The Mississippi Department of Mental Health accused State Senator Will Longwitz of making "inaccurate and unsupported" accusations about Oxford House. The departments statements were made in a letter sent to Senator Longwitz on May 22 by DMH attorney Gene Rowzee, Jr. Some highlights of the letter are:
*Oxford House residents are subject to "mandatory drug and alcohol testing". The resident is "immediately evicted" if he refuses to be tested. The tests can be given either at random or "for cause".
*Sex offenders are not allowed at Mississippi Oxford Homes.
*"Mississippi Oxford House residents are required to attend "five AA" or other similar meetings a week during their first thirty days in residence. They must attend them three times a week while residing in the home.
*Oxford House homes have no effect on real estate values.
*Oxford House homes do not have to be located in close proximity to public transportation.
*MDMH stated it received no complaints about Oxford House homes prior to April 2015.
*"It is important to remember that Oxford House chartered houses are homes, where people live, work, and recreate. These are not intended to be treatment facilities or expensive 'halfway houses' like the McCoy house, where minute-by-minute supervision might occur." (See page 6 for more discussion.)
*"There appears to be a lack of factual basis for the vast majority of the issues and concerns put forth in your letters, meetings, and in the public statements attributed to you. DMH has also not discovered any material falsifications by Oxford House, Inc...." (p.7)
However, the letter then turned from a report of findings and responses to Senator Longtwitz's letter to a lecture on the law and what some might interpret as veiled threats (Pages 9 and 10):
*"As I am sure you are also aware, these statutes (fair housing laws) may be enforced by individuals, the Department of Justice, and/or the Secretary (of HUD). If a private individual wishes to bring suit under the FHA for denial, interference, retaliation, or coercion, the court may appoint an attorney for the plaintiff to sue the offending person or agency at no cost to the plaintiff." (Emphasis added by DMH).
"The court may also award actual and punitive damages, permanent or temporary restraining orders.... Consequences might also include criminal fines and imprisonment, depending on the type of interference. (Emphasis added by DMH)....
Similarly, should DMH, other state officials, and/or private individuals interfere with the residents' exercise or enjoyment of their rights under the Fair Housing Act, they will face liability..."
Did Mr. Rowzee threaten a sitting state senator in this statement?
"you have stated on more than one occasion that you do not intend to discriminate against the residents of these homes based upon their disability. However, because of inaccurate public statements, and because your reasons for requesting official action against these residents have proven inaccurate and unsupported, it might be sen by the residents, Department of Justice, the HUD Secretary, and others that your actions and their timing are evidence of pretext and unlawful interference. I would encourage you in the future to contact my client to receive and disseminate only accurate information prior to making any public pronouncements regarding the residents or DMH's oversight. By relaying only fact-based, truthful information you might diminish your personal legal liability and could be saved any unnecessary difficulties. I also note that your repeated reference to "unrelated men" in your requests for action might subject you to additional personal liability...."Stay tuned. This issue is not going away.