Hacienda Community Development Corporation—a nonprofit that offers affordable housing and other services to low-income families—lays out its goals on its website, including a mission to "transform the livelihood of Oregon's lower-income Latinos and other people of color."
Ironically, that same organization is being accused of racial discrimination in a lawsuit.
According to a lawsuit filed with Multnomah County, Diversity Initiatives—a Portland-based nonprofit company that offers after-school programs to children—is accusing Hacienda of terminating Diversity-run after-school programs at three Hacienda facilities, for racially discriminatory reasons.
Hacienda ended its verbal agreement with Diversity last October via a letter addressed to Diversity Initiatives Executive Director Gerardo Mosquera. The programs, which were funded and managed by Diversity, provided snacks to both elementary and intermediate school children at Hacienda's facilities and, according to Mosquera, tutoring and counseling services. (Hacienda Executive Director Pietro Ferrari directed all inquiries to Hacienda's attorney, Kristin Bremer, who confirmed that Diversity provided snacks, but would not confirm if it offered tutoring or counseling.)
Diversity had offered the services at Hacienda's facilities for almost two-and-a-half years before the program's termination. Mosquera says that Hacienda had assured him in September 2006 that their agreement would continue as planned, regardless of a grant that had been awarded to Hacienda that would only pay for programs for intermediate-age children.
The accusations of racism stem from an event that allegedly occurred last fall, five days prior to Diversity receiving the termination letter. On October 1, a Hacienda rep allegedly told a Diversity staffer that "Diversity could no longer administer the program to the elementary school-age children; it should be noted that the elementary school-age children included a group of approximately 80 children, of which approximately 23 were of African descent; whereas the intermediate group of children included only one or two children of African descent," according to the suit.
"The representative of Diversity witnessed Hacienda's representative attempting to block the elementary kids from attending the program, and witnessed Hacienda's representative making racial slurs regarding the African children from the elementary group," the suit continued.
The Diversity staffer called Mosquera, "who is of Afro Puerto Rican descent, and Mr. Mosquera proceeded to visit the site to evaluate the situation," the suit continues. "When Mr. Mosquera arrived at the site he witnessed Hacienda's representative attempting to block the elementary school children, including some children of African descent, from entering the facility and participating in the program."
According to the lawsuit, the Hacienda rep told Mosquera "the elementary children could not participate in the program any longer, giving as a reason that a United Way grant received by Hacienda applied only to the intermediate children." Moreover, Mosquera allegedly "encountered offensive racial slurs from the Hacienda representative directed at him personally."
Bremer, Hacienda's attorney, says the nonprofit has served Hispanic and non-Hispanic residents of various races for years and that the allegations of racism leveled at Hacienda are "completely without merit."
After attempts to discuss the matter with Hacienda management stalled, Mosquera says Diversity filed suit on June 19, alleging breach of contract and discrimination in relation to the contract. The company wants $55,000 as relief for funds that had been spent on personnel, equipment, and supplies for the terminated program.
"They broke our trust," Mosquera says. "We made some expenditures because of what they told us and we can't change them. It's tough on us."