Longmont residents reach $170,000 settlement with housing authority over warrantless searches

Posted at 12:48 PM, May 10, 2019

LONGMONT, Colo. – Four residents of a Longmont public housing complex have reached a second and final settlement over claims of warrantless police searches of their apartments in 2017, the ACLU of Colorado announced on Friday.

The residents – Alice Boatner, Billy Sparling, Michael Kealy and Christine Herrera – settled with the Longmont Housing Authority for a total of $170,000 in damages and attorney fees, according to the ACLU. The residents had previously settled with the City of Longmont in November 2017 for a total of $210,000.

The settlement announced Friday resolved all legal claims in the case, according to the ACLU.

The claims stemmed from warrantless police K-9 searches of apartments in May 2017 at The Suites, a subsidized housing unit operated by the Longmont Housing Authority. An independent investigation conducted by the Weld County Sheriff's Office found that the two K-9 handlers and their superior violated standard procedures in getting consent to enter eight apartments.

Last month, the housing authority issued a statement saying "it was wrong for any agent or employee of The Suites and LHA to say or suggest that LHA residents do not have the same right to privacy" as any other private resident.

Denver7 broke the initial story about the allegations that Longmont police officers and their K-9s had gone along with Longmont Housing Authority workers during an inspection at The Suites and entered people's apartments without a warrant. One resident told Denver7 that the apartment complex gave her a 24-hour notice of a mandatory inspection and that "we will occasionally have K-9 units with [Longmont Police Department] accompany us for purposes of training and compliance."

At the time, Longmont police told Denver7 that the housing authority's request was in response to a rise in illegal drug activity and an overdose death at the complex. Police eventually ended the program after media attention and expressed regret about what happened.

The full report from the Weld County Sheriff's Office's investigation showed there were inconsistencies between the stories involving some of the officers, LHA staff and some of the residents whose apartments were entered, but that the officers should have reasonably known that what they were doing was not in line with typical procedures.

Michael Reis, the executive director of the Longmont Housing Authority, stepped down from the position in February 2018, after a request to do so from the chair of the board.

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