A St. Clair County woman is seeking more than $2 million over an alleged wrongful eviction, wrongful arrest and stolen property.
Tamika Morris filed suit individually and on behalf of her three minor children against her former landlord, Donna Myers, and the city of Centreville in St. Clair County Circuit Court on March 12.
Morris claims she and her 15-year-old, 13-year-old and eight-year-old were terminated from the home they were renting at 5127 Nelson in Centreville after she reported Myers to the East St. Louis Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
According to the complaint, Morris called the agencies because Myers demanded Morris pay an additional $150 per month in cash. As part of the lease agreement, though, Morris was only supposed to be required to pay $850 per month, the suit states.
"As a condition of receiving money from the government to assist or subsidize this housing, Defendant Myers agreed not to seek any additional payment in the form of higher rent from Plaintiff," the suit states.
However, Morris paid the additional money Myers demanded because she feared Myers would not fix items in the house and would evict her, the suit claims.
In addition to asking for extra money, Myers also allegedly failed to make the property in compliance with codes, the complaint says. For example, the house had a non-functioning furnace.
But Myers, who was an alderwoman for the city, conspired with Centreville's mayor and city personnel to certify the house was up to code when it was not, Morris alleges.
The lease was supposed to run from February 2008 until February 2009, but after Morris contacted the two agencies in April and May 2008, she claims she received a 30-day notice of termination of tenancy on June 2.
In July, Myers filed a forcible entry and detainer action in St. Clair County Circuit Court, but Morris arrived in court on July 14 to deny that Myers had any legitimate reason to terminate her and her children, according to the complaint.
Eventually, the complaint was dismissed.
On July 14, Myers filed a "false and fraudulent report" claiming that Morris had criminally damaged property at the house, the suit states.
"Defendant, Donna Myers, instituted a criminal proceeding against Plaintiff by making a false report to the police she knew was false with the specific intent to cause Plaintiff to be taken into police custody to punish her for not making illegal kickbacks to Myers for reporting Myer's illegal and improper conduct to the East St. Louis Housing Authority and to HUD, and so that Plaintiff would be unable to protect or guard against Myers seizing the personal property of Plaintiff and her minor children," the suit states.
Centreville police arrested Morris and kept her in jail until after 9 a.m. on July 15, she claims.
Once Morris returned to the rented home after being released from jail, she found her personal belongings had been removed from her home without her consent, according to the complaint.
Property that Myers took included household goods, appliances, audio-visual equipment, furniture, clothes and toys worth more than $20,000, Morris claims.
"The Defendant, City of Centreville, through its Mayor and/or other personnel conspired with Myers to use the police powers to arrest and detain Plaintiff in violation of her civil and constitutional rights, as well as thwart Plaintiff's efforts to secure the return of her stolen personal property and to protect herself and her minor children from improper and illegal eviction," Morris' lawyer, Stephen P. McGlynn of McGlynn and McGlynn in Belleville, wrote in the complaint.
Because of their eviction, Morris and her children were rendered homeless and destitute, were deprived of their real property rights and their personal property and suffered humiliation and embarrassment, the complaint says.
In the four-count suit, Myers is seeking a judgment in excess of $50,000, actual damages in excess of $165,000 and punitive damages in excess of $2.15 million, plus other relief the court deems just.
St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-0132.