A lawsuit representing the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP, the Troup County NAACP, Project South, and seven residents of LaGrange was filed in Atlanta Thursday, alleging that the city illegally restricts access to basic utilities with policies that unfairly target African-Americans and Latinos. The city of LaGrange, the sole provider of utilities in the area, disconnects utilities for consumers with outstanding court fines and refuses service to those who cannot provide a Social Security Number and a photo ID issued by the state or federal government. It is also a crime in LaGrange to open a utility account on behalf of someone without proper documentation.
LaGrange has been using the court fees policy as a stream of income because, unlike many other Georgia cities, it does not collect property tax. The problem: In a review of individuals affected by the policy in 2015, 90 percent were African-American, though African-Americans only make up 49 percent of the population. This violates both the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and Georgia state laws regarding discrimination, according to the lawsuit.
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“There are enough collateral consequences associated with a criminal conviction,” said Atteeyah Hollie, one of the lawyers in the case. “Being threatened with water or electricity disconnection shouldn’t be one of them.”