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Apartment owners, sheriff's deputy agree to dismissal of housing discrimination lawsuit

OLIVIA -- A Renville County sheriff's deputy's discrimination lawsuit against his former Bird Island apartment complex, which he said evicted him because he is gay, was dismissed Tuesday in Renville County District Court after both parties agreed...

OLIVIA - A Renville County sheriff’s deputy’s discrimination lawsuit against his former Bird Island apartment complex, which he said evicted him because he is gay, was dismissed Tuesday in Renville County District Court after both parties agreed to end the proceeding.
The lawsuit was dismissed in a compromise between Sam Olson and apartment complex Island Estates of Bird Island, with each party paying their own expenses and nothing awarded to either party.
Per the dismissal agreement, Olson cannot file another lawsuit on the same claim, and no claims made by either party in the case can be brought up in court again.
Neither Olson nor his attorney Ryan Conners have returned requests for comment.
Island Estates manager Alan Tersteeg told the Tribune on Thursday that the complex had not been “properly notified” of the dismissal yet, but that he had no comment regarding the dismissal.
“It’s been settled, that should say enough,” Tersteeg said.
In Olson’s January lawsuit, he said apartment complex managers Alan and Peggy Tersteeg were initially excited to have a sheriff’s deputy live at the complex, but when Olson brought his same-sex partner to the lease signing, Peggy Tersteeg “looked confusingly” at Olson’s partner and appeared uncomfortable.
He said he wanted to renew his lease in March 2014, but was put on a verbal month-to-month lease and eventually evicted for a new resident.
Olson argued that the complex’s actions were a violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on personal characteristics such as race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, age and sexual orientation. Housing is protected under the act.
Olson asked for an unspecified amount of damages in the lawsuit and requested the complex participate in housing discrimination training.
In its response, Island Estates denied most of the claims Olson made and requested that the court dismiss the case.
The lawyer representing the Tersteegs filed a memorandum in May, saying Olson’s lawsuit is untimely under the Minnesota Human Rights Act’s one-year statute of limitations, and that even if timely, there is no evidence to support his claims.
The new resident who took over Olson’s apartment building signed a longer-term lease, which Island Estates said in the memorandum was grounds to evict Olson, who was there month-to-month.
According to court transcripts, Olson said the Tersteegs never told him personally they were uncomfortable with him being gay.
Olson had said in his complaint that Alan Tersteeg had approached a neighbor and asked him if he was comfortable with a same-sex couple living next door.
Olson also said that when he moved out, another neighbor had commented, “It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or not. Everyone should be treated equally.”
But the Tersteegs disputed this as evidence in their memorandum, saying that neighbor “only knew what Olson told her, which is that he had been ‘forced out.’” They also called the claims “hearsay,” out-of-court statements not admissible as evidence.
Ultimately, neither the claims made in that memorandum nor those made in the initial complaint were ruled upon by the court since both parties agreed to drop the matter.

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