‘White Only’ Pool Sign Discriminatory, Not Decorative Commission Rules

Jan 12, 2012 11:32am
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(Photo credit: Ohio Civil Rights Commission)

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission dismissed a landlord’s claim today that a “white only” pool sign was  simply an historical antique sign and ruled that it was discriminatory.

“At this point, it means that we believe that it’s probable that discrimination has occurred,” commission spokeswoman Brandi Martin told ABCNews.com. The five-member commission decided unanimously on the matter, upholding an earlier ruling.

In December, Cincinnati landlord Jamie Hein was accused of discriminating against an African-American girl with a “white only” sign at her swimming pool. Hein told ABCNews.com that the sign was an antique and a decoration.

“I’m not a bad person,” said Jamie Hein. “I don’t have any problem with race at all. It’s a historical sign.”

The sign in question reads, “Public Swimming Pool, White Only.” It is dated 1931 and from Alabama.

Now, the Commission will attempt to facilitate resolution between Hein and Michael Gunn, 40, the man who took issue with Hein’s sign and filed a discrimination charge with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. He was a tenant in one of Hein’s properties.

“At every step, we try to resolve the matter. We will attempt conciliation,” Martin said.  “The goal is to resolve the matter, to find a means by which both parties would be satisfied in some sort of resolution or settlement.”

Neither Hein nor her attorney appeared in court today, which Martin said was “unexpected” since Hein had been the one to request that the original ruling be reconsidered.

Hein did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

If the attempt at a compromise is unsuccessful and Hein chooses to appeal the decision again, the matter will go before the state’s attorney general and both parties will be deposed.

When Hein, 31, spoke exclusively to ABCNews.com in December, she was unapologetic about the racist origins of the sign that she displayed at the entrance to her pool. She said she collects antiques and was given the sign as a gift. She also said that even though the sign seems to indicate that the pool is public, the pool is on her private property and “everybody has to ask before getting in my pool.”

Gunn said that his family previously “had unrestricted access to the pool area,” which Hein disputed.  She said everyone, including her own father, has to ask permission before swimming in her pool.

“We invited my daughter, who is African-American, to visit and swim in the pool for the Memorial Day weekend,” Gunn wrote in his complaint. “The owner, Jamie Hein, accused my daughter of making the pool ‘cloudy’ because she used chemicals in her hair. Days later, she posted a sign on the gate to the pool which reads, ‘Public Swimming Pool, White Only.’”

Hein said that the sign had nothing to do with Gunn’s daughter and that it was already up at the time of that party, but cannot be seen when the gate is open.

In his complaint, he wrote that he moved out of Hein’s property in June “in order to not expose my daughter to the sign and the humiliation of the message.”

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission found on Sept. 29 that Hein did violate the Ohio Civil Rights Act by posting the sign, but Hein has asked that the decision be reconsidered. The sign has since been stolen.

“I’ve never said anything to that child,” Hein said. “If I have to stick up for my white rights, I have to stick up for my white rights. It goes both ways.”

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