ramp built before she moved in, Kelderhouse told the investigator. She reportedly filled out the paperwork and sent it to Megunticook Realty, and an office assistant called her on Sept. 15 and scheduled a walk through for her to see the residence.
When she arrived at Megunticook’s office on Sept. 19, she said Weymouth looked surprised to see that the children were part black, according to the report. Kelderhouse is white. She said Weymouth asked one of the children if her father would be living with them as well and when she said yes, his demeanor changed, according to the report.
“He had been open and nice, but he then became cold, closed-off and resistant,” Kelderhouse told the investigator.
She told the investigator that after the meeting, she did not hear back from Weymouth. She called him on Sept. 25, according to the report, but she said he told her that the paperwork had not been completed because the company was busy.
On Oct. 1, Weymouth allegedly called to say he was sorry but he could not help her with the apartment.
She reportedly said that the next day she saw the same ad in the paper, called again but did not give her name, and the office assistant said the company is familiar with subsidized rental paperwork and could help.
Weymouth said he has rented to African-Americans and that he inspired one young African American to join the local fire department.
“I’ve been in the rental business for 45 years and never been accused of doing something like this,” the 70-year-old Weymouth said.